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Laughing So Hard It Hurts: An Evening of Smiles with MAVI at XOYO

Photo by Leon Lewis

Let the Sun Talk, MAVI's debut album, is a carefully constructed, poetic and pensive project that spun the North Carolina rapper into underground hip-hop circles after its release in 2019. Integrating sunny and soulful samples with shrewd and sharp lyricism, a palette which paints an album where every listen offers something new, MAVI brought an impassioned and artful sound to enlighten hip-hop listeners.

Now, cruising off the back of his second album Laughing so Hard, it Hurts, MAVI stopped in at Shoreditch’s XOYO last Friday, March 3rd, for one of many sold-out shows on his first-ever headlining tour — a feat for an artist only 23 years old. Taking the stage, the rapper was all smiles, and he started off by talking excitedly to the audience. He injected the evening with a note of happiness and joy, dissipating the anticipatory mood the audience had fallen into as they had waited for him to take the stage. No other remedy was needed, as MAVI’s contagious smile barely left his face the entire night.

Taking a more relaxed approach to many tracks on his latest project, such as the opener ‘High John’, MAVI still retained the energy of his quick, thought-provoking bars, which had the intimate venue of young hip-hop enthusiasts rapping along. It was evident, however, outside the standout lines and catchy choruses, that what MAVI raps on ‘Sense’ is in fact true: “What kinds of songs you make? I make the kind you gotta read, baby.” Fast, difficult flows and rapidly shifting rhyme schemes are part of the artist’s appeal, with Genius lyric pages being a necessity to understand his bars in all of their lyrical abundance. This compositional complexity meant that more than once did MAVI hold the mic to the crowd and it was all call, little response but it was all in good spirit, and after one such moment, MAVI sincerely remarked, “I love you guys”. The inability of the audience to keep up with MAVI on many of his songs only accentuated his attentive rapping skills, which were nothing short of impressive to experience live.

Photo by Leon Lewis

Fans were later treated to a re-appearance of one of the opening rappers, MESSIAH!, who was introduced by MAVI playfully: “This is my friend from home, I told him I’m this big time rapper. Just make me look good, okay?”. After a cheerful performance of their 2021 track ‘SO MUCH HATE’, MAVI was back on stage and running through tracks from Laughing so Hard, it Hurts.

In keeping with the convivial mood, which only grew as the evening went on, MAVI alternated between tracks off his latest project and older fan favourites. The slower, sentimental ‘five minutes writing from the bottom’ increased the communal nature circulating among the crowd with its heavy piano melody, and the last song of the set was one that everybody was waiting for. Running past his allotted time, MAVI left and returned to the stage, remarking: “Alright y’all, they told me I had to leave, but we saying f*ck the rules!”. When the deep sample of ‘Self Love’ started spinning, the venue was overflowing with its wholesome lyrics, which have been ingrained into long-time fans since the 2019 release of the song.

The sense of intimacy throughout the night, from MAVI’s many jokes and witty conversation to the friendliness and appreciation of the crowd, was cherished in the small venue. Even when we managed to catch him after the show for a quick chat and a photo, MAVI still had a wide beam on his face. Flooding XOYO with his geniality, positive energy and special sound, the North Carolina native is a standout rising star with a unique style that is fully his own.

To keep up with Mavi, be sure to check out his Instagram, Twitter and Spotify.


Edited by Talia Andrea, Music Editor