Charlotte MC and wordsmith Mavi has always meant a lot of things to me. He was a big part of my foray into underground jazz and experimental hip-hop, he was the bedrock of music discussion between me and one of my first college friends, he was the soundtrack to lonely nights staring at the ceiling. I don’t think there’s many artists who keep it as real as Mavi, so of course I was excited for Laughing so Hard, It Hurts. As I wrapped myself in the soft kicks and whispered verses on “Doves,” one of the standout singles from the record, I felt a sort of familiarity with Mavi that I haven’t felt in a while. He offers sage insight on human-to-human interaction in his music, and this album may be the peak of that. It came at a time in my life where I want to reflect on the very things he reflects on in this album: joy, pain and the laughter that comes with both.
If the album title wasn’t clear enough, Mavi comes out the gate swinging with a gut punch. Opener “High John” revolves around the line “Praying they still make love in my size” as Mavi talks candidly about family, loss and his career. Somber would be a good way to describe this track, but our Charlotte protagonist is great at navigating the lessons that come from struggle. “Chinese Fingertrap” is a hard-hitting song about hopelessness and mortality, detailing a personal journey Mavi took amidst tragedy (explained in this interview here). Even within some of the dark imagery he makes time to emphasize grieving. If anything, that’s something that this album inspires: you may have to put up with a lot of BS, but it’s okay to cry and laugh through it all. Other songs emphasize the highs and lows of working in the music biz, especially “Reason!” which works like a meditative kaleidoscope of relationships, legalese, prices and faith. Mavi tends to bleed together these themes in his writing, but his prose captures the mile-a-minute thinking one can have when stressed out. It’s insanely detailed and most of all, human.
That humanity is something that, above all, Mavi excels at. He really captures what it feels like to love someone or the memory of someone. “My Good Ghosts” is a sad song, but it feels like it comes from a place of gratefulness and understanding for those who have left your life. It’s probably one of my favorites, bottling the feeling of being nostalgic in times of loneliness. “3 Left Feet” makes me think about the person I love, and reminds me to cherish every second we can spend together. The song’s gentle nature and soulful loops are perfect for conveying Mavi’s kind words. These are just a few examples of how Mavi navigates human relationships, and how despite the rockiness you find in life, the times you laugh with loved ones are the most important. “Baking Soda” conveys that exact feeling of overcoming obstacles with confidence and a good support system. “The poor days a mine intersect with the best support/Love my brothers, I wish I could tell ’em more” feels like something I want to say to my siblings every day. It’s easy to focus more on the dark stuff, but Mavi’s music here reminds me that the small moments of hope matter so much.
And that’s what I think this record made me learn. Mavi’s vivid imagery, unique beat choices, and detailed narratives are as good as ever, but I think this album reminds me that no matter how rough things get, it’s important to be honest with your emotions. It’s okay to laugh, it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to get frustrated; so long as you hold onto what really matters and keep moving forward, you can enjoy the many fruits life has to offer.
Shoutout to Mavi for this awesome album and for presenting an opportunity to reflect upon myself. Check out Laughing so Hard, It Hurts if you haven’t already- you won’t regret it!
Songs to Check Out: “High John,” “Baking Soda,” “Doves,” “Quiet on Set,” “3 Left Feet,” “My Good Ghosts,” “Reason!,” “Having My Way,” “Trip,” “Opportunity Kids,” ” The Inconvenient Truth,” “Chinese Finger Trap”