Photo provided by MAVI

Photo provided by MAVI

“Laughing So Hard it Hurts” finds purpose in relationships, nurturing a desire for a better tomorrow

Dan Harrison




Genres: Hip-hop, jazz-rap, Sunday kinda music. 

For fans of: Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean, SZA

MAVI wrote what might be my favourite bar of all time: On 2019’s “Sense,” he asks and answers “so she saying / what kinds of songs you make? / I make the kind you gotta read, baby.” “Sense” is a masterpiece, but today we’re talking about his comforting and bright sophomore album, Laughing So Hard It Hurts.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? I’m at the bar this weekend, and my roommate is singing karaoke – a song we’re all shocked they actually played. Point is, I was doubled over, crying tears of joy, trying to catch my breath. I haven’t laughed that hard in years, and it hurt in all the best ways. 

This is an album for your twenties, for the learning and the hurting and the innocence we’re all slowly shedding. It’s chock full of pleas for a brighter tomorrow, coming right after tender admissions of past mistakes. MAVI wraps heavy themes – death, poverty, love, trust – behind soothing, lo-fi beats and a voice that beckons you closer. It’s an album perfect for a quiet, liminal kind of afternoon, background music that ends up meaning a whole lot more on the second, third, and tenth spins.

Most of all, it’s an album full of hope. The opening bar on “High John” is “Praying they still make love in my size / Sober up and wipe the crust out my eyes / My last integrity and trust a trail of crumbs for my bride.” MAVI hopes that the future holds more, that the future holds forgiveness for our past mistakes, that the future holds people who love us despite it all. The album cradles this tension – of wanting more and expecting less. “I don’t think we’ll ever have enough to get us full / I don’t think I’ll ever fall in love again, it’s cool” he raps on “Doves.” “3 left feet” traces a failed relationship, the kind we all had in high school. The one that taught us how to – and how not to – love. 

“Reason!” opens up with the line “ Hope when I get into Heaven, God hand me a blunt” and it’s hard not to think of John Prine’s nine-mile cigarette from “When I get to heaven,” tying MAVI into the hopeful legacy of folk music. The song ends with a heartbreaking confession: “But really we just fiending for a reason,” and this is what the album leaves me with: a desire for purpose. MAVI finds it in relationships – with lovers, with friends, with community – and nurtures a desire for a better tomorrow. 

As the album slowly finds a conclusion, we see MAVI circling in on the lessons he’s learned. “The Inconvenient Truth” advises us to “Always listen ‘fore you talk / Look before you walk / Stake before you stalk / Never say when you ‘gon leave.” It’s the kind of learning that only comes from experience, and MAVI lays it all out there with a promise to be better. 

On the final song, “Last Laugh,” he closes the album fittingly: “Everything I need to say to smile, start crying, saying it / This tape my only taped confession / Laughing so hard it hurts.” We realize that the laughing and the hurt are a way to cope with a painful past. We laugh and we hurt and we learn. 

We hope we can be better for tomorrow, to make tomorrow better for us.

So next time you feel a little lost, a little hopeless, a little shitty, try sinking into MAVI’s Laughing So Hard It Hurts. Even if you don’t find comfort, you’ll find a great album and a poet who’s here to stay.