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Ernest Hood - Neighborhoods Music Album Reviews

A newly reissued private-press curio from 1974 captures the bygone sounds of daily life in Portland, Oregon, in dreamy, proto-ambient form.
In 1975, the Portland, Oregon, musician Ernest Hood pressed his lone solo album, Neighborhoods, in an edition of a few hundred. He passed out copies primarily to friends, and the album, a curious blend of found sounds and proto-ambient, disappeared into the Pacific Northwest mist. Newly reissued by Freedom to Spend (in a much improved pressing, spread across two discs), it’s not the first such rarity to be pulled from the ether in the 21st century, as YouTube’s algorithm accumulates millions of plays for once obscure jazz and new-age records. But it might be the most uncanny, an album that kindles a sensation not unlike watching home videos of your own childhood.



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Mavi - Let the Sun Talk Music Album Reviews

The latest tape from the 20-year-old rapper is dense and mystic. MAVI delivers revelations from the shadows, concealed and mysterious, in search of fresh air and sunlight.

MAVI is a kid studying neuroscience at Howard University, who is asking existential questions in his raps during his spare time. There is something profoundly mystic—even shamanistic—about how his raps attempt to bridge gaps between the mind, body, and soul, best encapsulated by a lyric from his song “moonfire”: “Cap trapped in my schooling, rap asking for time to spit/Unwinding brain, mind, and consciousness.” Some scientists believe that the same region of the brain that processes language processes spirituality as well, and MAVI seems to be tapping into both at once. “I try to use hip-hop as a conduit to do something, rather than being a composer of hip-hop songs,” he said in April. “My songs are statements, and poems, and equations of their own.” It’s effective to think of his music in each of these ways: as affirmations of deep-rooted personal ideology, enigmatic and beautifully lyrical poetry, and equations to be balanced and then figured out.

Released for download on his website and uploaded to SoundCloud as a single, 32-minute-long track, Let the Sun Talk is a young sage discovering the full extent of his powers. These are revelations from the shadows, concealed and mysterious, in search of fresh air and sunlight. “We be hanging in the dark/We surprise ’em with the prowess/If it ain’t to give a spark we’d be still hidden,” he raps on “daylight savings.” The most recent stage of his music, he has said, is about teaching and learning black aestheticism, and the album’s terms and conditions are a mantra on what it means to be “pro-black.” He has classified it as three movements of four songs broken up by interludes, but it can be taken as a lesson in form: As one long song, the album feels limitless, like you’re wading into his inner monologue.

MAVI started piecing things together in October 2017 with the mixtape No Roses, full of fleeting but dense songs in pursuit of a clear head. His heavy raps and unsteady flows were supported by a beyond-his-years insightfulness. The names frequently associated with his music are Earl Sweatshirt and MIKE, and for good reason: they too had this same knack for silver-tongued philosophy as teens. Not only have both co-signed MAVI’s ponderous songs and produced a couple of them (on this album), but his music shares traits with theirs. Let the Sun Talk exists in the same loopy, lo-fi realm that governed Some Rap Songs and Tears of Joy. What distinguishes MAVI’s music is its heady, nonlinear flow, as if he’s performing incantations. In the years since No Roses, he’s grown far more comfortable when lost in thought.

Some writerly rappers are so obsessive about cramming words together that their rhymes lose their shape. (A self-possessed technician like Logic is so concerned with the formatting of his bars that they’re nearly soulless.) MAVI’s raps have an understanding of capacity and intervals and margin that eludes many seasoned rap veterans. “‘What kinda songs you make?’/I make the kind you gotta read, baby/I leave the silence you can see baby/I weave the darkness you can hear baby/I leave my carcass in the field, baby/I parse my garden on the real daily/And you can sense it,” he explains on “sense.” It’s a spatial awareness that shows great feel and balance. He doesn’t sacrifice meaning for empty tongue-twisting displays. Instead, their equilibrium is dependent on how layered and carefully organized the writing is. (Fittingly, all of his lyrics are available fully transcribed on his website.)

Choruses are few and far between, and none of them could be considered “hooks,” which only feeds the stream-of-consciousness flux of his bars. Sometimes he raps like he’s foraging for some sort of spiritual nourishment; sometimes he raps like he’s leaving something behind for someone else to find and decipher. The crypticness can make these songs feel like riddles, but attempting to unpack all they have to offer is crucial to the experience. They start to crack open eventually, and out come MAVI’s fundamental code of ethics. “I’ll take the nigga hitting cars up over cops any day/Who more often called upon for guarding all the chocolate babies?” he asks on the stark “ghost in the shell.” On “selflove”: “Offer free smoke to all the niggas behind a me too/To my niggas: we ain’t free until she free too/To my sisters: we ain’t free until they free too.” Each bar on Let the Sun Talk is building toward something greater.

In the album’s waning moments, MAVI raps, “Can’t wait until my raps is more than stashes for my secrets.” It’s interesting to imagine what his songs might sound like if they were more open and direct or they took more of a narrative arc, but what they lack in clarity they make up for in mysticism. Let the Sun Talk rewards (and often demands) close listening and there are instances where parsing the album can be like trying to unscramble a coded message in another language. There are seemingly many answers buried within it, but only you will know when you’ve found yours.

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