Maky Lavender “There’ll be lively songs that could be used to introduce events during the Olympic games, as well as dirtier stuff à la DMX,” Maky Lavender told us in January 2019 about his upcoming project. Nearly 18 months later, the rapper from the Pierrefonds borough of Montréal is glad he found the right words to describe his new album – which, back then, was merely an embryonic EP. “Wow! I don’t remember saying that, but it’s crazy on-point!”

Slated to be released last fall, …At Least My Mom Loves Me was released on Feb. 29, 2020, on the Montréal-based imprint Ghost Club Records. “Rappers often release all they have as soon as it’s recorded, but we preferred taking our time to polish the project,” says Lavender. “If a track wasn’t good enough, we tapped someone else to make it better,” he adds, mentioning singers such as Sophia Bel and Brighid Rose, rappers Speng Squire and Zach Zoya, and producers like Lust, Yuki Dreams Again, Dr. MaD, JMF, Max Antoine Gendron, and Rami B.

And although the public health crisis cost him his record release concert, the 24-year-old rapper couldn’t be happier about the reactions to his album so far. “I should have been sad [that the buzz was so short-lived], but I feel the current re-set that society is undergoing will benefit everyone,” he says about the cope of his album, which he dedicated to his mother, and which he believes is in synch with the current social climate. “Of course, I’ll do tons of shows and festivals, but right now, I have no choice but to relax, finally! I have time to do the stuff I should have done when I was younger – like going for a walk, playing my Nintendo Switch, taking time to talk with my parents…”

As a matter of fact, time is the central theme of …At Least My Mom Loves Me. Time that flies by and, consequently, pushes us to accomplish great things, or freezes us completely. And for a long time, it was the latter that had the best of Lavender. “I had a tendency to see myself as a loser when I was 16 or 17, mostly because I still hadn’t accomplished anything in life,” he admits. “My friends were graduating from Cegep and I was, like, ‘What am I going to do?’ I was the biggest hip-hop fan, I would go see all these shows, and I was both mesmerized and paralyzed by everything that was going on. In my mind, the people on stage were robots. It was impossible for me to ever get there.”

But instead of cultivating his anxiety, Lavender channelled his stress to guide his ambition. In 2017, he started from the beginning, which is to say he self-produced his first show – the West Island Nite Show at Pauline-Julien Hall. “Everyone was telling me not to do it because nothing ever happens on the West Island,” he says, “but it was important for me to conquer my borough before I could conquer the city. Shortly after, I released Blowfoam 2 [the mixtape that launched him on the local scene] and then I went downtown to do music. There was no way I could learn the business if I stayed in Pierrefonds!”

…At Least My Mom Loves Me is the story of this period of urban discovery and personal revelation, a sinuous coming-of-age story. The transition is presented with sincerity, self-deprecation, and humour, but also with a healthy dose of the braggadocio he inherited from American rap tradition. “Attitude is often a big part of this music and it has helped me,” he says. “When I was a kid, we were all wondering who was going to be the ‘Montréal guy,’ the one who would represent our city on the international scene. We had Céline Dion and Saku Koivu that kinda played that role, but nothing super-obvious. At some point, I decided that I might be that guy.”

“It’s often been the case in my life that people believed in my talent way before I did.”

But as with some of his favourite artists – like Jay-Z, Vince Staples, or Tupac – such exaggerated confidence comes with a downside. The album’s first single Bloom – Accompanied by a hard-hitting video directed by Alexandre Pelletier – is an eloquent illustration of Lavender’s vulnerable side. “I wanted to be honest about myself, my jealousy, my envy,” he says. “There were a lot of things that were going wrong in my life, but I knew that, hopefully, things were going in the right direction.”

And indeed, the song helped Lavender believe in himself: “To me, it was a song like any other, but the more people heard it, the more I understood that to them it was the best song I’d ever done so far. It’s often been the case in my life that people believed in my talent way before I did.”

…At Least My Mom Loves Me, which was created over a period of two years, almost never came to be. “I got disheartened after a few months,” says Lavender. “I sat down with big labels to try and create a partnership with Ghost Club, but nothing panned out… Doing Anglophone hip-hop in Québec is hard!” he says. “But I thought it would be stupid to not release this project for reasons I have no control over. So I decided to fight for this album.”

And it’s certainly not going to be another two years before he releases new material. When he’s not going for a walk, playing with his Nintendo Switch, or chatting with his mom, Lavender is currently finalizing a new mixtape. “It might be something like a Blowfoam 3,” he says. “Putting the album together was cool, but now I want to do something grittier and more energetic, à la DMX!”