NAV likes drugs.
No, NAV loves drugs, and if you’re not already aware of that fact, you’ll be intensely aware of it about midway through the first track.
After we penciled NAV into our list of 10 rappers set to blow up in 2017, the Toronto rapper and producer has already made large strides towards fulfilling that prediction, revealing his signing to The Weeknd’s XO imprint, announcing an upcoming joint project with Metro Boomin, and releasing his “debut mixtape,” titled NAV.
Having caught our ear last year with his chilling, atmospheric production and disengaged and Auto-Tuned, yet addictively melodic vocals spanning only a handful of publicly released tracks at the time, along with XO rumors and show-stealing verses on Travis Scott’s BITTSM and Belly’s Inzombia, expectations were high for a full-length project from the enigmatic artist.
Unfortunately, now that we have that full-length, it might be too much NAV at once.
Three Standout Songs:
Despite running motivational themes of making money, spending that money, and stealing your bitch, the eponymous track from NAV’s eponymous mixtape is the closest thing to a “happy” song on the project, thanks to a very, very subtle bit of bright glittering sprinkled into the production. Not to mention the chorus’ “Now I pay nothing for my sneakers ‘cause I’m NAV” line made me laugh out loud.
Even considering the absurdity of NAV bragging about getting head outside of Toys “R” Us, “Up” is the catchiest and best track on the project. In fact, the Toys “R” Us line might just make the record even better by providing a hilarious offset to the very serious tone maintained throughout countless references to doing drugs, having sex and buying expensive things. The production, assisted by Metro Boomin, is buoyant enough to keep your head nodding as NAV pops a molly to counter the codeine and keep from nodding off himself.
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“Some Way” (ft. The Weeknd)
If you heard this single and thought this was The Weeknd’s song, it’s because Abel completely overshadows his most recent signee, who doesn’t appear until after the midway point to say things like “I think my nuts look better on her face” and “I’ma fuck your bitch and give her back” before fading back into the mist medicine cabinet. Whether or not this constitutes as firing shots at Justin Bieber interests me about as much as watching a NASCAR race or a regular season baseball game (read: not at all), but regardless of potential disses, this is a certifiable vibe (vibes, bro) and a welcome change of pace hearing someone other than NAV.
I like NAV. Sure, he makes music for people who pop Xanax while camping out overnight in line to buy a Supreme Metrocard. Sure, every song on his "mixtape" is like a fill-in-the-blank for his endless Rolodex of raps about drugs, women and money. But drugs, women and money are all pretty cool to a degree, and each track is a highly polished and usually catchy product on its own. Slip a NAV song into the playlist at a party or in the car and you’ll find me vibing out appropriately (VIBES, BRO).
The problem with NAV is playing all 11 of its tracks consecutively, at which point the product as a whole becomes almost painfully redundant and extremely boring. Every song sounds the same, from the murky, moody production to the subject matter to NAV’s flow. At various points, you’ll find yourself checking the track name just to make sure you don’t have the same song stuck on repeat. By the end of the 11th track, you’re so desensitized by references to codeine, pills, molly, Xanax and Percs that you feel like you’re on painkillers yourself.
I’m almost impressed by the lack of variety. NAV took the obviously alluring mix of drugs, sex and money, paired it with a voice and backdrop as cold and hollow as a life solely focused on those three items tends to be, made it a catchy song, and then made it again 10 more times.
Like drugs, NAV works in small doses, but down the whole bottle at once and you're going to overdose.
By Brendan Varan, who's not doing anything weird outside of FAO Schwarz. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Republic Records