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Monday, May 28, 2018

Nav - Reckless Music Album Reviews

Nav - Reckless Music Album Reviews
The Toronto rapper’s debut is a long shot at cementing his legacy that is plagued by indecision and self-doubt.

In 2016, Nav was a SoundCloud star—a producer/songwriter/performer triple threat who made moody, self-doubting anthems with lines perfectly suited for Instagram captions. He had a petty and unforgiving personality that you would expect from a then 26-year-old rapper who felt he was yet to get his due. But success came fast and soon that pettiness began to look a lot more like insecurity. He was scared of criticism and obsessed with securing the cool rapper image. It’s what makes his debut album Reckless anything but. Instead, it’s a project where the Toronto-bred rapper’s ability to make trend-capturing hits is constantly clouded by a fear of being rejected by the rap community.

Throughout these songs, Nav is uptight. He’s locked in a zone where he takes himself so damn seriously, he can’t take a step back and realize that everything going on in this drug-fueled, R&B-influenced, high school edition of Future’s HNDRXX is completely absurd. On the surface, Reckless should be a quotable bonanza where lines like “I taste codeine when I burp” pop instead of being bogged down by the seriousness. It’s an issue that Drake had to overcome on VIEWS when he also became determined on creating a project that defined his legacy.

On Reckless, Nav is consumed by this unnecessary anger. He delivers a screed against XXL on “Freshman List” for overlooking him on their annual fêting of young rappers (“I wouldn’t show up for the Freshman List/Your swag expired, you ain’t fresh like this”). Nav comes across paranoid, convinced that his self-justified indignation—which he tries to mask behind neverending lists of lavish life experiences—isn’t actually directed at unimportant issues. On the bouncy collaboration with Travis Scott (“Champion”), he is irritated by insane things like women who have over one hundred thousand followers on Instagram. On “Faith,” he is unsettled by the light admonishment he receives from his sibling after introducing their assumed underage child to weed and he takes the reasonable bashing hard. Subsequently taking Percocets in the rain while crying and calling himself a lame (“I’m off the perkys and I’m cryin in the rain/Right now I’m poppin’ but sometimes I wish I wasn’t lame”). Capturing the brooding and ridiculous tone feels like an episode of “Riverdale” that takes place in the SoundCloud universe.

And despite Nav’s CW-storytelling, he still comes away from Reckless as a better performer. Nav has always been a producer first and, uncoincidentally, much of his previous criticism has been directed at the monotone nasal-voiced droughts he often sinks into. Thankfully, Nav brings a few new vocal flavors here, most impressively the smooth sing-rap flow he hits midway through the album’s essential “Never Change.” Capturing the over the top despair that when combined with his newest robot-voiced melody and his self-produced lushness creates something that’s missing from much of Reckless and still offers the enjoyable lines of inner turmoil: “When they ask me if I’m good I say ‘ya’ but I’m not.”

But quickly Reckless transforms from enjoyable to uncomfortable. The humor is unintentional and once you realize Nav isn’t in on the joke, things just get pathetic and start to become the story of a rapper who wants nothing more than to be indelible but can’t overcome his self-doubt. And unlike Future who delves into many of the same topics but still maintains some sense of confidence or perseverance, Nav’s journey is without that self-awareness. He’s a rapper so consumed in his own self-seriousness that all of the fun that could be had is dragged down by the lack of genuine belief he has in himself. Nav is whining, hiding behind braggadocio and making it an album that brings the listener down to the same place as the should be hitmaker. By the end, Reckless feels like a Fast & Furious film directed by Quentin Tarantino. Why is there so much dialog? Just blow shit up, you’re good at that.

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