It was my senior year of high school in 2016. My best friend Drell had sent me a SoundCloud link while I was in environmental science. At this time, I’d had a small speaker in my locker that my friends and I would gather around during our 10-minute long passing periods. Ironically, I was by my lonesome at the locker the first time I ever listened to the track that Drell had sent me: “Myself” by some SoundCloud rapper named beatsbynav.
As someone who was heavily invested in artists whose primary subject concentrations were drugs (Future’s DS2, Wiz Khalifa’s Kush & OJ, The Weeknd’s House of Balloons, and Young Thug’s Slime Season 2), I was immediately hooked. I’d never done half the shit that the artist, who I had presumed was black because of his use of the N-word, was talking about, but that really didn’t matter because I’d already been knee-deep in my Future obsession.
Back then, I didn’t feel I had to relate to the lifestyle or habits that artists derailed in their music. I still don’t. However, it’s nice to share some emotional similarities with these people being that we’re all just humans at the end of the day. NAV has achieved that emotional sincerity in moments during his discography with songs like “Mariah”, “Tension”, and “Fell in Love”, but a lot of his recent output has simply gone missing for me.
Ask any of my closest friends, I used to be a huge NAV advocate. Someone who could (and probably still can) recite nearly every word to his self-titled debut mixtape and Perfect Timing. Hell, I’m even in a Snapchat and an Instagram group chat that's literally named “NAV” for not very creative reasons. But over the last couple of years, his music has unfortunately become stale and monotone. Regurgitated. The same shit over and over again with little room for improvement.
NAV has always had next-level production, sound engineering, and vocal mixing. That's what set him apart in the beginning, but the actual quality of his music hasn’t gone anywhere further with his last few releases. His three biggest hits of the last couple years have all been carried by bigger, more talented, and versatile artists (“Champion” with Travis Scott, “Price On My Head” with The Weeknd, and “Tap” with Meek Mill). I’m afraid that he’s fallen into that same trap of getting washed by his contemporaries on his most recent project, Good Intentions.
THE REVIEW: GOOD INTENTIONS DOES HAVE GOOD INTENTIONS, BUT THEY'RE THE SAME INTENTIONS AS BEFORE
The album’s opener “Good Intentions (Intro)” was nothing more than a waste of 2-and-half minutes. It operated as a bridge between NAV’s previous album, Bad Habits, and his newest project.
The album would’ve been much better off utilizing the first Young Thug assisted track “No Debate” as it’s tip-off point. NAV’s flow and ad-lib combo are reminiscent of the magic he captured on Perfect Timing. The beat is fast-paced and liable for quick-punching bars, which is perfectly suited to Thugger’s MDMA-inspired style. The ATLien seems to lose track of the beat’s rhythm at points, but who am I to judge the modern-day Michael Jackson’s rhythmic decisions?
“My Business” is the first real highlight on the album. NAV’s partner in popping, Future Hendrix, shares surprisingly cohesive chemistry with the Brown Boy.
Speaking of the Brown Boy, let’s talk about “Brown Boy” for a moment. The album’s fifth track where NAV spits from a 3rd person perspective (he did the same thing on "Did You See NAV?"). It's a goofy track that has an unintentional comedic undertone. I like laughing with NAV, like when he says “Titties” in his childish, auto-tuned, high-pitched voice, but it’s a totally different experience laughing at NAV.
At first glance, the Uzi assisted track, “Status”, is somewhat melodic. This is the type of track that NAV fanboys will chew up, swallow, and replay for a whole calendar year until he drops another album next summer. However, like most of NAV’s recent production, it simply lacks substance. Lil Uzi Vert saves the track with a classic Uzi verse; a verbal representation of his patented shoulder bop move.
The second highlight of the album comes from who is perhaps NAV’s best counterpart: Gunna. The two simply sound good alongside one another when they throw verses back and forth, and on each other’s beats. If NAV wants to refind that magic he held in 2015, then he’ll continue collaborating with the Drip Season concierge.
On what may be my favorite track on the album, “Saint Laurenttt”, NAV experiments with his vocal register to mirror his drug-abuse. The tone is up one moment, down the next, and the cycle is repeated several times. As someone who experiments with Serato and a Pioneer DJ Board, I’ve always loved toying with NAV’s voice and making it deeper. The outro of his first mainstream hit “Myself” is a prime example of how intoxicating his voice can be when it’s lowered several octaves.
Pop Smoke’s first posthumous feature was electric and surprisingly soothing. For someone who was legendary for his voice that would make you want to run through a wall in a Brooklyn Nets D’Angelo Russel jersey, his feature on “Run It Up” is shockingly illustrious and comforting.
Thug’s second assist on the album should be credited as ten, just so we can appoint him with a double-double cause it’s clearly evident that he had at least 10 points on the track too. It pains me to say this, but the track would’ve been damn near unlistenable if it weren’t for him.
“Recap” pulls from the same formula as “Price On My Head”: it allows the featured artist to do the heavy lifting and the NAV sprinkles come in so he can flourish. That’s really where he’s at his best, when he can pick and choose his spots like how he did with his feature on Travis Scott’s “Yosemite”. Don Tolliver is absolutely magnetic on this track and made me wish he’d been signed by XO instead of Cactus Jack.
It’s funny to listen to NAV, someone who isn’t objectively attractive by any means, discuss his romantic ventures. Although this approach of his is somewhat comedic, this is actually one of his best stylistic maneuvers. It’s NAV at his most honest, and “She Hurtin’” sounds like a knock-off version of an After Hours loosie.
“Overdose” is another instance where NAV is blatantly honest with his listeners, discussing brief suicidal thoughts and how he has always coped with drugs. “Did You Wrong” borrows from the same sad-boy NAV atmosphere and seems like his attempt to make a “Best I Ever Had” type track. He continues on this route for a little longer with “My Space”, but at this point, the tonality becomes somewhat redundant, and so do the lyrical decisions.
The album’s closer, “Proud of Me”, is a solid outro track. It’s insecure NAV, aiming to please listeners, loved ones, and his peers while also remaining braggadocious about how other artists have stolen his sound over the last few years.