In the entire history of hip hop, no rapper has had a worse album run than Canadian based rapper NAV. Peaking in 2017 with his self-titled mixtape and Metro Boomin collaboration Perfect Timing, it seemed like things would only go up for the young star. Since then, the 31-year-old has been horrendous, with four straight critical failures in 2018s Reckless, 2019s Bad Habits, and this year’s Good Intentions and Brown Boy 2. Today, he has released his third project of the year, Emergency Tsunami. With renowned producer Wheezy behind the boards, can NAV break out of his slump?
It seems that all the negative reception has finally gotten to NAV’s head as he steps up his game, giving his most consistent performance in years. While it’s nothing game-changing, livening up his delivery on tracks like “Friends & Family” and “Nasty” makes the experience much more interesting than his usual standard. Even though it’s nowhere near perfect, the few steps taken in the right direction are all the difference needed for this project to shoot above his average. With a slew of vocal effects used, many have rightfully clowned NAV for sounding like a robot, but on this LP, his energized tone turns this disastrous reputation into one of his selling points. “Don’t Need Friends” shows this at its peak as we see a charged up NAV boast about his work ethic and desire for success. “Vetement Socks” and “Make It Right Back” continue to show the Indian rapper’s improved vocals, as he sounds more intuned with the scheme of the world he’s creating. While some tracks are surprisingly nice from the surface, NAV still has the same amount of depth as a rock. Even knowing the sub-genres incredibly dense lyrical standards, the XO Records affiliates bars are so incoherent, they’ll make you pull your hair out. Although not being too corny, the simplicity of his songwriting will drive you insane as it feels like listening to a nursery school student’s first poem. Going into the album, it’s essential to warn that despite its increased positives (for a NAV record), getting through the full 33-minute experience will test your patience as cuts like “Modest” and “Turn & Twist”s mediocrity is hard to put into worlds. Assisting NAV, Young Thug, and his proteges Gunna, Lil Baby, and Lil Keed end up stealing the show when called on, but for the featured SashiBabbi, he somehow turns “Do Ya Deed” into Emergency Tsunami’s ultimate low point. Even with visible strides of improvement, NAV still feels like he’s shortcutting the rest of the project’s solid components.
Through the highs and lows, producer Wheezy does his best at holding Emergency Tsunami together. While not having the versatility of Hit-Boy or the craftsmanship of Metro Boomin, he’s able to create an engaging experience that all fans of trap can get behind. My favorite quality of Wheezy’s is his ability to integrate noises from well-known artists into the background of various tracks. From Travis Scott’s iconic ad-lib “it’s lit” used on “Young Wheezy” to Young Thug and Future’s voice scattered around multiple tracks, the small touches will make die-hard fans jump out of their seats. Above these minor details, the record’s production puts an interesting spin on the genre as we see the style guys like Lil Baby have ran with fuse against the otherworldliness of psychedelic trap. Moments like “Don’t Need New Friends” and “Nasty” will go down as the sonic pattern’s most notable products so far, but the many kinks Wheezy’s left in the formula leave the sound with miles for improvement. Most importantly, Wheezy needs to be commended for pushing NAV to test his style over new instrumentals that actually turned out sounding better than 90% of the songs from his previous LP’s. Assisting the 28-year-old producer, frequent Kanye West collaborator Mike Dean mastered the entire project, giving it razor-sharp sound quality. Just as the intro and outro skit attempt to create a compelling narrative that NAV is a storm to be reckoned with, Wheezy, Mike Dean, and the other producers involved give their all to make NAV look the best he’s had in years.
After a steady decline over four albums, it’s reliving to say that NAV has finally created something thats listenable top to bottom. Unfortunately, Emergency Tsunami is still nothing to brag about as its success has mostly to do with its producers. Nearly every positive can be attributed to the guidance of Wheezy and the touch-ups from Mike Dean as both beat makers have proven they are two of the best in the game over and over again. As his career continues to unfold, I’m not sure how much longer NAV can stay putting out subpar albums, but at least with this, we got a certified improvement with more memorable moments than the last four combined.
- Wheezy creates a good soundtrack that would of thrived in the hands of Gunna, Lil Baby, etc
- NAV’s vocals improved
- Features are decent
- Mike Dean layering
- 4-5 songs too long
- NAV continues to prove he is the worst lyricist of all time
- Bland subject matter
- Disconnected skits
Written By: Marc Dator
Scored and edited by: Marc Dator, owner and founder of Fantastic Hip Hop