NAV is his own worst enemy on “Bad Habits”

The Toronto native sticks to his usual habits for song-craft - for better or for worse, but mostly worse.

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NAV is his own worst enemy on “Bad Habits”

(Shotbytwinky/Wikimedia Commons)

(Shotbytwinky/Wikimedia Commons)

(Shotbytwinky/Wikimedia Commons)

(Shotbytwinky/Wikimedia Commons)

Trevor Wilson, Assistant Entertainment Editor

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Since 2015, singer, rapper and producer NAV has been a steady contributor to the hip-hop world. The XO signee made waves with his debut mixtape, “The Introduction.” Featuring popular singles like, “Myself,” “Over,” and “Up,” the mixtape would later inspire NAV to move forward to drop his self-titled mixtape, “NAV” in 2017. The tape peaked at the 12 spot on the charts and is now certified gold.

The Toronto native also collaborated with high-profile producer Metro Boomin’ on another 2017 mixtape, “Perfect Timing.” Aside from his work as an artist, NAV has been employed to produce a number of noteworthy tracks. He has production credits on Gucci Mane’s “Curve,” A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie’s “Get to You” and Drake’s vicious Meek Mill diss track “Back to Back,” in addition to many of his own songs.

After the release of his debut studio album “Reckless” in 2018, we arrive at NAV’s second studio album. Titled “Bad Habits,” NAV primarily sticks to the song-craft formula that has got him to where he is today. Throughout the project, he embraces the cold, airy tone of the production and delivers 16 tracks with bars about luxury, women, foreign cars and loyalty.

NAV has undoubtedly adopted the sound of the Toronto on “Bad Habits,” and with pop sensation The Weeknd as his executive producer, the inspiration doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Ultimately, NAV delivers right as you expected him to, whether that’s for better or for worse.

NAV opens up with the emphatic “To My Grave” featuring a distorted brass melody mixed in with piercing keys. Pacey, yet basic trap drums drive the energy of the track as NAV floats effortlessly on the hook, singing “Shootin’ s*** up ‘fore we shoot the fade / I got secrets that I’m takin’ to my grave / Talkin’ delinquents, my squad don’t know how to behave/Got a whip and a chain to the game, I’ll never be a slave.”

The hook itself is catchy, and promptly delivers you a glimpse of exactly what Nav is all about. Loyalty, cash and gang activity flood the project as its major themes. However, this is nothing necessarily new for NAV. Much of the same subject matter in “Bad Habits” can be contrived from other NAV projects as well, and he hasn’t done much to change that since his acclaimed verse on Travis Scott’s “Biebs in the Trap.”

“Bad Habits” suffers greatly from long album syndrome (LAS), and the thing is, it’s not even that long. While 12 to 16 tracks has become quite standard for artists, “Bad Habits” feels much longer than that. Around track five or six, I found that songs were blending together and becoming indiscernible from each other. Unless it had a feature on it, there’s almost no way of knowing where you are in the track list because every song sounds that similar. The stretch of songs including “Snap,” “Hold Your Breath” and “Why You Crying Mama” all feature dark, filtered key melodies over standard trap beats without any variation whatsoever.

Unfortunately, NAV doesn’t really do himself any favors on “Bad Habits.” The album is boring, and part of the reason it suffers LAS is that NAV himself is just a mind-numbingly poor songwriter. He almost always lacks energy on “Bad Habits,” delivering the same high-to-low melodic flows that carried him this far in his career.

What’s more is that NAV is absent of any lyrical creativity on “Bad Habits.” He spits lines about drugs, women, designer brands and more all in the same way as he’s been doing since 2015. Even on “Why You Crying Mama,” NAV takes what could have been a real opportunity to connect with his past and turns it into a song all about how he buys his mother expensive things.

For comparison, take 21 Savage’s “A Letter to My Momma.” Two rappers that seemingly spit about similar things, but one of them managed to create something that’s much more meaningful. 21 spits, “ know you proud of me, but I’m proud, too (I’m proud, too) / You the only woman I’d give some vows to (On God) / I’m still your baby even though I got a child, too (Straight up) /I paid it off, ain’t no mortgage or no rent due (Facts).”

However, NAV never fails to make a catchy hook. There are a few tracks that are enjoyable simply because NAV puts slightly more effort into making a song worth listening to. “Ralo,” “Vicodin” and his single “Know Me” are some better examples of NAV crafting some enjoyable hooks. But, when he gets to the verses, that’s where he loses me.

Much of it just blends together and too often do you find yourself really listening for the hook as NAV recycles old flows and lyrics. Another plus of “Bad Habits” doesn’t actually come from NAV himself. The features across the board are rather solid. With guest appearances from Meek Mill on “Tap,” The Weeknd on “Price on My Head,” Young Thug on “Tussin” and Lil Durk on “Time Piece” these features add some new dimensions to the project that NAV sorely lacks. The Weeknd delivers a bombastic, energetic hook on “Price on My Head” and Meek comes through with a cold verse about gang violence and diamond jewelry. Pretty standard for Meek, but hey, at least it’s different.

THE VERDICT: 3/10

Simply put, “Bad Habits” is a misstep for NAV. He continues to lack any ingenuity or creativity and puts together an album that you might as well play for your kid before bedtime. This will put you to sleep, seriously.

The production is solid, and NAV gets a couple bonus points here for solid features, but he is ultimately his own worst enemy on “Bad Habits.” There’s not a whole lot of lyrical value or variation, but he does come up with some neat hooks from time to time. On a scale of the original mix of “Yosemite” to “Biebs in the Trap,” this album is a cut below NAV’s inaudible verse on “Yosemite.”

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