December 9, 2023

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Nav: Demons Protected by Angels Album Review

To his credit, there are real moments when Nav draws listeners closer and surprises them by baring his insecurities and pain without flinching. Sandwiched between A-list collaborations, the solo track “Last of the Mohicans” repurposes the 1992 Daniel Day-Lewis vehicle as a double entendre reference to Nav’s Punjabi heritage and self-described isolation. Supported by little more than a trap drumbeat and wistful background vocals, he sounds remarkably honest on the subject of loss and loneliness, rapping about emotional breakdowns and fears of mortality. “Lost Me,” with its somber Rod Wave-esque piano introduction and Toronto crooner RealestK’s wispy falsetto, is the closest the oft-shallow Nav has come to a true ballad. “In another dimension, I hope I get dementia to get you out my memory,” he raps at the end of the first verse, granting a rare window into what heartbreak feels like for him.

Left to his own devices, Nav sometimes strays back towards raps without substance, coasting on pristine beat selection and Auto-Tune that lull the listener into easy-listening mode. Over the sugary melody and money-counter sound effects of “Loaded,” he attempts to interrogate drug use as a form of escapism, but his abridged verse ensures that you’re more likely to hum along with the electronic keyboard in the background than to remember his accounts of fast living. The saving grace for “Destiny” is the intermittent atmospheric beeping, which forces an intriguing shift in pace and cadence amid Nav’s raps about shooters and Christian Dior floors.

The closing track, “Ball in Peace,” is a dedication to Nav’s late friend Joley Aristhee, who died in February 2022 after falling from a Manhattan rooftop while running from police. It feels like Nav’s enlightened form, the pinnacle of what he could achieve if he decided to rap about things that actually mattered to him. The song is powered solely by his voice, and though the melodies are airy, his words are tinged with pain and regret. “I see you in my dreams, fallin’ away from me/I never met someone as loyal, I’ma just keep shit immaculate for you,” he raps. It’s unfair to expect any artist to reach these depths and share them—but here, Nav does. It’s an extreme example of the emotions that he’s capable of displaying in his music. The challenge is to make these showcases of humanity and meaning the rule, rather than the exception.

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Nav: Demons Protected by Angels

Nav: Demons Protected by Angels

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