Navigating beyond rough waters

Toronto rapper NAV has come a long way since his performance at Osheaga in Montreal a mere 10 months ago – and he knows it.

The XO signee took to MTelus last Tuesday night to a wildly enthusiastic crowd. Following a high energy performance from fellow Torontonian rapper Killy, there seemed to be a lull in the audience as fans grew impatient during intermission. As water bottles began to be tossed and “Let’s Go Raptors!” chants filled the room, NAV’s official DJ, DJ T-Jizzle, took to the stage.

With the task of warming up the crowd for the main act, T-Jizzle provided them with their appetizer – a medley of some of hip hop’s biggest hits. The first notes of “Suge (Yea Yea)” by North Carolina rapper DaBaby was enough to knock the fatigue out of everyone there, and the vibe surely did not die down as T-Jizzle played the obligatory “XO Tour Life” anthem by Lil Uzi Vert. As mosh pits broke out track after track, fans were already dripping sweat and removing layers of clothing when it was time for the main act to show face.

NAV adjusts his earpiece as fans take pictures and throw up their XO hand signs. Photo by Immanuel Matthews

Enter NAV, dressed in an all-black track jacket, black jeans and a thick XO diamond chain that glistened as it caught camera lights. However, the lights in the crowd died down as the seconds ticked on. Fans knew that it wouldn’t be wise to keep their phones out – the risk of dropping them was too high. Beginning his set with “To My Grave,” the opening track off his most recent album, Bad Habits, the crowd erupted into a frenzy unlike many before. Fans were not just pushing and dancing anymore; the standing crowd, as a whole, was swaying back and forth. As shoves came from behind and everyone squished like a can of sardines towards the stage, those who got there early enough to secure front-row spot retaliated by pushing back. From the balcony, this would look like an uncomfortable and non-consensual version of the wave that fans start at hockey games.

NAV did not lack any new material at his Montreal show. His most recent album, which debuted at #1 on Billboard album charts, is 24 tracks of new material to perform for his fans. Bad Habits became the artist’s first number one album, and you could see it in the way he carried himself. NAV stood with his shoulders high. He danced by getting low. Often times, he’d stop singing with a smile on his face as he soaked in the lyrics from the crowd that sang back at him.

The rapper’s newfound spotlight surely brought in new fans to the show but NAV nonetheless treated his day ones to older material. The artist’s debut in 2017 with his eponymous EP NAV generated a buzz for the auto-crooner early on in his career. However, mixed reviews of his debut album Reckless put the rapper’s fate in jeopardy with critics doubting his longevity. Now, after having bounced back with the reception of Bad Habits, NAV felt it necessary to thank his loyal fans with tunes that they would be most familiar with. Many were, perhaps, most ecstatic to hear the Travis Scott assisted song “Beibs in the Trap” whose bass was so loud that the floor felt like it was on the verge of caving in.

NAV teased his fans by telling them that it was time to go home, but the roars continued as strong as ever five songs later. The rapper paid homage to his label head, The Weeknd, by performing their single “Price on My Head,” and closed the night with the Meek Mill assisted track, “Tap.”

NAV exited the stage with his pearly whites shining as bright as his pendant, proud of the progress he has made in his neighbouring city.

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