It has already been a great year to be a hip-hop fan, particularly for those more interested in underground work. New releases from Armand Hammer, Mach-Hommy, Tyler, The Creator, The Alchemist and Backxwash (to name a few of my personal highlights) have made the year far more bearable, but Navy Blue’s surprisingly fast follow up release to his equally wonderful Song of Sage: Post Panic! might just top them all.
Navy is also known by his real name, Sage Elsesser, for his work as a model and skater, and known for his association with rappers like Earl Sweatshirt (whom he mentions on this record a few times). However, it seems that with his releasing five albums since 2020 he’s focused in on rapping at the moment, and his work is showing improvements for it.
His debut, Ada Irin, was a very short but shockingly powerful record that was equal parts wounded and healing – an album that was about Navy’s struggles as much as it was his hope for the future.
Since then, the tone of his music has slowly risen and become warmer with each release – Song of Sage showed a tremendously moving level of hope which is best expressed by Navy’s relaxed and poetic approach to his craft, almost rapping his complicated verses in a monotone voice but never making them uninteresting.
Navy’s Reprise, therefore, seems to come from Navy in a newfound position of peace. He speaks of his friends, his darker memories of the past and his hopes for the future in more detail than before, often taking time to talk about (over beautiful and mellow beats which, again, do reflect that of his contemporaries quite a bit – I had to physically check to see that The Alchemist hadn’t produced any of them) his ideal life. For instance, ‘My Whole Life’ sees him express these ideas on militance and stagnation within the current youth.
The album may be a little repetitive to some – many of the songs lack hooks entirely, but the beats are mostly quite simple and gentle. However, for those who enjoy mellow hip-hop this is an absolute must.
Navy is navigating the underground, gradually finding his own voice and distancing himself musically from his peers to create his own hopeful, political sound that really makes his work brilliant. In these grim times, hearing Navy express his troubles and always maintain positive ideas (and sounds) regarding them has a deep impact. His vulnerability as an artist (especially considering that his musical journey is still relatively young) is huge, particularly within hip-hop – a genre still too often associated with toxic masculinity and one that has seen a great deal of change in the last few years.
This is truly healing music, even down to the feature from Demahjiae, and absolutely one of the best albums of the year so far. It’s deeply moving, beautifully paced music that mixes the likes of Bob Marley in its calm sound, combined with political lyrical complexity and the style of Mac Miller in some of the mixing of soul, RnB and rap. It’s simply fantastic, for the right crowd.
Navy Blue’s Navy’s Reprise is available now via Navy’s website, NavyBlueTheTruest.com. Listen to the lead single from the record, ‘Ritual’, below: