This album was released on February 4th this year. Navy Blue, a.k.a. Sage Elsesser, is probably best known as a model and professional skater. He’s also responsible for the art direction on my favorite Earl Sweatshirt album, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. Until late last year, he really wasn’t an artist that I was ever excited about. I infamously hated Some Rap Songs, and didn’t care for his feature on that album. However, on December 4th of 2019, he released a music video for a single called Higher Self, and I think that song is fucking incredible. It’s easily one of my favorite singles of 2019. Everything about the way that song was presented is perfect to me. The production from Demahjiae, the lyrics, the music video, and even the single art… It’s all gorgeous to me. I fucking love that shit. On top of that, he was featured on my favorite song from the recent ovrkast. album, so when I saw that he had released this full album on Bandcamp out of nowhere, I was psyched. As of 2:23 AM on February 4th, I’m not sure who produced each specific track. All I know is that the beats were handled by Preservation, Rago Foot, and Navy Blue himself. Truthfully, I don’t actually know if I’m gonna like this album, but I’m definitely super excited to listen to it.
1. Twenty produced by Preservation
This is pretty much just an instrumental intro with some humming in the background. There’s not much to discuss here, but it sounds good; I like the beat a lot.
2. With Sage produced by Rago Foot
To me the opening line on this song sounded like “rest in peace to Max, he forever in my heart,” but according to Genius it’s “rest in peace to Mac, see forever in my heart.” I guess that kinda makes sense. I’m not sure though because a lot of the lyrics on Genius are clearly wrong. That line probably was about Mac Miller though. I’m probably giving it more thought than I should lol. I think the beat on this track is pretty dope, and I like Navy Blue’s voice here; he sounds good over it. The writing is solid I suppose, but I’d be lying if I said it really stood out in comparison to the majority of other MCs coming out of the current lofi underground Hip Hop renaissance. The song is still good though; I definitely enjoyed it to some extent, although mainly due to the production.
3. Life’s Riddle
Honestly, I can’t front; this beat is pretty goddamn bland to me. The soulful loop is just really uninteresting, and way too repetitive. Overall, the song is very mediocre in my opinion. I think the writing is pretty good, but the lyrics are basically the only enjoyable aspect of the song for me.
Another face like mine on the news
The times we know are hard to live for sure
If you talking death then it’s hitting home
His body gone, but his spirit in the room
His flow and delivery are boring as hell, and the beat is super dull. From a musical standpoint, the song is completely lifeless. The actual lyrics are dope to me though, so that’s what’s preventing me from calling the song wack. I definitely wouldn’t call it good though.
4. Simultaneously Bleeding
The beat on this track is thankfully pretty awesome. It’s admittedly just as repetitive as the preceding instrumental, if not more so, but the difference here is that I actually like the loop. The writing on the verse is actually really fucking dope too.
Surprised like I ain’t tell you, told you I’d get over
Trickle down effect, my mother made a soldier
Shoulders ain’t for crying on, my brother know
Hold him close, privately we cope
His flow kinda left something to be desired, and the song structure is very skeletal, but overall I really fuck with this track. There’s not much to discuss since it’s basically just one verse, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. This shit is dope.
5. Hari Kari
The production here is just as great, if not better than that of the preceding track. By the time I got to this song, it became obvious that Navy Blue’s greatest weakness is his flow. He’s not off beat, but he’s not really riding it very well in my opinion. It’s strange because his flow wasn’t an issue for me on Higher Self at all; I don’t remember it being a problem on the ovrkast. album either. I don’t think his flow is trash or anything, but it’s definitely not something I would say is good. Thankfully the writing here is pretty nice, and I like the beat a lot too.
Music is the key, I proved it many times
A shrine within the trees
Cried until I couldn’t cry, I had to bleed
Had to see the other side in times of grief
Once again, the structure is very simplistic. I clearly have some gripes, but overall I fuck with the song. I think it’s pretty good.
The primary loop of the instrumental here is pretty fantastic, but I really don’t like the percussion on this track to be honest. The fast paced, almost Trap sounding drums just sound really awkward to me. The verse on this song wasn’t very enjoyable for me either. This is actually my least favorite song on the album to be honest. I still wouldn’t necessarily say that this is a bad song, but to me it’s very mediocre. The beat really could’ve been good, but I just don’t like what he did with that horn loop. The writing really isn’t that interesting to me here either, and his flow is rough. Nothing about it is really bad enough for me to call the song wack, but I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as I thought I would when it first started.
This beat isn’t really that great to me, but I don’t think it’s bad. It’s slightly above average in my opinion. I was really confused by the time I got to this song because his flow here is miles ahead of what he was doing on the preceding material. I’m not sure what that’s all about. Unfortunately, the song as a whole didn’t end up being very good. I don’t think it’s a bad song, but it’s just not really entertaining to me at all. The writing wasn’t that intriguing, and the beat got old very quickly. His flow was really the only aspect of the song that impressed me, but in the grand scheme of things it isn’t that great. It’s just way better than the other flows that led up to this track. Overall, I think this is a step up from the preceding song, but it’s still just okay to me. I won’t be returning to it in the future personally, but I think it’s decent.
8. In Good Hands featuring Ka
This song stood out from the track listing a lot for obvious reasons, and it thankfully didn’t end up disappointing. This is easily the best track on the project. The beat here is really great, and it fits Ka’s style perfectly. I think this song has some of Navy Blue’s best rapping on the whole album too, not just in terms of his writing, but his flow as well.
Watching over me, we the only two sons that he had
Try to live within the moment, not within your past
Sad you’ll never know because to grow we must surpass
All the hatred they disguise while the pain everlasting
Good riddance of my past friends
Who could never bear the burden of a black man
Now I know why I’m nervous ’round these Anglo-Saxons
Wore the witches ’round my neck, got my dad’s hands
This is pretty much the first and only song on the whole album that actually has a hook, and it ended up being dope. Ka fucking slaughtered that second verse though. That’s easily the best verse on the album, and one of the best verses I’ve heard this year.
None chipped in to save me
During my reign what I showered is gifts for the baby
Gears of war years before I enlisted with Navy
Too many struggling loved ones to ever sit in Mercedes
From that population where spread love’s the obligation
For a good span my hood ran like a sovereign nation
But then D-Days planes dropped off ‘caine to freeways
Them pounds made battlegrounds in tenements and PJs
The verse is immaculate. That dude is seriously a beast. Anyway, as I said before, this is the best song in my opinion. I think it’s dope as hell.
The saxophone driven production on this song is fantastic. Navy Blue sings throughout the whole track, and he’s clearly not really trying that hard to sing his ass off. He’s not really doing anything anyone else can’t do. It sounds fine though. I want to like the song more than I do because I really like the beat, but it’s just not a very interesting track to me. Maybe if his singing was more passionate I’d fuck with it more. Also, I don’t know if it’s just me, but it sounds like his vocals are really buried in the mix. I could barely hear him unless I was really focusing. I think the lyrics are really nice, but the actual vocal performance just didn’t grip me. This is by no means a bad song, but it’s not something I’d return to; it’s just okay to me.
10. Love Is…
I really like the jazzy beat on this track. The writing from Navy Blue is pretty solid, but something about this song just doesn’t work for me. I like the lyrics and the production, but overall it’s just a dull listen. It could have something to do with Navy Blue’s monotone, ostensibly careless flow and delivery. It’s a similar problem I’ve had with a lot of Earl’s recent work. Once again, this is by no means a bad song, but it’s not something I’d return to.
11. To Give Praise!
This was a pretty good note to end the album on. It’s kind of an uplifting, encouraging outro.
My grandmama hands graze my face, she say I’m handsome
If I was ever military mind, I’d be a panther
As I was listening to the song I had a strange, rising feeling in my chest. It was kind of an emotional experience, and it came after hearing these lines that I just quoted. I don’t think this track has the best writing on the project, but it just pairs really well with the instrumental. The message from who I assume is Navy Blue’s mother at the end about how one should take time to appreciate all the beauty in life as opposed to focusing on the abundant turmoil felt very poignant. This isn’t exactly a highlight on the album for me, but I obviously enjoyed it to some extent. I think it’s very good.
In all honestly, this project ended up being pretty goddamn disappointing to me. I guess my expectations were unrealistic after hearing Higher Self, but that song is just fucking incredible, so I was sad that he didn’t really come close to matching that level of quality. None of the beats are even as good as the instrumental on that track. Navy Blue really isn’t that interesting of an artist, so this is kind of a dull project. I don’t think anything here is bad at all, but there aren’t many moments that really stand out. The production is slightly above average to me overall. I think Navy Blue’s greatest strength when it comes to music is his actual writing, but his flow and delivery often left me wanting more. Ka’s feature is easily the best moment on the entire album in my opinion. It’s definitely worth listening to if you’re one of the many [sLUms]. stans on Music Twitter who seems to think that everyone associated with the lofi scene is a member of that group. I personally don’t regret listening to it because I got a solid handful of enjoyable tracks out of it, but I’d be lying if I said I was completely satisfied. It’s definitely not a bad project to me at all though. It’s just okay.
Favorite Song: In Good Hands
Least Favorite Song: 22!
Watch the videos below for more thoughts on this album.