"Perfect Timing" is the collaboration project between buzzing Canada-based rapper Nav and super producer Metro Boomin.
There is an episode of Seinfeld where George Costanza attempts to convince a street gang called The Van Buren Boys that he’s a member. George desperately tries to prove that he’s a vicious thief, but we know he’s not. Nav, for a little over a year, has moreso been a caricature of what people think a rapper should be: with forced braggadocio, a drug reference under almost every breath, and an eye for luxury. It's something which he himself has admitted, though, in his first proper interview: "A lot of the things I might have been rapping about, I didn’t have at the time."
Nav, similar to George Costanza, has been for the most part unsuccessful in convincing us of his delinquent rap-star status, and this has been one of his biggest detractors. With fame now firmly within reach, and all the related accoutrement as well, Perfect Timing could be the linchpin to an otherwise hollow-sounding artist.
One of the most interesting aspects of Nav also happens to be one that he largely ignores, outside of a few ad-libs and one-off bars-- it’s his South Asian lineage (Nav is of Indian descent). At most, he claims to be the "first brown boy to get it popping" (as well as the "first brown boy with a bag"). Heems, of Das Racist fame, and to a lesser extent, Big Baby Gandhi, both simultaneously embrace their culture while maintaining elements of a modern rapper. Nav is the first to have this opportunity on a large scale, a mainstream stage to be exact, but on Perfect Timing he basically opts out. Instead, he chooses to follow the path of his admittedly entertaining rapper-personality, giving us rather ubiquitous rapper experiences. This is by no means a plea for Nav to all of a sudden become a socially conscious figurehead of his generation, but at 15 tracks, and bordering on a hour in run time, he would have created a more distinct listening experience if he had broached his background and upbringing a bit more.
Perfect Timing is at it’s strongest when Nav is fully engulfed in his rapper-persona, and when Metro Boomin leans more to the uptempo spectrum of his production. Immediately, with Perfect Timing, Metro demonstrates why rappers come to him for these one-producer collaborative projects, as he is able to set artists up with production specifically suited for them. While this may hinder the artists opportunity to branch out into a new sound, it’s perfect for somebody like Nav who is trying to get that first solid project under him after an underwhelming eponymous debut in February.
Nav has a way of sounding disengaged and monotone in flow, typically using the same rhyming pattern no matter what the beat, which tends to work well enough with simple rhyming couplets. On the introductory title track, “Perfect Timing,” he seems to be at his most-engaged, even bringing some urgency and excitement to his voice, however the lyrics tend to fall flat when their flexes are examined closely: “Choppa turn your body into dust” is the type of intimidating rhyme that Nav simply cannot pull off. In contrast, he pulls off the flex quite well on the shoulder shimmy-worthy record that follows suit, “Hit.” Here, he's emblazoned by a catchy beat, creating a simple but effective hook.
The standout track on the album, “Minute,” which is also almost the album's centerpiece, is produced by both Metro Boomin and Pierre Bourne (in the midst of their competition for the signature producer rap tag). The duo provide one of the bounciest beats on the album, with a backwards string-arrangement. Nav doesn’t waste it, with his most radio-ready hook to date. The clever “Punch you in your mouth leave diamonds on your lip” is a contender for least menacing rap threat, though.
Another key track on the album is the surprisingly self-aware "Did You See Nav," which immediately follows "Hit." On Metro's see-saw production, Nav addresses many of the criticisms he's faced, revealing he's not as ignorant as one might think. "Saw Nav in the club and a booth, sleeping off the xans / Just heard his new mixtape, thought the shit was wack / But every time I go out, the DJ keep bringing it back / I tried to DM him and he ain't ever hit me back / So I left a comment say you're ugly and your music trash," he raps, undoubtedly connecting with his listeners -- including the haters. This song concept proved to be among the most interesting on the album, and it would have been dope if he explored it even further. Still, it shows that there is a sense of self-awareness there, and Nav would do well to explore it more as he matures. The Canadian gives us another glimpse of this on "Call Me," as he openly wonders who is latching on to him for fame and who truly likes him for him-- even delivering a single bar about his relationship with mom.
As enjoyable as Nav can be at the peaks of this album, it’s dragged down by his constant need to ensure that the listener knows he’s a drug user. We never really learn much about Nav on Perfect Timing aside from his unrelenting drug use, and it makes it difficult to form any human connection with him on a personal level, as this shallowness makes him feel more like a one-dimensional character than an actual person. Nav is a 27-year old man whose obsession with fitting in through drug usage is rivaled only by 17-year old Lil Pump. Nav's distinct nasal voice is one of his strong suits though, which can alleviate some of the content mishaps, simply because one might overlook lyrics, or rather, let them slide, while enjoying his cadence.
Perfect Timing suffers from its length, as well. Considering Metro’s previous collaboration albums, Savage Mode and Droptopwop, were both 10 tracks, 15 seems overly ambitious. Nav, as an artist, is not at the point where he can carry a lengthy project, his lack of flows and consistent monotone makes the album a tough start-to-finish listen. There is plenty of fat that could be cut off of Perfect Timing, including some of the featured tracks. The 21 Savage-featuring “Both Sides” is disappointingly underwhelming considering the menacing beat Metro provides, while "A$AP Ferg" with Lil Uzi Vert is possibly the weakest song on the album-- "NAVUZIMETROPT2" would have sufficed, the stronger of the two.
Nav isn’t talentless. He can hold a melody, create catchy hooks and has an ear for great beats. As true as it that Nav is the first Brown boy to get it popping, there may be there is a certain amount of responsibility that comes with it whether he wants it or not. There is plenty of opportunity for him to grow as an artist and as long as he has credible peers, such as Metro Boomin and The Weeknd in his corner, listeners will continue to give him a chance. The day Nav embraces what makes him different and realizes that maybe being an outsider in rap isn’t so bad, is the day when the Brown boy really will be popping.