For someone who puts a premium on fame, Nav is having arguably the biggest moment of his career. He recently scored his first No. 1 album for his sophomore release, Bad Habits, and he earned Hot 100 spots for the Weeknd-assisted "Price on My Head" and "Tap" featuring Meek Mill.
The 29-year-old rapper/producer, who is set to begin a tour in late May, has also gained attention for incidents (and memes) not exactly tied to his musical exploits. But with a “if they’re not talking about you, you’re doing it wrong” approach, he’s taking it all in stride.
Nav stopped by the Complex office to discuss his new album, working with the Weeknd and Meek Mill, and potential projects with Lil Uzi Vert and Metro Boomin. He also shared his reaction to that fake pretzels story. The interview, edited and condensed for clarity, is below.
When did you begin recording Bad Habits?
I started recording Bad Habits, I'd say around, what month are we in right now?
I'd say almost a year ago.
So right after Reckless came out?
Yeah. I probably took a little break there. I started doing more features and focused on other stuff. But yeah, I was kind of just trying to bounce back from Reckless. A lot of people say it's a great album and I think so, too. But at the same time, I feel like I could have done so much better.
What were you doing during the recording process to make sure Bad Habits was going to distinguish itself from Reckless?
Just going back to my original process. My biggest records that went platinum before Bad Habits are ones where I made the beat, and I recorded it myself in my crib back in the day. So I just had to go back to that, but it was also like a refined version of the original process because I got my friends involved now, too: Trouble [Trouble], Money [Musik], and Frost. If you look at all the credits, it's [them] and me.
Was it important to you to bring in fresh blood to bring out a different side of you? The Weeknd and Cash and XO helped you come up, and now you're kind of playing that part to help people come up in the game as well.
It's kind of like fresh blood, but like I told you, those original songs that I did that went platinum and were really big for me... The guys that I've got around me now like Trouble and Frost—especially because they're like long-time friends—it was their opinion that was behind it. They would tell me a song wasn't good. They would tell me, "Oh, you should put this song out." Trouble's the first guy who ever told me to put my first song out ever. He's like, "I can't do it like how you did it. Just put it out." So I brought them back around in a sense of having their opinion involved. But also, they started making beats in that time. Since my first project until now, they've been making beats and learning stuff and asking me. And then that kid Money is teaching them everything. So they're back around with opinion, plus they're working on stuff with me. So it's even better.
I WANT A GRAMMY FOR MYSELF.
You collaborated with Meek Mill on “Tap,” and you've mentioned that's your personal favorite record off the album. Why is that? I know you shout him out where you're like, "He's the first guy to really show me love."
Yeah. And even the line, "The first time I've seen a Maybach was with cuz," referring to Meek. That's a fact, because when me and Bucks went to Atlanta for the first time, we were kind of just out there figuring it out and we hadn't got a car. He's good friends with Meek, so we went to Meek's house. He let us in his house and everything. We were chilling. We needed a car and he gave us his Maybach, and I've never been in a Maybach. He gave us the Maybach and he said, "We can't find the keys. The key's been lost for weeks in the car. But you could just press start and it'll work." That line is a fact. And "the first one to show me love" is really back when I was coming up, before Cash had even met me. [Meek] was posting pictures on Instagram with lines from my songs.
Yeah. A lot of people don't know that, but a lot of my old fans—true fans—they know that. That's what I mean by he was the first one to show me love. He kind of put a lot of people on to me. Also, the song is my favorite because it's obviously a hit. It’s getting one of the biggest receptions; that and "Price on My Head."
But also, the way it happened was crazy, too. Cash hit him up. They're just talking. He's like, "Oh yeah, by the way, we're handing in Nav's album like tomorrow. You got anything you want to give us?" And he gave me literally everything that he's been working on. Cash was just really good at picking songs, so he picked that one like, "I think you would be fire on this." Cash played me his verse for like two seconds. I said, "Stop it because I don't want to hear too much." Then I went straight in the booth. And fuck, the first thing that came out of my head was the "Tap" shit.
The Weeknd co-executive produced this project. Usually it was just you and Cash joining forces. What was that process like, bringing the Weeknd into it?
For my other projects, it's me and Cash doing our thing and me producing. He let me do my thing, go through my hiccups and stuff, which is cool. And I feel like the reason why he's so involved in this, I know we’re both at a point—he’s ready to executive produce his artists. He's a big, huge deal, you know? And I'm getting to a point where I need that little extra bump to just get my shit right.
Cash has always been there by my side. Him with an extra sprinkle is crazy. Even up to our artwork. One day we were approving the artwork for the deluxe version and he noticed a mistake, like a typo. Abel, as much as he's got going on, he noticed a mistake that me and Cash didn't see. And that just shows how hands-on all three of us were with this whole thing. It's not like he just put his name on it. He was really in there.
I'd rather have a meme of me with f*cking 300 million likes on it, and everybody laughing, than have nobody saying anything. Because, sh*t, that sh*t gets you paid, right?
Another track I wanted to ask about is "Why You Crying Mama?" It details the relationship that you have with your mom: the celebrations and also moments in your life that might have put a strain on it. How would you describe putting that song together and the inspiration behind wanting to put it out?
The way it actually happened was the second half of the song—the sadder part with less drums—that was actually made first. I made that in Toronto. I was just in a dark vibe and I made that song. And then I booked a mansion out in Vancouver when I first started my actual project. I had a white board that was completely blank. I gave a speech to my buddies. I was like, "Yo, if we don't get this album right, shit’s not going to be popping. It's not like we're going down, and then down to living more and then go back up. We've got to go back up now." So in that house, I made the first half of the song. And then I was putting them together. The process was really just honest.
One of the artists who unfortunately didn’t get to appear on [the album] was Lil Uzi Vert. Presumably, you guys have a bunch of songs in the vault. If the time was right, could you see you guys joining forces for a collaborative project?
Of course. Anytime he's ready and his situation's right, he knows I'm ready. But our relationship isn't corny, you know? It's very organic. We met very early in our career. And we don't even really talk to each other like musicians. We talk to each other like friends. We hang out. We don't talk about doing music. We don't even talk about the studio. If it happens, it happens. We'll turn the mic on and it just happens. But we don't book studio a together. Our relationship is very unique. It's different from everybody else that I have relationships with.
Last year, around the time of Reckless coming out, you teased the possibility of Perfect Timing 2 with Metro Boomin. Is that still a possibility?
Yes, for sure.
How far along are you guys?
Zero. [Laughs]. But you know, Perfect Timing was me and him getting to know each other. By the time that project was out, he was my brother. And now we've grown so much individually on our own. I know when we come into a situation, it's a whole different grown up Nav, and a whole different grown up Metro Boomin. And I feel like it's going to be something really magical.
You worked with the Weeknd on “Price on My Head.” You guys dropped an apocalyptic video with it. How would you describe what that video represented? Because it's like, all this shit's going down in Toronto, and he's just overseeing this all happening.
There's a lot of movie references in there. A lot of people don't know I'm a big movie guy, and Abel's an even a bigger movie guy. I noticed right away, A Clockwork Orange, the four guys running and the milk spilling. It's a reference to that. He's a big [Stanley] Kubrick fan. I don't know if he was a big part of the treatment for the video, because I just came there and I knew the guys who were shooting it do fire stuff. So I was like cool, I know it's in good hands, and La Mar [Taylor] is there. But I feel like he probably had a hand in that because there's a lot of movie references that he's into.
There are several cameos in the video. You've got 88GLAM, you've got Cash, you've got a few other people from XO. But another person that popped up is Gilla from Reps Up, and he pops up in a few instances. I don't know if you've heard this, but there's a theory that there's an issue between Drake and the Weeknd.
I'm not sure about that.
You don't know about that?
I think it would have been public by now if it was a real problem. Because we've all got friends and stuff that–
That is what I was actually curious about, because there are these theories that there's an issue. The theory is that there's an issue between the Weeknd and Drake. There's a line on the song from the Weeknd where he's talking about how he has the same friends as this other guy, that has his back, and Gilla pops up in the video at the same time.
People know that Reps Up is connected to Drake, that Chubbs and Preme are with Drake. Gilla's also at times been close with Drake. And then Gilla pops up in the Weeknd video. So people are like, “Oh, is there something happening here?” Is there a subliminal happening or is it just mere coincidence?
I think it's probably a coincidence. I think it's a coincidence. But it does sound funny.
I play on a PC, mouse, and keyboard. It's just a different level. These guys, they can't build like me.
When you released the album, you did a Fortnite stream with Ninja. Who are the top five Fortnite playing rappers?
Top five Fortnite playing rappers?
None of them because they just don't really play like that. I'll just be honest. I play on a PC, mouse, and keyboard. It's just a different level. These guys, they can't build like me.
There's nobody else that comes close to you?
I think in the music world, Marshmello's good. I've heard that he's good. I haven't seen him play, but I heard that he's pretty good. And he plays a controller. There's professional controller players, but I just can't see a rapper on his PS4 chilling, eating Cheetos, being good at the game. It's a very serious game.
There was this meme that popped up that was connected to the Pitchfork interview you had done, where it was talking about you eating pretzels and you being allergic to pretzels. I don't know if you saw that.
I'm pretty late on everything. But, I thought it was funny. It was a fake story, right?
Yeah, definitely. Somebody Photoshopped it and made it look like it was a response to one of the questions.
Honestly, I have a good sense of humor. I don't take this shit personal, ever. It's like, there's only once in a while, something might get under your skin. But it's based on the day I'm having. It's not like my real character. On a normal day like today, I'm just normal. I just laugh at shit.
I'm just really happy to be here. I'm the most easygoing guy. Everybody, like my security, my assistants, tell me, "You're the easiest to deal with," and everything because I'm really fucking grateful and happy to be here. My life could have been fucked up forever. And it went all the way until 25, then snap. Completely the same. It was all the same. In the hood. With my mom; I was at my mom's. I was trying to make music, figuring it out, and then that's it. Cash and them discovered me and my music took off.
Fuck, I'm just happy to be here, bro. I never take nothing serious. I'd rather them be making fun of me. I'd rather have a meme of me with fucking 300 million likes on it, and everybody laughing, than have nobody saying anything. Because, shit, that shit gets you paid, right?
You've had a bump in notoriety from album to album. There was another part where you had mentioned something about being recognized by TMZ. You got recognized by TMZ. You have a No. 1 album. What's the next moment that validates you as a star?
I've got a No. 1 album. I don't know. I want a Grammy for myself. I technically got a Grammy with a credit for Beyoncé and JAY-Z's album. That one feels good, right? But it's like, I want one for me. For my album, for my song. And then a No. 1 song on the Billboard, which is always everybody's dream. I think those are the next couple goals for me. And I have a lot of other goals in other areas in my life, you know? I want to invest in stuff financially. I want to expand what I'm doing in general. I have a lot of ideas in different realms besides music. This is just something I'm good at. But I'm an entrepreneur at heart.