Album Review: Navy Blue makes impressive debut with “Gangway For Navy”
Odd Future affiliate, pro skater and model Sage Elsesser recently released a mixtape under the name Navy Blue.
He worked on the mixtape, titled “Gangway For Navy,” at the same time that his friend and fellow rapper Earl Sweatshirt was staying in his apartment. To no surprise, this mixtape sounds similar to Sweatshirt’s own album, “Some Rap Songs,” released in 2018.
Both projects feature loud samples and subdued delivery, yet there is a clear difference between how each rapper decided to work with the sound. Navy Blue opts for mellowness in his music, compared to the anxiety-filled “Some Rap Songs.” Each rapper uses this style of rap in his own way, and each uses it amazingly.
Spanning only eight tracks, the mixtape is compact but full of compelling moments. This is a mixtape for those who are fans of lo-fi samples and low-key deliveries. Navy Blue utilizes production and smart wordplay to the best of his ability, like on the track “apprehension,” where smooth piano snippets can be heard underneath Navy Blue’s reflective rhymes about his younger days.
There are many moments on “Gangway For Navy” where Elsesser is heavily introspective, using his music as a therapeutic outlet. His lyricism is straightforward, but never specific on details. On “deathmask…,” he rhymes, “All this grief, been eatin’ away my stomach lining / It’s hard to eat when my poppa image stuck inside me.” Elsesser reveals emotions about his family life and personal struggles, but is hesitant to dig too deep and expose himself completely.
The production on “Gangway For Navy” is incredible. Samples run free on the tracks — awkwardly bending and contorting to what Elsesser wants them to do — yet ending up beautiful and smooth.
The album relies on piano and electronics, with Navy Blue putting hard-hitting snares and hi-hats overtop. All of the drums have a sharpness to them, which contrasts the melodies commonly used on this mixtape.
The instrumentals are where the connection between Earl Sweatshirt’s “Some Rap Songs” and “Gangway for Navy” comes through. Earl Sweatshirt used loud low-bit rate samples, where Elsesser used quiet samples and amplified them. The use of loud and irregular samples paired with themes of introspection and love is what makes “Gangway for Navy” a fantastic debut for a relatively unknown New York rapper like Navy Blue.
Even with the current trend in hip-hop of artists making shorter records, there is still room for error. On tracks like “carlos,” which features Brooklyn rapper MIKE, both rappers fail to establish themselves. The song feels like a lifeless attempt to use a fresh and lively instrumental.
The styles that Navy Blue uses on this mixtape mesh together since they all carry a laid-back and chill tone to them. His flow and delivery provide the songs with a sense of calamity. Meanwhile, all of the production varies from the lively “separate ways” to “can’t take me.”
Elsesser found his voice on this record as a talented freshman rapper with a unique sound.