NAV Couldn't Care Less What You Think About Him

NAV Couldn't Care Less What You Think About Him

Canadian-Indian Navraj Singh Goraya spent high school making beats with dreams of making it big in music — practice that paid off when Drake discovered one of his creations via a mutual collaborator and used it for his Meek Mill diss track, "Back to Back." It wasn't long before NAV was rapping himself, later catching the attention of The Weeknd, who jumped on the breakout "Some Way" and later tapped him for his Starboy tour. This year alone he's released two mixtapes, his self-titled debut and a collab with Metro Boomin, Perfect Timing, and picked up production credits on Gucci Mane's Mr. Davis and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie's The Bigger Artist.

You're on tour right now, do you prefer that lifestyle over the studio?

Yeah, if I could set up a house where basically all I would need is food, a studio and video games, I'd be ok.

Do you ever worry about being reduced to a studio artist? Performing live and hearing a response like, "Oh, he's a studio artist" — does that scare you?

It scared me more before I started performing. Once I started performing and I heard how I sounded like onstage and how I felt onstage, that's when I knew I was scared of being called just a studio artist. In the beginning it was kind of rough. I didn't know how to project my voice a certain way as I did in the studio. As I got used to it I played back my videos of performances, and I feel really happy with it.

Tracksuit: Band of Outsiders, T-shirt: Calvin Klein, Sneakers: Nike, Sunglasses: His Own

Is there any feedback you would hate to hear?

Pretty much I only pay attention to my comments from my fans. As long as they're happy I'm happy. If I saw my comments go south and everybody just didn't like what I was doing I would be worried, but I feel like I have a good compass on where I want to go and where I want to take my career. It's working out pretty well for me right now. I just want to be a really big artist. I want to be a household name. The age group that messes with me the most right now is 18-24, but someone that I look up to The Weeknd. Like my mom knows who he is. I just want to reach that level where I'm a household name.

Obviously you want your songs to sell, but there is something magical about the old school hip-hop heads really buying into you. If you do get that mainstream appeal, would you ever feel like you're that corny, mainstream kid?

You avoid that by just not being corny. Some people are just naturally not corny and some people are just born corny. That's just what it is. You can also become corny if you sell out and do something that you think is going to work. I don't think of things that are going to work, I just go in the moment. I just go in the booth, turn on the microphone and say the first thing that comes into my head. I don't go in with a plan or say, "I'm going to make a girl song" or say, "I'm going to make a song about this," I just go do it. If I plan how I'm going to make a record or how it's going to come out and it doesn't end up that way, that's when you get discouraged. It didn't work out how you imagined it would and those expectations in the studio aren't met.

Is there a certain subject matter you lean towards?

I definitely like talking about my come up and my struggles making it as an artist because it took me a lot longer. It's going to get redundant and it almost already is, so I'm catching up to what's going on now in my life with females, or whatever else is going on.

We're also in this really tumultuous time politically right now. Do you feel like you ever need to address that?

Addressing those problems might just happen naturally in one of my songs. I haven't thought about putting it in a song, but if it's the right beat I might go in the booth and the first line might be about politics or the government. Maybe in the future I might make a song about that. It has to affect you personally, and it has to be real.

It's interesting you saying that you read the comments — how do you take the good and leave the bad?

You have to have the glass house mentality. Some people read good comments and they don't care, but the first bad comment you read, it ruins their day. I look at it another way. I really do appreciate the good comments, but the bad comments are just something to learn from. Sometimes a hater is not really a hater, they're just saying something for real. Most of the time someone who's leaving a bad comment has their page on private and might have like 10 followers. It can be a nobody, a troll or it can be your friend who made a fake account just to leave a nasty comment.

Jacket: Opening Ceremony, T-shirt: Calvin Klein, Pant: Skodia, Sneakers: Nike, Sunglasses & Jewelry: His Own

Do you ever stalk the people commenting?

In the beginning of my career, I'm not going to lie, before I met Cash and before everything took off, I used to go crazy on them. I used to respond, but then my energy just got drained from it, and one day I said to myself, "What am I doing?"

I read that when you were starting off you were super out-here. You were everywhere and you wanted to be seen. You wanted to be in the spotlight, but now you've retreated.

Yeah, now I'm just in hotel rooms. I wish there was a button to turn off the whole famous thing.

What was the catalyst for your distaste for fame? What changed?

Just the fakeness of it all. For a long time, if you're just one person nobody looks at you twice. All of a sudden if they do then it's not really for the right reasons. It's not the fans. They love me and I love them. It's the people in the industry, people at private parties, people who have a higher status like the girls in LA and stuff like that. I've met some good people too who break those stereotypes. It's more about when you get on a personal level with people, that's when some weird motives come out.

How do you discern between the real and the fake?

It's hard. Ever since I started, I've just been holding onto my day-one people because I know they believed in me when no one really did. Anybody that comes along, you're going to have that doubt, "Do they like me for me or do they like me for what I have going on?" They prove themselves over time, especially in those times where you didn't have anything. My buddy was with me every day when I was riding in a five-hundred-dollar car, so now he's with me everywhere.

How much does critical response affect you?

It depends. You can't take one blog's opinion and think your album sucks, when another is saying something totally different. Half of these dudes are hating on you because they're in their one-bedroom apartment writing on their MacBook Air. You can't take it and make it personal. At the same time, there have been some not really good reviews on my album and I really sat back and took in what they were saying.

What makes you take it seriously?

First thing you have to do is drop your ego. Once you drop your ego, everything comes easy to you. You can just start filtering through what they're saying without getting defensive.

How do you do that?

I just really stop taking it personal and just look at it like it's not my album and it's some other dude's album. I try to trick my brain. It's easier said than done though, for sure.

You got so many co-signs coming up: Drake, The Weeknd and Nas also shouted you out. Now everyone's beating down your door, it doesn't really matter.

Yeah, but the thing about Drake is he had no knowledge of who I was at the time. I just made a beat with somebody, he had sent it, and it got played.

Tracksuit: Cottweiler, T-shirt: Calvin Klein, Sneakers: Nike, Sunglasses & Jewelry: His Own

It's so wild. What was that like?

I literally woke up in the morning on my laptop on Twitter and stuff and they said Drake dropped a diss track. It was really hot at the time just because of everything that was going on behind the scenes. When I heard it, I was taken back for a few days because I couldn't believe that I did some shit like that.

Do you worry about being permanently tied to bigger artists?

With that, I don't really care. It's whatever they assume. What really happened is I was making beats for a very long time, like eight or nine years since high school, and no one in my city could do anything with my beats. I couldn't reach those big guys, I didn't have the contacts to reach Drake or The Weeknd. I just started making my own music for the last two or three years and putting them up on SoundCloud. After that, things just started taking off. One thing led to another.

You're on your own feet.

I feel like I'm on my own feet. I don't feel like they cast their shadow over me. I have complete creative freedom. Cash will give me notes and help me with the track listing and things like that. For the most part it's all on me. We just did everything organically. Even the song I did with Gucci Mane featuring The Weeknd, it was just me and him [Gucci] vibin' out and he wanted some beats, we had the engineer there, he did it, and the next thing you know the record got played.

What has it been like working with Gucci? Watching his renaissance has been incredible.

It was amazing. I worked with him for the first time while I was on tour. Backstage, he was really shocked that we had a studio set up and an engineer because he never seen that before. I just watched him record his stuff and he just literally freestyled really well. He can rap on the spot and say some stuff that will make you really laugh. He's really amazing at what he does and that was a dream come true. I didn't even think that I was going to do a song for Gucci Mane. That was my goal. I produced one, I made a song with Gucci Mane, and now I'm on tour with him. It's unreal.

What do you learn from someone like that? He really goes in for new talent.

He has a great hustler's mentality. As far as him picking up the young people, that's the key to staying relevant in the game. You can't think that you're done learning, you can't just think that you don't know anything because that was you one day. As far as his own career and what he does, he just does it. What I learned from him with his work ethic and everything is that he just gets shit done. He records, he does a show, he just goes out and does everything. He doesn't sit around pouting or anything, he hustles and gets the shit done.

What drew you to hip-hop? There aren't a lot of South Asian rappers popping. What made you think that you could make it in the landscape and in that lane?

To be honest, it was the neighborhood that I grew up in in Toronto. It's not one of the best neighborhoods, but it's good to meet different cultures. A lot of the different generations there were mostly Caribbean and Jamaican. Culturally I was always on hip-hop. It was naturally, everything that I did was hip-hop influenced. Even in high school I would make my own beats and people would freestyle to it.

Tracksuit: Band of Outsiders, T-shirt: Calvin Klein, Sneakers: Nike, Sunglasses: His Own

You were also called out for saying the "n" word as a brown rapper too, right?

I got a little bit of shit. I totally respect it and I just kept it moving because I understand how it works in the game. It's like when I was making music, I wasn't making music thinking that I'm going to blow up and become a famous artist, I was making music and rapping with my friends where we used the word freely. When it came to a global scale, I saw a little bit of backlash and I pulled back. I don't need to use that word to make it far.

Which do you prefer, producing or rapping?

Work-wise I'm either doing one or the other. Either I'm sitting there making beats and I'm going to do that the whole day, then when it comes time for recording I'll go back to my beats that I have. If I don't like any of the beats that I made, I'll go to my friends who made beats and I'll try their beats.

How do you know when a beat's going to be big?

Once the vocals are on it and you hear the melodies and the emotions, that's when a record comes together. The beat can be fire, but if the person's not performing good then it's not going to be a fire song. Probably after I'm done recording a chorus or a verse. Probably after that point I know the song is going to be huge.Every artist knows that feeling. You get a certain chill or you start laughing.

Tell me about when you heard Drake pick up "Back to Back" for the first time. What was it like?

I literally woke up in the morning on my laptop on Twitter and stuff and they said Drake dropped a diss track. It was really hot at the time just because of everything that was going on behind the scenes. When I heard it, I was taken back for a few days because I couldn't believe that I did some shit like that.

Are there any rappers that inspire you?

Lyrically, it's Belly, Nas, Jay Z. Then I'm from a young age where we're doing things with a little more flavor with lyrics and melodies. I find the balance, but lyrically I always think about those people for sure.

Do you feel like you ever have to appease that generation too?

Not necessarily. We had this conversation at dinner the other day, if I go to the club I'm not going to want to hear a lyrical rap song. There's a time and place for every kind of music. You're going to want to hear Lil Yachty in the club.

What do you think about the rap landscape right now?

I think it's becoming balanced. You have a lot of artists coming from New York and LA. For a while it was just Atlanta. Now I see big artists everywhere, to be honest. The way the Internet is now, people aren't going to care where you're from, as long as you have some sick shit going on.

Photography: Eric White

Stylist: Jason Rembert

Makeup: Jenn Hanching

Grooming: Daronn

Stylist Assistant: Kirsten McGovern