Nav, the Toronto rapper and producer born Navraj Goraya, currently has five songs in the SoundCloud Top 50. His drowsy, melodic style first gained buzz thanks to cosigns from Kylie Jenner and Drake’s OVO Sound Radio; and he released his self-titled debut mixtape – a collection of warbled riffs about gaining clout and losing touch – earlier this year on the Weeknd’s XO Records. He’ll be opening most of the dates on the Weeknd’s Starboy tour as it winds its way through North America this September and October.
His latest mixtape, a collaboration with Metro Boomin called Perfect Timing, was released in July. Rolling Stone talked to the rising star about his recent success.
Do you have a musical family? My uncle was an Indian singer for a long time. He was pretty popular in India. He was one of the first people to take me to my first studio when I first got interested in making beats. My other uncle, on my mom’s side, played piano and keyboard. My uncle would sing.
What inspired you to make music? I just naturally had a love for it. When I was like in grade 3, my mom bought me a boom box for Christmas. I would lay the boom box on my chest. … I would put it on my chest and listen to music all day.
What’s your earliest memory of performing? The first time I ever stepped on stage was the O2 Arena in London [on the Weeknd’s tour]. There were 20,000 people. Right when I got on stage, the first person I looked at in the crowd said to another person, “Who is that?” I made eye contact with them. I got so nervous. I started looking at the sky.
How did you meet Metro Boomin? I met Metro on FaceTime. In person, was in the studio. That was when we had already decided we were gonna do a mixtape together. There were three keyboards around him. Once I started to say, “Hey, let me do something,” he kind of got out of my way and then the magic started happening.
When you were recording Perfect Timing, did you get a feel for Atlanta? It was just me and my friend Bucks. We booked the studio for a week. The lady who runs the studio there is a great cook so she had us good. I didn’t get into the whole Atlanta scene but I do want to go there soon with Metro and Cash [Esmailian, the Weeknd and Nav manager] and catch the vibe.
Have you recorded any new music? I have a lot of new music. … Since I’ve been working with Metro and other producers, I haven’t been producing as much. … Moving forward, I want to get back to my original sound. So, starting today, I’m back producing for myself.
What were you thinking during your cameo in Playboi Carti’s “Magnolia” video? In the moment, it was that it’s hot as shit in here. It was hot as fuck in there. I showed up for my boy Carti. I called him – literally – and I didn’t even know he was shooting the video. He told me, “Pull up.” I pulled up on him because that’s my boy. I did my cameo and I left. It was too hot in there. Unbearable.
Which artists have hit you up that you could see yourself working with? Definitely Nas. I’m pretty much friends with everybody that posted [about] the album. I’ve seen Lil Yachty post something [today]. I wouldn’t mind doing something with him. If it’s the right song for me, I’ll get on that song. It’s not about the individual. It’s about the music.
Where were you when you saw the Nas post? I was in L.A. and I woke up and it was on my phone. I’m getting used to it now but it’s still surreal.
Which American city could you compare Rexdale, Toronto to? I’ve seen some neighborhoods in NY that look similar. Rexdale’s a good and bad environment. It’s not, like, a super bad neighborhood. In the pocket, there is government housing. It does get pretty rough there in my neighborhood.
What’s your favorite collaboration on the mixtape? “I would say “Minute” [with Offset and Playboi Carti]. Cash had booked the studio in New York. We told Carti pull up to the studio after the shoot. He may have been tired or something, maybe he fell asleep. He didn’t show up. We pulled up to one and they said we couldn’t smoke in there. It took us two hours to find another studio. When we got there, I sat down and hit my head on something really hard. It took me 30 minutes to get back in my zone.
What’s the one thing you’ve learned since you came up? Everybody’s looking at me now. In this journey so far, a lot of people have showed their true colors.