Every week we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is Song of Sage: Post Panic!, the new album from Navy Blue.
There’s an unspoken magic to the albums that come from out of nowhere, with minimal fanfare, as the world lingers in the quiet purgatory between holidays and a new beginning. Song of Sage: Post Panic!, the second Navy Blue full-length of 2020, appeared in the last breath of our never-ending collective spiral, and serves to soothe the global hangover to come. February’s Ada Irin served as famed skater/model/musician Sage Elsesser’s warm welcome to the long-player, offering rich reflections on honoring lineage and surviving untenable conditions, both physical and mental. Elsesser also spent the past few years cutting teeth and chopping soul as one of the most formidable producers in underground hip-hop, extending the new NYC traditions via refreshing mutations to classic feelings. But Song of Sage bears a striking difference in the way it grounds itself in weightlessness, causing Navy to rise to the occasion for his most invigorating performances to date.
This weightless feel treats music as movements, favoring lush samples that spin in circles like a vortex. This time, Navy lends control to an assortment of the underground’s most intricate producers, curating a sound that’s at once spellbinding and familiar, a timeless energy pushing towards the infinite. Par the course for the growing Navy Blue canon, this is another unabashed rap record, vastly unconcerned with earworm hooks and runaway hit potential. He’s rapping like no one’s watching, but he’s grateful to have us tuned in. To walk in his light, Navy trusts in the power of catharsis, peeling back every corner of internal strife, childhood trauma, and the wreckage of colonization. His cool candor lends to easy listening, yet folds inward on itself as his voice cracks once the pain comes shooting back from what he’s unearthed. There are no wasted opportunities in his writing, and the details warrant every replay he earns.
Song of Sage both honors and soars past its predecessor by diving deeper—its self-awareness fusing with its scanning of the world making an engrossing listen for anyone still fighting, still learning. He’s wielding the kind of power that’ll make Yasiin Bey come out the cut at the last moment, that’ll make billy woods reminisce of a kiss in the library. Every time Sage weaves between the intimacy of his memories and the broader strokes of his survival, he elevates further into his name, imparting a wisdom far beyond his years. This album’s a testament to anyone who knows loss, who greets grief in the morning, and will find any means possible to live to tell the story. The answers aren’t always obvious, but the journey remains worth it. After such a powerful statement, there’s nowhere Navy Blue can’t go from here: a weary man of the people, inviting us inside ourselves.
Michael Penn II (aka CRASHprez) is a rapper and a former VMP staff writer. He's known for his Twitter fingers.