In August, an album by Chance the Rapper was beaten out at the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s album chart by an album from Nathan Feuerstein the Rapper.
Some pundits, who may or may not have known much about the hip-hop scene, professed shock.
Feuerstein, whose professional title is NF, is no rookie. The album that wrested the top spot from Chance was NF’s fourth on the Capitol Christian Music Group label.
NF will perform a sold-out show on Sept. 27 at the Clyde Theatre.
Bona Fide Rapper
NF was the first bona fide rapper (TobyMac doesn’t count; sorry, Toby) signed by Capitol’s Christian division.
Capitol Records exec Brad O’Connell told Rapzilla.com that he started searching for a Christian rapper because the Christian music audience was clamoring for faith-based practitioners of that genre.
NF’s pitch to Capitol included the song “Wake Up.”
“I’d never heard anything like it,” O’Donnell said. “As great as his flow was, it was clear he had as great of a sense of melody as he was a rapper.”
When O’Donnell saw a video of NF freestyling, he was hooked.
“I couldn’t believe his intensity,” he said. “Some people just feel music. It literally comes out of every pore in their body. It’s not an intellectual thing. It comes straight from the heart. And that’s what I felt when I watched that video.”
A salient question, however, is this: Is NF really a Christian rapper as opposed to some other sort of rapper?
Depends on how that term is defined.
Not buying into the label
NF has indicated that he really doesn’t want to be classified as a “Christian rapper.”
“Not at all,” he told Idolator.com. “I mean, I’m a Christian, but I’m just an artist. I’m a musician. You know what I mean? To me it’s like if you’re a Christian and you’re a plumber, are you a Christian plumber? That’s the easiest way for me to explain it. I just make music. I talk about my life. I talk about my faith. I talk about positive things that I’ve dealt with that have taught me things and I talk about negative things that I’m dealing with. I wouldn’t describe myself as that, but I am a Christian.”
Just as NF would never make an album that is calculatedly Christian, so too would he never make an album that is calculatedly secular.
“I’m just doing me,” he said. “I never sit down and think, ‘Oh, I want to make this record more mainstream.’ I just make music the way that I make it. I’m growing as a person. It’s just like anybody.”
A Form of Therapy
Some of NF’s fans express surprise when his lyrical content changes from one album to the next.
“I’m a human being,” he said. “I can grow. When I talk about struggling with something, on the next record I might talk about how I used to struggle with it. Here’s how I got through it, and I explain it.”
Music isn’t just a job for NF. It isn’t a game. It’s a form of therapy.
“So if you don’t like the music, cool,” he said. “I understand, but you need to understand when you put on an NF album, I don’t just write music for fun. This is real for me. I say that very explicitly in the lyrics. I think that’s what people are loving about it. If you look at the cover, it’s me sitting across from myself.”
NF isn’t Nathan Feuerstein’s alter ego. He isn’t a character that Feuerstein plays.
“They’re the same person,” he said, “but it’s almost like I’m having conversations with myself, which a lot of people do in their minds, you know? You’re trying to figure things out, and it’s like I’m having a therapy session. The music is my therapy, but I’m talking to myself through my music.”
NF said he is grateful that his music inspires fellow Christians, but he doesn’t want his audience to consist solely of Christians.
“I make music for everyone,” he said. “I make music for the masses. I want people to listen to my music all over the world and relate to it and feel it the way I feel it.”
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October 19 • The Clyde Theatre