by Carlin Doyle
Have you ever felt like you knew everything about someone without having ever met them? NF understands this, and gets it a lot. In fact, it’s hard not to connect with him as a person when listening to his music.
The 25 year-old hip-hop artist Nate Feuerstein, or NF, is unashamedly personal. Signed with Capitol Music Group, the Michigan-based artist is aggressively open and raw, and hard-hitting in his music.
I heard his first album Mansion soon after it released last year, and it impacted my life more deeply than any album had in years. Christian hip-hop has been a passion of mine for a while, and doing what I do, I hear a lot of it. Sometimes I am impressed, sometimes very impressed. But Mansion didn’t just impress me; it inspired me as an artist, it challenged me in my beliefs, and it gave me strength through some very tough personal circumstances I faced last year.
Therapy Session, in my mind, is somewhat of a “part two” to Mansion. It continues the same themes; it gives you raw and honest insight into Nate’s mind, his life, and his personal struggles. It takes the listener deeper into the issues NF raised on the first album: depression, anger, losing his mother to a drug overdose, regret at the end of a past relationship, and responding to critics of his music. While Mansion was a metaphor for his mind, the title Therapy Session gives you a heads up of what’s to come.
In the first track, Intro 2, NF continues the absolutely epic and aggressive rap style from Mansion’s Intro, stating, “Mansion was a glimpse of my life, I let you see what it’s like to be in my head… I let the door open to come in my mansion but I never said it’s a beautiful house”.
Title track Therapy Session proves that I’m not the only one that has connected with NF’s music. NF shares a story about talking to some fans, “One of them pulled me aside and said ‘We never met but I swear that you know who I am, I been through a lot… I’ve got that Mansion CD on rotate, this is real for me Nate you do not understand’…These kids they come to my shows with tears in their eyes, imagine someone looking at you and saying your music’s the reason that they are alive.”
In I Just Wanna Know, NF begins to share how he feels after a long and serious relationship ended. He addresses the song to his ex, stating his frustration, “I guess I don’t know what happened to us, now you got me questioning what trust is. You told me you would be there for me…Now you wanna jump ship, leave me here alone, well I’m used to it, everybody else did.”
Just as I expected, the production quality of Therapy Session is superb and fits both the mood and NF’s style perfectly, thanks to Tommee Proffitt, NF’s producer, as well as David Garcia and Jarrod Ingram. The mood, layering and attention to detail is always exceptional in NF’s music.
The next track, How Could You Leave Us, NF described as the “most vulnerable song I have ever written”. It is addressed to his mother who died of a drug overdose. NF openly cries as he sings to her, and then talks to her at the end of the song. A song like this is hard to describe – but it’s both beautiful and heartbreaking.
One of the things that struck me most about NF’s music is that he does not give easy answers. Never does he end a song with a cliche, or say, “But it’s all good, I’m ok”. This is because he hasn’t finished processing these struggles yet, that’s why he is in a Therapy Session. He has reminded me that, just because we might be a Christian, doesn’t mean our lives are easy, or that we have it all together.
NF does a great job balancing heavy, emotional themes in songs like Breathe and Oh Lord with aggressive and energetic raps in others like Real and Grindin’ (feat. MARTY). The production is minimalistic and always spot on.
I would be lying if I said that I thought his music was perfect. In several of his songs, he borders on arrogance and self-praise as he asserts his own abilities as a rapper over others. I understand why he feels the need to do it, but I don’t think he needs to; it is predictable.
Like Mansion, Therapy Session is very dark and at times quite bleak. This isn’t a bad thing; It is deeply personal. Yet I really long for him to share deep and lasting hope with his fans – particularly his hope in Christ. The album ends beautifully with Lost in the Moment (feat. Jonathan Thulin), yet left me feeling a little empty. There is no resolution, only ongoing struggle.
As an artist, I predict that over the next 5-10 years, NF will reach the pinnacle of the Christian hip-hop sub-genre. But he won’t stay there; he will receive strong recognition in mainstream hip-hop as well. His music is unique and of a very high quality, and he is extremely gifted at what he does.
Yet my heart for NF’s music isn’t just for the music. NF knows that fame is not the picture of success. My heart is for the man behind the music. As I listen to such a deeply personal album, I can’t help but think about the person, rather than the beats. What I hope for, in fact pray for regularly as I listen to his music, is that Nate will find deep comfort, healing and hope in the love of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only one that can heal all of our hurts, and he did so by laying down his life for us, so that we could be loved, accepted and reconciled to God as our heavenly Father. I pray that as Nate finds this comfort, healing and hope, that he would share it with others too, and his ministry and platform would change lives for eternity.
The Verdict: I knew before Therapy Session dropped that it would be excellent, and it is. NF’s sophomore effort is dark and intense, but real. 4.5/5
Therapy Session by NF is available now on Apple Music.