American rapper Nate Feuerstein, better known as NF, is the master of meaningful hip-hop. His new album HOPE is a career pivot, blending pop with his intense conscious rap into an utter explosion of introspective music. To celebrate this next chapter of NF’s career, it’s time to take a look back through his impressive video catalogue.
Combing his most commercial sound yet with his most earnest lyrics, NF goes back to his Christian roots on ‘HAPPY’. “The truth is I need help, but I just can’t imagine who I’d be if I was happy”, he reveals to God in the hugely expressive chorus, a dark but relatable sentiment for many of us whose identities are shaped by our pain. The music video showcases this vicious cycle through the eyes of a young child watching her parents deal with uncomfortably adult problems. ‘HAPPY’ is one of NF’s most real moments. He’s unafraid to shy away from the truth, in turn making his music a beacon of hope for devoted listeners.
Introducing his third studio album of the same name, ‘HOPE’ is a five minute spectacular following NF’s healing journey over the past several years. The video sees NF’s current self, draped in heavenly white attire, remind the black-clothed past self of his previous eras that he has plenty of growing to do. The NF of ‘HOPE’ no longer seeks validation from others. He puts his family and wellbeing above all else, as reflected by his journey from a lonely raft in the middle of the ocean at the start of the clip, to the dramatic mountaintops by its close. No longer is NF on a path to find hope, but now, a path to hold onto it for all it’s worth.
NF steels himself against the Hollywood machine on the thunderous pop-rap track ‘MOTTO’. Despite the pressure to cave into making generic commercial music, he’s devoted to only ever making art he believes in. As he terrorises the paparazzi, mocks red carpet posers and causes a scene at an awards show, the song’s bombastic chorus mocks the celebrity system. When security finally throw him out onto the street, it seems they’ve only helped NF accomplish his task. Whilst the influence of iconic performers like Eminem and Twenty One Pilots is strong on ‘MOTTO’, NF’s unique personality still shines through on every line.
4. WHEN I GROW UP
Dedicated to his dream of becoming a rapper, ‘WHEN I GROW UP’ combines a childlike music box instrumental with NF’s fiery lyrics about following his dreams. “When I grow up I just wanna pay my bills, rappin’ ‘bout the way I feel”, he declares. It’s a promise he’s made good on. The video follows him up the career ladder, from tough working class jobs taking out trash and serving fast food, to performing to a room full of screaming fans. There’s no better testament to bringing your goals to fruition.
5. THE SEARCH
“I don’t know if I’m making movies or music videos”, NF spits on ‘THE SEARCH’, an astute observation of his work’s frequent cinematic quality. One of his best numbers covering mental health, ‘THE SEARCH’ visuals stay simple to emphasise lyrical content above all else. He delivers each line about the difficult overlap between his success and his struggles with anxiety and OCD amidst a dark, grey desert. It’s the exact level of drama a song this vulnerable calls for.
There is no NF song quite like ‘STORY’. Delivered as a stream-of-consciousness performance through the eyes of a woman named Erin, ‘STORY’ begins as narration of a bad mental health day, but unexpectedly escalates into a high-concept tale of a gas station burglary. If the terrifying song alone wasn’t enough, the music video puts you right into the scene. Erin’s absolute fear at the hands of a gunman, and the horrible fate she faces after the song’s many plot twists, will stick with you long after ‘STORY’ is over.
On ‘CLOUDS’, NF proudly admits how different he is to the traditional mould for rap success. He delivers powerful rhymes about his unexpected personality, unflinchingly performing in intense situations like fires, car pile-ups, football games and family fights. The track’s title comes from a reversed phrase in its opening moments, a metaphor for how NF exists as the opposite of what Hollywood expects, and yet how he refuses to change for its rules. Dynamic and dramatic, ‘CLOUDS’ builds and builds with a tension only NF can create.
8. THERAPY SESSION
Undoubtedly NF’s heaviest video, ‘THERAPY SESSION’ sees the rapper tackle the difficult topic of suicide. He paints Joker-like smiles over the faces of anonymous people wearing masks surrounding him, reflecting the hidden pain of those suffering in silence. “Why don’t you write us some happy raps?” NF says sarcastically, acknowledging that his music is ultimately for those who need the release of the titular therapy session, not those looking for a lighthearted track. Through the dark, unsettled and emotionally gripping scenes of ‘THERAPY SESSION’, NF’s anger shines through, as does his passion for music. That’s a passion that remains through every storm that comes his way.
NF’s heartfelt ode to working through relationships when the going gets tough, ‘TIME’, utilises the genius camerawork technique of playing clips in reverse. Alongside his beautiful sung vocals, the visuals reimagine the story of a fight between two lovers played backwards, picturing how different the situation could be if they work through it together and let time heal the wounds. It’s a rare moment in his discography, touching upon the complexities of love in a unique style that’s distinctively NF.
The first of several introductory videos to the character of NF, ‘INTRO’ is a simple yet incredibly effective clip focusing on performance alone. He defines himself as a “monster”, a “villain”, and above all else, a genuine rapper who tells it how it is. Shot in a desolate, impoverished neighbourhood, this one-of-a-kind artist shouts each line as if he’s on the world stage. NF takes to the street to break down life’s metaphorical caution tape and crafts a powerful work that concisely offers up everything you need to know about hip-hop’s new man-in-charge.