By Jayleen Rolon
Nathan Feuerstein, known professionally as NF, is a rapper, singer and songwriter who creates non-explicit hip hop. His career started in 2010 when he released his debut studio album “Moments” under his real name. In 2017, his song “Let You Down” went platinum, and since then his music has been well received.
The mixtape “CLOUDS” came out nearly 2 years after Feuerstein’s latest studio album “The Search” that topped the US charts in 2019.
As a casual fan of NF who enjoyed “The Search” very much, “CLOUDS” is a clear extension of the studio album, even having similar artwork. In the title track, Feuerstein even says himself that “Mixtapes aren't [his] thing, but it's been awfully exhausting / Hanging onto songs this long is daunting.”
NF’s songs tend to fall into one of two categories: aggressive and theatrical rap performances, or heartfelt songs with gentle choruses that tend to explore serious topics. “CLOUDS” as a whole falls into the first category, as Feuerstein yells and raps rapid-fire in the majority of the tracks, making the all-caps titles fitting for the tone of the mixtape.
Studio albums like “The Search” tend to be balanced with the amount of songs that fall under each category, but considering these are the throwaways from Feuerstein’s last album as he works on the next album, the imbalance makes sense.
The prime example of the heartfelt and comparatively softer category in “CLOUDS” is my personal favorite “JUST LIKE YOU,” which speaks directly to the audience to reassure them that they aren’t alone in their struggles. While the song is very upbeat and uplifting, it also features a piano instrumental and the rap portions are easier to follow than other songs.
NF’s vulnerability in songs like this are part of his appeal, as he proves that the genre of hip hop isn’t inherently chained to superficial subject matter. “It's the rainy days that give us love for the sun / And if it isn't, I guess I'll be fine believin' it does,” sings Feuerstein poetically during the bridge of the song.
An example of the anger NF is also known for is “TRUST,” which features rapper Tech N9ne, as him and Feuerstein rant about their distrust in others. “Count on one hand who I trust (Ayy) / Count on one hand who I trust,” chants Feuerstein in the chorus. “TRUST” definitely sounds more like a traditional hip hop song, but the topic of trust issues is what makes it specific to Feuerstein.
On the other side of the aggression coin is the presence of pride in NF’s lyrics. “THAT’S A JOKE” is a great example of this, as Feuerstein speaks to those who doubt him in lyrics like “How could you call me unskilled? / That's like lookin' at Mount Everest and then calling it a small hill.”
In comparison to NF’s other music, this confident language is almost a satirical caricature as he admits to viewing himself in the opposite way. Feuerstein’s voice even changes when he is bragging in songs like “THAT’S A JOKE,” which is a clear influence of Feuerstein’s inspiration Eminem who has a tendency to adjust his voice based on sincerity.
If you’re like me and you are gravitated to the more gentle side of the multifaceted artist NF, tracks like “PRIDEFUL” and “JUST LIKE YOU” will be your forte. If you love blasting angry music in the solace of your room, this mixtape is meant for you. Either way you will admire the talent of NF’s lyrics as he spits clever wordplay as if second nature, showing the true poetry of hip hop.