Nate Feurstein, otherwise known as NF, has just released his fourth album, The Search. And as he’s done in the past, the rising Christian rap star’s latest effort once again digs deeply into his painful past with hope for the future.
Detailing raw, personal emotions, NF reaches for the heart with all 20 tracks. Throughout this sonic journey, NF also talks to God and searches for the strength to change while being honest about his own struggles with mental health.
It’s evident that Nate is working to leave behind old ways and patterns in favor of hope and joy on songs such as “The Search,” “Change,” My Stress” and “Options.” On “Change,” he knows that his emotions can be untrustworthy “liars.” And even though he admits, “Last year I felt suicidal,” he immediately contrasts that confession with a redemptive one: “This year I might do something different, like talking to God.” Likewise, “Only” also recognizes the importance of intentionally working on one’s relationship with God: “Wishin’ that I’d pray/A little more often and put more time into my faith.”
In “WHY,” Nate asks honest, tough questions and shines a light on the lies he’s sometimes tempted to believe: “I don’t want no one to know I’m vulnerable.Why?/That makes me feel weak and uncomfortable. Why?”/… I don’t care what anybody else thinks—lies/I do not need nobody to help me—lies.”
On “Thinking” Nate raps about learning to be vulnerable with his wife (“Yea, feel like I don’t deserve you when I hurt your feelings/I’m vulnerable, you got the keys to open all of my secrets”), and he focuses on what really matters in the end (“Who gon’ care when this all fades, I turn gray and get older?”). He admits on “Time” that marriage can be hard but promises to be a better man for his wife.
Piano ballad “Trauma” finds NF grasping for someone or something to help him in a moment of desperation: “Grab my hand, I’m drowning/I feel my heart pounding/Why haven’t you found me yet?/I hold you so proudly/Traumas, they surround me/I wish you’d just love me back.” It’s a raw song at certain points, but one in which NF vulnerably illustrates how important it isto depend upon others during life’s hard moments. On “Hate Myself,” he encourages listeners to realize that the world will never truly fill the deepest needs in our hearts.
“I Miss the Days” looks back into Nate’s childhood, when things seemed simple (“I miss the days when/I had a smile on my face and/Wasn’t so caught up in all of the small things/ … Ridin’ my bike, just ridin’ my bike/Not overthinkin’ my life”). Similarly on “Nate,” NF gives his younger self some solid advice about talking to God, building character, releasing arrogance and chasing joy over fame.
Nate personifies fame and tells it to go away in “Leave Me Alone.” And in “Let Me Go,” he longs for release from negative thoughts and the pressure to be perfect: “Why don’t you accept me? I just need acceptance/ … You just want perfection, I need you to let me go.”
“When I Grow Up” and “No Excuses” dive into how NF has worked hard to pursue his lifelong dreams.
As mentioned in the intro, many songs here deal honestly with the issue of mental health struggles, including “Only,” “Leave Me Alone,” “Thinking,” “The Search,” “Interlude,” “Let Me Go” and “My Stress.” At times, his admissions in isolation could seem to be downers. For example, in “Only” Nate talks about feeling lonely and how having a good day isn’t the average for him. That said, the overall intent of the album is a redemptive one, and it’s clear that NF is unloading some of these confessions in an attempt to be honest, to get to a better place, and to help others who struggle similarly.
That said, some of those admissions about his mental and emotional trauma can still seem pretty bleak at times. “Leave Me Alone” grapples with self-hatred. And similar themes turn up on “Hate Myself,” as NF admits he’s had suicidal thoughts and has contemplated escaping emotional trauma through alcohol. In “Like This,” Nate admits he feels that some of his nagging negative behaviors can feel like “backsliding.”
NF also talks about the dysfunctional behaviors and choices of his late mother on his self-titled track: “Remember back when Mom picked us up from Grandma’s house?/And she hid her boyfriend in the trunk and drove a couple miles?/ … ’Cause she ain’t want Dad to know she had these types of dudes around?”
Some violent metaphors show up on songs such as “WHY” (“They don’t see it; I pull out they eyes”), “Only,” “When I Grow Up,” “The Search,” “Options” and “Returns” (“So you stand there in disbelief/’Til I dislocate both your feet”).
If you’re familiar at all with NF, you know that he’s not one to shy away from being authentic. And that can be both beautiful and emotionally challenging for fans.
This rapper’s struggles with mental health, anger management, stress and trauma are laced into nearly every track, along with the occasional violent metaphor. That said, there’s also a lot of redemption here.
NF asks deep questions about his place in the world, expresses his mixed feelings about fame, and voices his desire to be vulnerable as he fights through negative thoughts and behaviors in order to become a better man and husband. It’s not always pretty. But positive changes are happening, largely because of his determination to keep “talking to God.”
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).