Nate Feuerstein’s transparency is the first thing you notice, whether talking in person or listening to his new album, Mansion. The man who performs as NF says he really has no choice. It’s either let it out or bottle it up.
The charisma and energy that pours out on tracks like “Wake Up” and “Mansion” comes from sincere, broken places of pain and anger, hope and redemption. Feuerstein speaks (and raps) openly about his own past of hurt and abuse as a child in Michigan and his struggle to continue to deal with such trauma, even as an adult. Even so, he’s committed to telling his story for the power it holds to relate to others.
“What I want people to take from my music is that they’d be emotionally moved,” says Feuerstein. “It is real life and I’m talking about things that are currently bothering me or that I’m struggling with. So I want people to hear it and know that they’re not the only person going through something. There are so many kids, and people of all ages, who think they’re alone. But I’ve got this outlet that God has given me to release it and I can talk about it, and I want other people to feel the same thing.”
NF is the latest signing for Capitol Christian Music Group, and arguably the most dynamic in some time. That’s quite a statement for such a loaded roster, but the immediate comparison when listening to NF spit emotional verses is that of powerhouse star Eminem — Midwestern connection not withstanding—but certainly for style and impact. Even Feuerstein admits the influence is easily discerned on several of Mansion’s tracks.
“I was highly influenced by Eminem as a kid, which you can hear if you listen to the music,” he says. “But I listen to all kinds of stuff. I listen to acoustic ballads. I listen to Adele. Drake has definitely been a favorite of mine lately. I’ve also been listening to Ed Sheeran — it’s not a new record, but I’m a huge fan of it. I also like a couple tracks on the new Derek Minor album a lot.”
NF’s music will appeal to far more than hip-hop fans since there’s a strong sense of melody flowing through Mansion’s twelve tracks. The guest list also helps diversify the mix, especially Britt Nicole’s appearance on the moving and album’s closing song “Can You Hold Me?” But there’s no doubt that NF is first and foremost a hip-hop artist who is at his best when delivering his story on his own terms.
Feuerstein admits he has been asked about label involvement by those around him, who wonder if being a part of a larger industry will force him to adjust. But he says Capitol has been very supportive and encouraging of who he is and what he wants to do.
“When they hit me up, I went in to do a showcase,” he explains. “I said, ‘Look, this is my vision. I’ve always wanted my music to reach beyond the Christian market.’ I’ve never been a preacher type of artist. I’ve always been more inspirational, with a ‘this-is-my-life’ sort of approach. By doing that, it becomes a place for other people to relate, regardless of where they’re at in life.
“They were so supportive of all of that. They let me do what I want to do. I’m not saying they haven’t given any input; but they were pretty much saying, ‘Make the songs, and then we’ll talk about them.’ They’ve been awesome to work with.”
Feuerstein’s love for hip-hop runs deep, going back to his childhood when the music provided an outlet for his emotions. It wasn’t long before he learned he was more than just a fan as he began delivering his own rhymes over music via a karaoke machine.
“I had a lot of anger issues and things from the past that bothered me,” he says. “When I was 11 or 12, I started listening to dcTalk, T-Bone and Grits. At first I was a listener and then wanted more, because I realized it gave me a sense of relief. When I was 13 or 14, I started writing a lot; and then as I got older, it just kept on growing. And it grew fast.
“I actually started freestyling on a karaoke machine,” he continues. “Basically I’d have my friend burn an instrumental, and then I’d play it through there on one mic, and then I’d rap on another mic to record on the tape player. That’s what I started doing.”
NF laughs when asked about his earliest compositions. It was less about structured songs and more about rapping impromptu rhymes based on beat and feel. Still, he remembers them enough to know they weren’t any good.
“Those raps just sucked,” he says with a laugh. “There’s no way to explain it. But I can feel that way about what I was doing even a few years ago. You can change so much in such a short amount of time. You can go from this immature person trying to find your sound to suddenly feeling complete.”
It’s that last line that describes best how Feuerstein feels today. He says he’s an artist who’s finally found his voice, one that’s meant to share his story openly and freely with the world. While he hopes for good things on the new album and in his career, he can only control the story he’s been given; and he’s focused solely on that.
“I really hope that people see and hear me for who I am—I hope they take me seriously. I hope the album does well. Obviously I’d like to sell some records and hope it charts and all of that. But that will all work itself out. I can’t focus on that. I’m here to focus on the music and what God has put on my heart to share with others”.