ALBUM REVIEW: Perception by NF
In today’s gritty rap industry, it is difficult to find artists who are clean, honest, and interesting. Nate Feuerstein, under the name NF, has been this through his whole career. In 2015 he was signed to Capitol Records’ Christian Music Group and released his major label debut, Mansion. This album showed off both his emotion and introduced us to his story. Next he released Therapy Session in 2016. This album went even deeper into his life and depression. A standout track was “How Could You Leave Us.” This emotional song shows a heartbreaking and intimate look at his mother’s drug use and the aftermath of her overdose.
In the first single of this new album, “Outro”, NF talks about how he feels like he will never be able to top “How Could You Leave Us” and that he will never be able to be successful without his depression. He feels as if that is what makes his music interesting. This song was a perfect introduction to what would become his third album, Perception. This is an album but NF facing his fears and struggling to be happy after all he has been through.
The album opens with the powerful and dynamic song, “Intro III.” This song is unique because NF depicts a battle between him and his fear simply through the change of his tone of voice. This is something we haven’t seen before from a song by him.
I honestly was shaking in the studio when I recorded INTRO III…. so real for me
— NF (@nfrealmusic) October 5, 2017
NF has expressed that this is both his favorite song he’s written and the realest song he’s written. This has to be the strongest song on the album and it serves a perfect opener to the themes that this album explores.
When the album released so did NF’s latest music video for the second song on the album, “Outcast.”
— NF (@nfrealmusic) October 7, 2017
This song is very much an attack and rejection on the current rap/music industry. Rather than conform to the industry and degrade women, NF says that he’ll “just be the outcast.” He talks about how much easier it would be if he was like every other rapper but he doesn’t care about the fame. He is someone who would rather be alone than go against everything he believes in. This song’s beat and NF’s flow makes this a rap anthem about stepping out and being better than the world around us.
In the music video, NF raps in a cage while 100 of his fans reach into his prison cell. This stunning visual elevates the song and highlights how skilled NF’s team is at creating quality videos to go with his tracks.
Next is the only collaboration on the album, “10 Feet Down” ft. Ruelle. Ruelle’s emotional vocals deliver a catchy chorus mixed with a reverse effect at times. In this song NF tackles humanity’s struggle for perfection. One of the standout lyrics from this song has to be where NF says:
Yeah, seems like we’re all trying to climb a ladder
It’s crazy what we’ll do to climb it faster
It’s like we throw away the things in life that really matter
Just so that we can make it to the top, and wonder what we’re even climbing after.
One of the weaker songs on the album, “Green Lights”, is mostly a hype track about how NF constantly works on his music and he will not be fit into a box. The song may be the weakest on the album, but that isn’t saying much. This is still a superb track with a great video to go with it that depicts NF being a victim of armed robbery.
One of my favorite songs on Perception has to be the 5th song, “Dreams.” This is the sample many fans knew as “Sad Days.” This is an emotional song with a much slower style of rap than the previous tracks. This is the first time the album really slows down. My only criticism is that this song feels like a very abrupt after “Green Lights.” It would have been better on the back half of the album where many more slower songs are situated. “Dreams” has a very chill and introspective vibe to it and it is a very powerful track overall. The production works well to convey the meaning of the song.
You don't wanna make this work/
You just wanna make this worse /#letyoudown
— NF (@nfrealmusic) September 16, 2017
The first look into NF’s relationship with his parents comes in the form of “Let You Down.” On first listen, this comes off as a breakup song but through repeated listens I realized that this is talking about a parental figure. Whether it is referring to his mother or father is unclear but the song packs an emotional punch. NF sings the chorus beautifully and the slowdown on the third verse leading to a final chorus is one of the best endings to a rap song I have heard in awhile.
The next two tracks are very similar to previous tracks on the album. “Destiny” sounds like a short cut of “Outcast.” I do enjoy the song’s introduction and the beat hits very hard. This is the sample fans called “Psycho.” The wordplay on this song is what makes it stand out. There is also a very small nod to a song from Therapy Session, “Oh Lord.”
On the other hand, “My Life” sounds very similar to “Dreams.” “My Life” is much closer to rap than “Dreams” and it focuses on what sounds like a friend of NF who has drinking issues. This song tends to be very repetitive even though the verses are very well written and some of the best lyrics on the record.
Something that NF has shied away from in his last two albums are true love songs. The closest we get are “Only One” and “Thing Called Love” on his EP. “You’re Special” changes this with a song with a smooth beat and vocals followed by verses. Unlike most of his songs, this one doesn’t contain his usual fear or anger. He does show vulnerability as he is scared to lose his girlfriend but for the most part, this song is a change of form for NF.
My all-time favorite from the album comes next in “If You Want Love.” This soft, introspective song starts off with soft guitar strums and the beat remains soft throughout. The premise of the song is explicit in the amazing chorus:
If you want love, you gon’ have to go through the pain
If you want love, you gon’ have to learn how to change
If you want trust, you gon’ have to give some away.
NF’s vocals sound so vulnerable on this song that it gives me chills. The honesty and truth in this song are very well done. When the track-list was released, this was the last thing I thought that this sound was going to be. I am very pleased with this song and it is honestly one of my favorite NF songs to date.
As we venture deeper into the second half of Perception we move from the previous slow tracks into “Remember This,” which is essentially a song full of advice. This song goes into criticism, facing change, and greed. As the song progresses, the beat hits harder and NF’s verses get faster. The effect this change of tempo creates makes this an excellent hype song with a purpose.
The next track, “Know,” is a song that was featured in many samples. This song includes a Twenty One Pilots reference and this song goes into the themes explored in “Outcast” and “Destiny.” NF is diverging from the typical rap industry and creating his own lane. The most powerful part of this song to me is where he talks about how his grandfather talked about God and how NF himself should have prayed more. This expresses the concept of NF changing his perception for the better.
“Lie” is a breakup song that follows a pretty typical rap/chorus pop formula but NF makes it his own. His vocals come off as R&B and that works well for the song itself. I wish the song has a little more meaning to it but it does not hurt the album as a whole. The wordplay is also very well written on the song’s verses.
I am not a slave to the people writin checks to me #perception
— NF (@nfrealmusic) October 9, 2017
“3 A.M.” is the perfect follow up to “Lie” and it has a similar style but is very different in its own rights. This one goes into a person who has came back into NF’s life only because he’s become famous. This person doesn’t seem to care about NF anymore as NF deals with how he might be the one who ruined the relationship. It comes off as a confident breakup song if you don’t pay attention to the lyrics.
“One Hundred” is a hype song that NF played throughout his Therapy Session Tour. This song takes aim at mainstream rappers who have sold out. A line in the first verse, “Told me they consider you a god, yeah, well I don’t,” seems to be aimed directly at Eminem. Eminem is a rapper whom NF has been compared to since he started due them both being white rappers from Michigan. This song delivers the hype but could have been elevated with a guest verse like “Grindin'” ft. Marty of Social Club. The song feels very plain compared to Therapy Session‘s main hype track.
The album ends with the track it began with “Outro.” The first single of the album brings the themes to a perfect resolution and leaves fans wanting more.
Overall I give this album an 8.8. The album delivers on NF’s usual song with just enough innovation to keep things interesting. Some tracks are too similar and a 16-track album is hard for NF to carry with only a single collaboration. A guest verse from another rapper would have enhanced one of the songs. This is a perfect jumping on point to his music and will satisfy fans who has been here since the beginning.