“I’ve been searchin’. What does that mean Nate? I’ve been learnin,’” says the title track and introduction to Christian rap artist NF’s new album, “The Search.” It’s a ride through the overactive mind of Nathan Feuerstein from Gladwin, Michigan, who rose to success last year with his song “Let You Down” off of his third studio album, “Perception.” Now he’s released his follow-up, which not only lives up to expectations but absolutely shatters them.
The emotional roller coaster of mental health, relationships and fame are worth the ride for an overall experience that will leave you both torn up and hopeful.
The overall tone of the album is very dark and heavy, filled with heavy synth beats, fast raps and sharp sound effects. Now, that doesn’t mean that the album doesn’t slow down when it needs to — there are quite a few songs that tone down the musical track to give a stronger focus on the emotion in the lyrics. Of course the real focus of the album isn’t just the music, but in the raps, both their sound and content.
Most of the songs on the album follow some specific themes that NF lays out in the album’s title track, “The Search,” namely fame and his struggle with mental health.
The track is NF’s first intro to not simply carry the title, “Intro”; however, it follows the same style of the previous three album openers: a long, continuous rap verse with no chorus that builds in intensity.
One of the most interesting themes of the album is NF’s struggle with his newfound fame. After the massive success that was “Let You Down,” it’s no surprise that this is a topic heavily featured in the new album, most visible on tracks like “Leave Me Alone” and “My Stress.”
“Leave Me Alone” mostly focuses on dealing with the idea of his fame, with lyrics like, “I went from nobody to kinda famous” and, “We don’t post enough on our socials to keep the buzz from fading.” Meanwhile “My Stress” is more about how his fame makes him feel more anxious. In the chorus, he says, “Some days, I don’t wanna see or have a bunch of people to impress.”
Overall the idea that he is struggling with fame ends up being a strong focus of “The Search,” but where it’s shockingly most prominent is on “Interlude.”
“Interlude” is a short break in the middle of the album where NF answers what seems to be an interview question regarding the lowest point he has ever experienced. He opens up about his struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts after the success of “Let You Down.” The idea that this was what he wanted for so long and achieving it didn’t make him happy was killing him. The journey for fame in NF’s life left him searching for the meaning in it when he finally found it.
The theme of mental health, intimately connected to his rising fame, suffuses through almost every song and pervades the album as a whole. NF has previously described music as his outlet for letting out all the pain and emotion he can’t handle, but now he is searching for relief and for answers outside of just his music. His desire to move on and become better, not just for himself but for the people around him, has been with his music since “Perception.”
It was on this last album, especially the track “Outro,” that he expressed a desire for change. Now he has really gotten to explore this concept within “The Search,” particularly on “Change”, “Let Me Go” and “Why,” but the desire for change definitely has a presence on the whole album, not just these songs. “Change” is very much about wanting to change for the better, swinging back and forth between him wanting change and being afraid to commit to it.
Later on in the album, this idea comes back in full swing with “Let Me Go,” which is more about his image as an artist. He talks about not being sure about his stage persona and if that is the person he wants to be. These feelings are expressed with lyrics like, “Am I a good person or a lost one?” and, “Will I feel ashamed or like who I was?”
NF knows this part of his life won’t last forever, so what kind of person is he going to see when he looks back and will he be okay with it?
The themes and ideas presented in the album are not even close to being limited to these main concepts. There are still a few songs that explore his ambitions and drive, namely “Returns”, “When I Grow Up”, “No Excuses” and “Options.”
The song “I Miss the Days” has a nostalgic feeling to it and “Nate” is filled with advice NF would give to his younger self. Meanwhile, the songs “Thinking” and “Time” focus on his relationships, mainly his relationship with his wife.
Ultimately for me, the song which ended up being my favorite is “Why.” It has a looser beat with a lot of lyrical repetition. Throughout the song, he continuously poses thoughts and ideas about himself. In my opinion, this track really ties many of the themes throughout the album together, truly driving home the soul-searching aspect from which the album draws its title.
NF touches on his mental health, his fame, and his relationships all in this song to try and understand why he is the way that he is, all while keeping the listener right by his side as he continues to dig and question.
Overall, “The Search” definitely lived up to what I expected after his previous three albums. It goes deeper on things he’s touched on from the beginning and maintains a very personal feeling, often seeming like a direct link to the man’s thoughts.
Though “The Search” is longer than every other NF album, the end still leaves me wanting more. While it is a heavy and emotional album, it ends on a somewhat hopeful note. The last song, “Time,” features NF telling his wife just how much he wants to be a better man for her, how hard he is trying and that he just needs some time to sort it out.
It’s difficult to help someone who doesn’t want to be better, but the song shows a man who does want change and is willing to fight for it. While the struggle for change is a long and difficult road, NF remains positive that it is well worth the difficulty.