NF, the stage name of rapper Nathan Feuerstein, has built a successful career by being up front about his mental issues, his rough childhood, and other hard times he's been through. Two number 1 albums and notoriety as one of the most popular hip hop artists in the world have come from artistically venting about his troubles and grief. He says "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is his "motto", yet...
On Hope, gone are the songs about hating himself and his past that he has ridden to success upon, and here now are the songs about how he's really feeling good about life and himself. It appears that even though his career was not broke and in need of fixing, his mentality was. On one hand, I'm glad to see that he's feeling so much better about things. On the other hand, all the braggadocio songs ("Careful," "Pandemonium," "Suffice," "Turn My Back," "Let Em Pray") make him resemble the more typical lyrical content that hip hop has become to be known for. And that's a side of hip hop that makes it hard for this reviewer to relate to and enjoy.
I'm sincerely glad that he's in a better place mentally. This is a real human being, and he should not be encouraged to continue in misery for the sake of the connections that fans have made to the depressed version of NF. That is not to say that there aren't some cool lyrical and musical moments in those songs. "Careful" is a fantastic hip hop song, despite not being what I prefer thematically in an NF song. Thankfully, not every song here is the more arrogant-sounding version of NF. He still gets very vulnerable, and it's a beautiful thing when he does.
Title track "Hope" is confident and optimistic without venturing into the boastfulness of the aforementioned songs. It's a truly encouraging slice of hip hop that anyone needing a mental or physical boost shouldn't hesitate to put on their playlists. On "Motto," NF talks a lot about how different he is than other rappers and popular music artists, but in a somewhat playful manner that makes it a fun listen. "Mama" is a thoughtful piece in which he contemplates the possibility that his mother is in Heaven and that all of her tears are being wiped away. "Happy" is the star of the show here, however. With "Happy," NF brings attention to the fact that, in many circumstances, happiness is a choice. Though he "feels more comfortable" being in agony, he resolves that he can't keep living in this mindset, and that he's going to choose not to. Musically, it's not a typical hip-hop track, and NF shows off his unexpected and impressive singing voice. This one is among the greatest of NF's many songs to date.
"Gone" is a duet about former lovers looking back at their relationship now that it's several years in the past. Though they aren't happy about the way things ended, things seem to have worked together for good. It's a solid reminder that things that hurt badly are not always bad things. "Bullet" is a love song from NF to his wife. It's a good move to put a love song to his wife right after a song reminiscing on a former love. I see you, NF; you're a smart man.
"Mistake" is a more vulnerable and humble version of the new, more optimistic NF. Though he fails in many ways, he knows that his life is not worthless. "Running" is thematically and musically similar to "Happy," however this time, NF is calling out someone else for causing his misery, rather than blaming himself for his wallowing. These seem to be two sides of the same coin, as he's choosing happiness and hope in both cases.
I find myself at the end of this album really curious about where NF will go from here. He found the map to Hope and has taken the journey to find himself in a more optimistic place. I pray that this album is a hit and that he doesn't feel the need to be the depressed version of NF just for the sake of his career. Industry hit or not, NF has proven that he doesn't have to be sad to be good at what he does.- Review date: 4/15/23, written by Eric McClanahan for Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: None
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