NF’s second major label LP Therapy Session arrived on April 22, the day after Prince died and the day before Beyonce unleashed Lemonade. Instead of being lost in the buying frenzy, the 25-year-old punched above his weight — topping the iTunes hip-hop chart and reaching the overall top 10. It’s a remarkable achievement for an artist without a radio single or even an easily-defined fan base. While Christian music readily claims him, the Michigan native is adamant about being a hip-hop artist, first and foremost.
I recently caught up with Nathan Feuerstein (his real name) at Capitol headquarters in Los Angeles to discuss the album’s remarkable success — it subsequently debuted at number 12 on the Billboard 200 — and his unwillingness to be pigeonholed by his faith. He also opened up about the influence of Eminem and the way he uses rap to work through his issues. Get to know the newcomer a little better in our Q&A below.
Therapy Session is top 10 on iTunes. How do you process that?
It’s awesome, man. One thing I struggle with as a person is I’m always thinking ahead, so I’m always like, “Oh. What do we do next?” You know what I mean? But I am really grateful. My last album is also top 10 on the hip-hop chart. When your old album starts moving up, that means people are discovering you and checking into your music, so I’m definitely really excited about it.
How do you explain the incredible support?
There’s no way to really know, especially now… sometimes people don’t even judge off of sales because people will just go to YouTube and listen to something, but what’s encouraging to me is I have a fan base that’s like, “We want to support Nate. We want to support this music.” I don’t think you can predict it, but I’m very happy to see it. It shows your fans really care about you.
When I was doing my research, I was surprised to see music sites referring to you as a Christian rapper. Is that how you classify yourself?
Not at all. I mean, I’m a Christian, but I’m just an artist. I’m a musician. You know what I mean? To me it’s like if you’re a Christian and you’re a plumber, are you a Christian plumber? That’s the easiest way for me to explain it. I just make music. I talk about my life, I talk about my faith. I talk about positive things that I’ve dealt with that have taught me things and I talk about negative things that I’m dealing with. I wouldn’t describe myself as that, but I am a Christian.
Are you surprised that people are using that label?
Not really. I signed to CMG, which is the Christian side of Capitol. At the time, I didn’t understand everything. It doesn’t surprise me that people see that and think that, but I think I’ve made it very clear now, particularly on this second record, that I’m a hip-hop artist. You like it, you don’t like it. Whatever, I’m just being myself and I think people are relating to it. You like the music or you don’t, you know?
Do you have more Christian music fans or hip-hop fans?
I think it’s changing. At first it was lot of Christian people, but now it’s a lot of people that just love hip-hop. I don’t make music for Christians. I make music for everyone. I make music for the masses. I want people to listen to my music all over the world and relate to it and feel it the way I feel it.
Is the lyrical content of this album more secular?
I’m just doing me. I never sit down and think, “Oh, I want to make this record more mainstream.” I just make music the way that I make it. I’m growing as a person. It’s just like anybody. Sometimes people will be like, “Why don’t you rap about what you used to rap about?” I’m a human being. I can grow. When I talk about struggling with something, on the next record I might talk about how I used to struggle with it. Here’s how I got through it, and I explain it.
How did you get into hip-hop?
I got into music when I was like 12 or 13 years old. I was listening to a hip-hop artist named T-Bone. Then my biggest influence was Eminem. I started listening to Eminem, which you can hear the influence obviously, when I was like 13 or 14. I pretty much just listened to Eminem for six years. It was pretty much all I listened to and I’m not exaggerating. Every once in a while I would listen to other artists, but he was such a huge influence.
What’s your favorite Eminem album?
My favorite song, I used to listen to it on the bus for hours, is “The Way I Am.” I’ve always wanted to figure out who I am by myself. I don’t want people to tell me who I am. You know what I mean? So when I heard the song “The Way I Am,” which is on The Marshall Mathers LP… even though I can’t relate to every single thing that Eminem is saying, when I listened to him, it made me feel something that I can’t describe. It’s unexplainable. I liked that.
When you put on an NF album, I want people to sit there and go, “Whoa, I just felt like an emotion.” Maybe I didn’t lose my mom, but I have a bad relationship with this person or that person. I want people to feel that emotion, you know?
Click here to read more.