1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 338

Perception, by NF
Suggested by Rico James

NF… who the hell is this guy?!

As you’re likely aware, the streaming service supply a few fun and funky statistics when you load up a song or album for your general perusal. Basic stuff, yet illuminating. Date of issue, running time, that sort of thing. And one of the best numbers we get is the number of streams per song.

I like these statistics. Running time is my go-to number, as I’ve a busy schedule and like to go in with my eyes wide open. Song streams is another, as I can use it as a barometer for an act’s success, or at least an act’s reach. When I review a stone classic, such as a Queen album, I marvel at the streaming figures for my favourite tunes, easily sat in the millions. On the obverse, a new band may only have three or four thousand streams, and that’s exciting too.

So now we get to NF.

I’ve never heard of the fella. Sure, we’ve established that I haven’t heard of much, but I can at generally point at the Big Name Players with a modicum of recognition, if not knowledge. But NF? Unless this guy is the personification of The National Front, then I’ve literally no clue.

But just look at his stream stats for Perception…

Multiple songs with fifty million plus. Three tracks in the hundreds of millions. One, entitled Let You Down, is just shy of one billion streams (932,367,608 at the time of writing). So… who the hell is he?

NF is an American rapper, named for his initials (Nathan Feuerstein), with a ten-year five-album career. This, again, surprised me, as none of his tracks on Spotify have the “E for Explicit” tags that other rappers sport as a badge of honour. Further investigation reveals why: NF is a Christian rapper, although he doesn’t claim this title himself.

Armed with this knowledge, I fired up the album. I now had preconceptions, a shield with which I could hold the music at arm’s length if it proved to be bogus. Happily, I can report that this album is anything but.

From the outset, it’s clear that NF has an abundance of talent. It’s also clear that, at home, he’s also got an abundance of Eminem albums, because the vocal style and range is uncannily similar to everyone’s favourite horrorcore rap wrongun. NF freely admits that Eminem set the blueprint for his own approach to the genre, and it’s undeniable that he’s got the chops to stand toe-to-toe with his idol. He’s lyrically intelligent, and his performance is electric, spitting and snarling over a paired-back and spacious rhythmic backing. Without the encumbrance of Eminem’s hackneyed and tawdry subject matter, NF can run, jump, and fly.

As for the songs? Weirdly, the heavy-hitters in stream totals – If You Want Love, Lie, and Let You Down – are the weakest on the album. They are slower, obvious single fare, almost R&B rather than Hip Hop. My standout is Know, a more strident and forthright affair, with a “meagre” twenty-eight million streams to its name.

Perception gets a deserved 8/10. It’s a refreshing take on the format, and I hope a palate cleanser for the genre that will bode well for albums yet to come.

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