Tony Cummings reports on Cross Rhythms radio chart topper NF
Since the Cross Rhythms radio launch in 2002 you could probably count on one hand the number of debut albums which have provided the station with the number one track in its weekly Top 10. But that's just what has happened this week with "Can You Hold Me" by Michigan-born rapper NF. And with other extraordinary slices of hip-hop like "Turn The Music Up" from his 'Mansion' album ready to hit the airwaves once "Can You Hold Me" drops out, Cross Rhythms listeners are clearly in for extended exposure to the biting rhymes of one Nathan John Feuerstein.
NF is the first to admit that Feuerstein (pronounced fire-stine) is not the most hip-hop of names. He admitted, "The whole NF thing actually came from one of my buddies. We were trying to think of a better way... my last name is horrible to pronounce. I wanted to do something with my name but I just didn't know what. My buddy came up with the NF thing. I just kind of stuck with it because it was still my name just the initials. Nothing crazy, I wanted it to just be simple and kind of just incorporate me or whatever."
NF was born in Gladwin, Michigan on 30th March 1991. His early life wasn't easy. His parents divorced and he was raised by his father, Nathan's mother dying of an accidental drug overdose in 2009. By this time he was a graduate of Gladwin High School and had become a Christian. In 2010 he released his debut album, under the name Nathan Feuerstein, 'Moments'. He also began producing tracks which were to eventually emerge on the 2014 'NF' EP. His big breakthrough came when he was signed to Capital CMG and Sparrow Records and saw the 'NF' EP rise to number 12 on Billboard's Christian Albums chart and number four on the Top Gospel Albums chart (before hip-hop was dropped from Billboard's gospel listing). The 'Mansion' album reached 62 in America's Hot 200 and NF is currently being featured on TobyMac's track "Til The Day I Die" on his hit 'This Is Not A Test' album.
NF is very aware that hip-hop is changing both with the acceptance of more and more white rappers and the gradual tolerance of gospel message hip-hop since Lecrae broke through. Said NF to breathecast, "I remember when Lecrae was getting crap because they were saying we don't like to be defined as Christian rappers. They weren't saying they were ashamed, obviously Lecrae is unashamed, I think it's just the whole idea, when you go to your friend and say 'Hey check out this Christian rapper.' They automatically have a negative outlook on it. You know how people are, if you say that to them rather than show it to them. The cool thing in my mind is I think you can play a Lecrae record next to a lot of artists. He stands out and his music's great and it's not so different where people are like 'Woah, that's a Christian rapper.' It's legit, it's good. I don't know, it's definitely come a long way. I've been listening to hip-hop for so long back when there was Gospel Gansterz, Grits, T-Bone and all those people."
NF is keen to take gospel rap away from simple evangelical sloganeering. He said, "I guess, when I do music, I try to talk a lot about how I'm feeling, especially the EP, just being open and honest. I'm struggling with a lot of things right now, and you can hear that. It's not that I'm not a Christian or I don't believe in God, it's just I'm in a transition, a mode in my life where I'm trying to get things together. If someone wants to give me grief about it, it doesn't really matter to me. Everyone goes through stuff in their life, and if someone doesn't like that I don't say God every other word, maybe it's not for them. I think no matter what I do, people are going to find something to say."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.