Reviewed by Andrew Midgley
With Nathan Feuerstein's third full album, the chart-topping 'Perception', already being considered by some a classic, a review of Nate's second project released in April 2016 is long overdue. Music is "a therapy session for me" he raps on the title track. If there is something self-indulgent about a motivation like this, Feuerstein's songs often compensate, his laser-precision raps whip-cracking over propulsive beats. NF's delivery is his strongest suit, his timbre and tone earnest without tipping into a whine, while lyrics are deployed in a study of syncopation and staccato contours. The faith content of the album offers reward too. Feuerstein's avowal that he is not a Christian rapper is demographic definition rather than an apostasy - his Christianity receives several checks across the album's 14 tracks. God gave him his musical gifts ("Therapy Session"), he "runs with the Son of God" ("Grindin'") and he calls on God in moments of trial ("Intro 2") as well as offering succinct apologetics on "Oh Lord": "We turn our backs on him/What do you expect him to do?/It's hard to answer prayers when nobody's praying to you." There is still chronic narcissism - one man's "personal" being another's over-sharing - though it is well-meaning and in general well-conceived. Stories about Feuerstein's mother's suicide ("How Could You Leave Us") and regular nods to his depression provide justification for the anger that simmers away under almost every track. This rage is artfully directed, in the vein of primary influence Eminem and, as Feuerstein protests on "Therapy Session", "These kids, they come to my shows/With tears in they eyes. . . saying your music's the reason that they are alive." It's hard to argue against the angst when it saves lives, and even harder if it draws people to the one who saves souls, which seems entirely possible.
But 'Therapy Session' is not an unmitigated triumph. The production, though it serves NF's rapping well, is very by-the-numbers and for all the merits of his flow he has a habit of snarling at the end of sentences in a manner that is part hacking cough, part strangled duck. The musical formulae, too, are pretty wearing: the portentous bell chimes that usher the album in are echoed ad nauseam throughout, as is the technique of raising vocal pitch every stanza to accentuate boiling emotion. When repeated multiple times, this comes across as manipulative. Also manipulative (though probably also insecure) is the motif of pre-empting criticism, as though this in some way dismisses it. When the first track on the LP includes the dare to "Write a review, tell me what you think of this/Give me three stars and call me an idiot," it is hard not to call NF's bluff, not least because this seems about right for an album that is thoroughly entertaining but lacks originality.
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