Over the past few years, Michigan rapperNFhas achieved an unprecedented degree of success in both the Christian and mainstream markets. His third (record label) LP,Perception, ended up charting at #1, going on to receive RIAA Platinum certification. Despite the album’s financial success, it was difficult to argue that most of its material was little more than a rehashing of prior albums. One of the underlying issues has been the fact that NF has released his albums in a rapid, yearly succession, offering less time for developing new content, personal growth, and fresh topics. This time around, thankfully, NF has chosen to wait nearly two years before releasing his newest album,The Search.
Stream The Album Here!
This has indeed given the rapper some breathing room, but this improvement is partially undermined by the sheer amount of content. Coming in at a bulging 76 minutes, the 20-track album is a gargantuan beast. The fact thatThe Searchdoesn’t open with “Intro IV” signals that NF is preparing to head in a slightly different direction. Rather, he opens with the exceedingly reflective title track (and first single), “The Search.” This piece, along with the lion’s share of the album, brings a stripped-down atmosphere, à la Dr. Dre, with lyrics offering an inner-monologue regarding NF’s recent successes and struggles: “The sales can rise / doesn't mean much though when your health declines / see, we've all got somethin' that we've trapped inside / that we try to suffocate, you know, hoping it dies.”
Gone is much (though certainly not all) of the braggadocious lyricism and anger which once permeated nearly every single NF track. In their place is a slower, more thoughtful pacing, with a healthy addition of reflection and humility. This helps smooth out the album, preventingThe Searchfrom acting as a codename for “Mansion 4.” This also represents a lot of growth for the rapper, seeing him move past his imitation of KJ-52 and other similar artists. “Leave Me Alone” contains some smart pop-culture references (see:IT), and the par-for-the-course push against the critics and marketers (“I hate when they debate if we're underrated / we're so overlooked that they're lookin' over our numbers, Nathan”).
NF is the master of mixing eerie instrumentation and classic trap drums with heartbreaking lyrics, and “Like This” doesn’t hold back from that at all. There’s no rising action to the profound lyricism, either—it starts with immense emotion and stays that way until the end. In the first verse, NF hits listeners with the pitiful, relatable line, “I feel more together when I am a mess.” NF is reflecting on his relationships, himself and how he can’t get over the past: “Why do I waste so much time on things that I can’t fix? / All these things I hold inside I just can’t forget / Thought that I could let this go.” It’s raw, intense and a reminder of how much power our minds can have over us.
“Nate” opens with signature NF strings and a recording of people singing “Happy Birthday” to a much younger NF. This track’s theme is revealed quickly: This is NF’s advice to his younger self on how to deal with every wretched event he’s about to encounter. Perhaps the most powerful lyric of the track comes early: “I guess the point of it would be to tell that little kid that he’s gon’ take a lotta hits.” The lyric is ambiguous: first, this lyric is literal in that NF was abused by his mom’s boyfriend and did endure several hits; second, NF experienced several metaphorical “hits” throughout his childhood, with all of the suffering he went through. In the outro, NF admits he thinks he grew up to be the person he tried to avoid: “Sometimes I feel like I’ve become what you were scared to be / Which makes it really hard to look at you with sympathy / ’Cause if I’m feeling bad for you, then I have to feel bad for me.” This track will inevitably give you chills, and it begs a rhetorical question: If you could, what advice would you give your younger self?
3. “Let Me Go”
The beginning of “Let Me Go” sounds like the music that signifies an epic cinematic battle is about to occur—and rightfully so. What follows is a fervent conversation between NF and his fears, as he is battling with his own mind and questioning if he’ll ever escape. He makes it clear he’s never felt hopeful: “I pray to God to ask if hope’s real / And if it is, then I was thinking maybe You could introduce us / We ain’t met still.” The lyrics only become more potent: “I’ll teach them a lesson, I pick up the weapon / Aim in your direction, shoot at my reflection / Shatter my perception, hate it when I’m desperate.” The emotions are evident all the way through, and that’s part of what makes NF so special.
2. “Leave Me Alone”
This track exemplifies why NF is the perfect rapper, because he can combine impassioned lyricism with intriguing instrumentation and absolutely absurd flow. The song’s meaning is straightforward, where NF is acknowledging his fame, and he doesn’t like it. He opens up even more about his mental health, disclosing he has OCD and how it affects even his simplest thoughts. One of the themes of the album is black balloons, which seem to represent the obstacles in his life: “Hold up my balloons and cover my face / I can feel them weighin’ on me every day / I should let ‘em go and watch ‘em float away / But I’m scared if I do, then I’ll be more afraid.” This track prompts listeners to realize that even when it seems people with fame have it all, that’s not always the case.
Just when you thought NF couldn’t tug at your heartstrings any more, “Trauma” comes in and proves you wrong. Desolate, Adele-esque piano keys and strings help convey NF’s emotional state in this ballad—a form of song rarely seen in the rap industry. NF takes this track to admit he needs a special connection to help him survive, but he can’t find one: “Grab my hand; I’m drowning / I feel my heart pounding / Why haven’t you found me yet?” He goes on to say this connection isn’t helping him, but he needs it more than ever: “Scream and yell, but I feel speechless / Ask for help; you call it weakness / Lied and promised me my freedom.” The track is bound to make you fall in love with NF’s music if you hadn’t already, and it’s the best onThe Search.
K-Drama dropped His latest studio recording, Elegiac Sessions on August 2nd on
his imprint, Playwright Music. Produced entirely by K-Drama, the EP is the follow-up to his 2019’s effort,Whetherman.
Elegiac Sessions’ title was inspired by the former NPR Podcast, Microphone Check hosted by Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest & Frannie Kelley. In an interview conducted with Recording Artist/Producer Large Professor, the term, “elegiac” was mentioned & a lightbulb turned on in K-Drama’s mind, establishing the EP. It’s this vocabulary that encapsulates the landscape of the project.
“To me like the conclusion of a four-part series.Winds & Wavswas the storm,The 8thwas the aftermath of the storm,Whethermanwas accepting storms in life will come &Elegiac Sessionsis moving forward from the storm.”
01 – Catch This Wav ft. Charde Jones 02 – Do What I Do
03 – Gotta Do Better
04 – Why Can’t I Be Myself?
05 – What I Got To Show For It?
06 – Side by Side ft. Sean C. Johnson
07 – Speak to my Situation
08 – We Win Through The Struggle
09 – Highs and Lows
Mike REAL and FLAME are both from St. Louis, Missouri, and have known each other for over ten years. Mike said that one time
“A friend of mine from high school was the little brother of his [FLAME’s] producer at the time, and he was like ‘My brother is producing for this dude, he’s dope. You should come to my church and check him out,’ so I did.”
When Mike REAL went to see Flame for the first time, he liked his music and bought FLAME’s four song EP, which is not anywhere on the Internet if you didn’t know FLAME had an extra project. “I just followed him from that point. My friend told me that he had gotten signed to Cross Movement [Records], had a record coming…”
Way back then, FLAME was a regular customer at Mike REAL’s first job, a Taco Bell. When FLAME came through the drive through, Mike would sometimes tell him about how his music is encouraging him. When Mike Real released his first project, FLAME, Json, and Courtney Orlando, fka J.R., came to his release party and gave him support and feedback.
In Spring 2014, Mike became an artist on FLAME’s record label, Clear Sight Music, where he released an album, Mind Of Hollis, in March 2015. FLAME and Mike REAL have made music together many times, and recently released a collaborative EP titledRevival, their first project as a duo (they are not a rap group).