By Geoffrey Rowlands
How nice it is when success is achieved by someone genuinely deserving it. This is certainly true in the case of Nathan Feuerstein.
Better known as NF, the Gladwin, Michigan, native has debuted at number one on both the Top Rap Albums chart and the Billboard 200 with his latest album, Perception.
Nathan’s triumph over adversity began in childhood when his parents divorced. He was mostly raised by his father. Time spent with his drug addicted mother became intolerable after she began a new relationship with a man who physically abused Nathan.
His mother later died from a prescribed drugs overdose. Nathan turned to music as a means of escape.
“I firstly started listening to music to get away from my problems,” explained Nathan, 26. “I then started writing songs for the same reason. Putting my feelings into song lyrics was a kind of therapy.”
None of his work typifies this emotional outlet more than How Could You Leave Us, a track from NF’s 2016 album, Therapy Session. It explores his feelings about his mother’s death.
“I cried my eyes out in the studio making that song. I write about life. I write about things I’m dealing with, things that I’m actually experiencing. This is something that personally helps me. When I feel something, whether it’s anger, a passion for something or frustration, I put these emotions into my songs. This is real for me.”
His songwriting style can be traced back to Nathan’s first recordings. He used a karaoke machine playing instrumentals into one microphone and rapping into the other.
He placed second in the nationwide 2008 Fine Arts Festival rap competition. In 2009, he was first in Michigan but disqualified from the nationals for filling out a form incorrectly. Despite this setback, the following year saw Nathan self-release his debut album, Moments.
“I hadn’t adopted my stage name at that time. If anyone wants to hear Moments, they need to look for it under the artist name of Nathan Feuerstein.”
The album attracted interest from Xist Music with whom Nathan was delighted to sign a record deal. But his delight rapidly turned to despair. The label announced an early release for the EP on which Nathan was working. It never happened. He spent most of the following two years trying to extricate himself from the recording contract with Xist and secure another elsewhere.
Instead of earning a good living as a recording artist, Nathan found himself having to pay the bills through part-time work as an electrician.
His lucky break came in 2014. Capitol CMG were looking to sign their first rapper. A year passed without the right artist being found. Label executive Brad O’Donnell then heard Nathan’s track, Wake Up. He performed a freestyle audition. Brad knew the right artist had been found.
Now calling himself NF, Nathan’s self-titled six-song EP was released in August, 2014. It attracted critical acclaim and peaked at number 15 on Billboard’s Top Rap Albums chart.
“I co-wrote every track with my producer, Tommee Profitt. I got compared with Eminem. I suppose this was inevitable because we’re both white and come from Michigan. It was flattering because I think Eminem is one of the greatest lyricists and artists of all time. But I think some of the people comparing us were not being kind. They suggested I was like an Eminem knock-off.”
More success followed in 2015 with the release of Mansion, his first album for Capitol CMG. It peaked at number nine on the Top Rap Albums chart and became Nathan’s first entry on the Billboard 200 reaching number 62.
Chart performance was easily surpassed by critical acclaim. Reviewers insisted Mansion was “a work of outstanding artistry,” “a masterpiece” and “album of the year.”
Guest appearances on songs by hip hop artists Flame, TobyMac and Futuristic preceded NF’s 2016 album, Therapy Session. It hit number 12 on the Billboard 200 and gave Nathan his first number one on the Top Rap Albums chart. Therapy Session also won the Gospel Music Association Dove Award for Best Rap / Hip Hop Album of the Year.
But all this pales in comparison to the achievements of Perception. In addition to the spectacular chart success in his homeland, it has also become Nathan’s first album to achieve significant chart placings outside North America.
The only item still missing from his chart CV is a big hit single on Billboard’s Hot 100. Let You Down has just become NF’s first entry on the chart entering the Hot 100 at number 87.
“I just make the music that I feel. It’s for everyone, whether they buy singles or albums. I’m walking people through my life and hope the stories in my songs might help others to get through their own troubles.”
The Canadian music scene was recently plunged into mourning by the death from brain cancer of Gord Downie, front man and principal songwriter for Kingston, Ontario, rock band The Tragically Hip.
Known universally as The Hip, Gord formed the band in 1984 with his high school friends Rob Baker, Johnny Fay, Davis Manning and Gord Sinclair. Their only personnel change was in 1986 when Paul Langlois joined the line-up and Davis Manning quit.
Originally a covers band that played in small, local venues, their talent was spotted by MCA Records executive Bruce Dickinson who signed The Hip to a long-term deal.
Their 1987 self-titled eight-song EP made little impression on the Canadian charts. It was a different story for every other release. Their 1989 debut album, Up To Here, peaked at number nine. Highly creditable as this may be, it was by far the lowest Canadian chart position for any Tragically Hip album. They have enjoyed 11 chart-toppers, a pair of number twos and a number three.
The Hip have been honoured with 16 Juno Awards and a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto. They were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award and have even been appointed to the Order of Canada. This is not even to mention the numerous other awards and homages the band have been given.
Gord has also released five solo albums plus one collaborative album with The Sadies. Although successful, only two of these albums have so far made the top ten.
This will surely change with his newly released final solo album, Introduce Yerself. Created after Gord’s brain cancer diagnosis and considering the outpouring of grief across Canada for his passing, it would be astonishing if the album does not storm straight to number one.
Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was moved to release a tribute statement on his official website. It read: “Gord’s command of language was profound. He painted landscapes with his words, elevating Canadian geography, historical figures and myths. When he spoke, he gave us goosebumps and made us proud to be Canadian. Our identity and culture are richer because of his music, which was always raw and honest like Gord himself.”
Later, at a press conference, the Prime Minister described Downie as “Our buddy Gord, who loved this country with everything he had, and not just loved it in a nebulous ‘Oh, I love Canada’s way. He loved every hidden corner, every story, every aspect of this country that he celebrated his whole life.”
Fresh from his performance for Formula 1 motor racing fans during the US Grand Prix weekend at Austin, Texas, Justin Timberlake announced he will headline the 2018 Super Bowl halftime show.
This will be Justin’s third appearance in what is always expected to be a special event. As a member of boy band N Sync, Justin performed at the 2001 Super Bowl. Three years later, his notorious ‘wardrobe malfunction’ show with Janet Jackson sparked a firestorm of controversy which resulted in the Federal Communications Commission fining CBS Television.
Justin has assured everyone there will be nothing controversial on this occasion.
“I want to take the opportunity to put together a performance that feels like it unifies. I feel like that would be the ultimate accomplishment and then the icing on the cake is at some point, within that 12 minutes, that everybody is shaking their booty.”
Super Bowl LII will be staged at the U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota, on February 4, 2018.
Florida rapper Ace Hood has just released a deluxe edition of his Trust The Process mixtape.
The new version contains two additional songs.
It can be downloaded for free at www.datpiff.com/Ace-Hood-trust-The-Process-Deluxe-Edition-mixtape.858766.html.
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