We won’t mention Christianity, okay. Because having been labelled a “Christian rapper” in the US, Nathan Feuerstein alias NF recently decided to set the record straight: yes, he believes in God, but no he won’t be evangelising to his fans via his music. Look at Perception, put its religious connotations aside, and it’s a classic rap album, with an ultra-technical flow, that is as much about ego tripping as a jerky narrative of his traumatised past (a dark childhood in the depths of Michigan, mother dead from an overdose, sexual abuse by her boyfriend etc). Clearly enough material to follow the footsteps of his neighbour in Detroit, a certain Marshall Mathers. Ultra-melancholic, sometimes violent, always melodic, Perception has barely been released and its already number 1 around the world. For his sins NF has granted himself a European promo tour. Dressed head to toe in black, cap firmly pulled down over his eyes (he doesn’t stop fiddling with it), with fine features, those of someone fresh out of adolescence, Feuerstein talks freely without being truly at ease with other people. Which makes him more accessible – although judging by his sales figures and his thousands of followers on social networks, one suspects this youthful timidity won’t last long.
Numéro: Barely any time passed between the release of Therapy Session and Perception. Where do you get your inspiration?
NF: My own life. In just three years I’ve released three albums that testify to what I’ve been through, particularly, Therapy Session, where I talk to myself, like I was my own shrink. Perception is a new situation: I’m questioning myself about the future, I’ve got a key I’m not sure how to use… Which door do I open?
It’s tricky talking about the music of NF without evoking that of Eminem…
I know, and I accept this: he was a major source of inspiration. From when I was really young I was obsessed with music, his in particular. I’d listen to Eminem non-stop, I’d write out his texts in my school books, I’d watch his videos over and over… He’s the one who gave me the courage to think that I could do hip hop as well.
“When I hear my songs on the radio, I sometimes find them really depressing!”
NF - Let You Down
When did you realise that you were going to be a musician too?
At about 12 years old, I realised I didn’t have a choice. I started writing and rapping, opening my musical field towards other things that had nothing to do with rap, like Adele and Ed Sheeran. They made me want to add the chords and keyboards – as you can hear on the album Perception, I put them wherever I could! But today I’m trying not to adulate anyone, I want to listen to what happens without losing focus on my own music.
Aside from music, you cultivate a very strong visual world, that is both realistic and dreamlike. What inspires you there?
Inception is my most favourite film. The script, the music, the tension: it’s all incredible. I like action movies when they are understated and intelligent. For example, I love the last Batman with Heath Ledger as Joker. I like it when energies are strange, unsettling…
You had a tough childhood. Was it music that saved you… as much as your faith?
Both of them helped me to stay upright. But I don’t know what I would have become without music. It really helped me get out of my malaise, to live something else apart from abandon and failure, and yet those are the things that nourish it. When I hear my songs on the radio, I sometimes find them really depressing!
Faced with such sudden success, how do you keep your feet on the ground?
By touring: it’s fantastic, but exhausting. Realising your dreams doesn’t happen easily… behind the glitz, there is a lot of work, a lot of pressure. The fun happens on stage, but you have to be aware all the time. Especially because I want to stay in control, not get overwhelmed by my anxieties. My goal is keep on doing music. You have to keep going, keep a cool head, always.