Release Date: March 31st 2015
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Mansion (Feat. Fleurie)
- All I Have
- Wake Up
- Face It
- Turn The Music Up
- I’ll Keep On (Feat. Jeremiah Carlson)
- Can You Hold Me (Feat. Britt Nicole)
‘…my house is a mansion. The mansion is my mind and represents my thoughts and my struggles, and each room is a song filled with words and experiences of my life with the walls covered in lyrics. Every song you hear is an emotion and something I’ve been through or going through when I write it. I’m just allowing people to see the things in my mind that not everybody wants to talk about but where a lot of people can relate…’ Nate Feuerstein, who performs under his initials NF, is the latest artist to be signed to Capitol Christian Music Group; home to many prominent artists like Sanctus Real, Mandisa, Matthew West, Michael W. Smith and Britt Nicole. And while NF may seem like an odd choice to be signed to the label, especially with the plethora of CCM artists that are attributed to one of Christian music’s most popular and most accessible musical labels/brands; what NF gives to Capitol CMG is a uniqueness that may not be found in any other CCM label.
Releasing his full-length debut project March 31st after his successful self-titled EP on August 5th 2014; Nate’s hardships in life, emotion, pain, hurt, anger and guilt is poured out in each of these 12 songs. Already with the success of his first single “All I Have” and his follow-up “Wake Up”; many have touted him as the next Eminem. Only in his mid-20s, NF has been able to sing about vulnerability and real issues, making Mansion one of the most enjoyable albums I’ve heard in recent history, even though I may not necessarily be inclined to listen to rap/hip hop if I were to pick a genre to listen to (I’d usually prefer pop/rock/CCM/worship).
NF’s first single “All I Have” gives us an autobiographical account of his life to date, and with unique electronic effects and a great beat, we hear his story through rap and rhyme, and see his remarkable tale from hardship to grace. From being abused to struggling with anger issues and dealing with his mother’s drug overdose, “All I Have” is a plea, from the artist to the listeners, from the artist to the label, and from the artist to the people that doubt him, to give him a chance in a music industry that drops artists from labels as quickly as they sign them. Pleading to deliver poignancy in the chorus to ‘…don’t tell me this isn’t for real, don’t tell me this ain’t how I feel, this is all I have…’, “All I Have” is a reminder- to pursue after the things we are passionate about, and to never quit, knowing that what we pursue has been put on our hearts by God our Father, Provider and Friend. A sobering account to treat newly signed artists with respect as ‘…most of the time, the artists you hear, you keep on thinking that artist is new, but that artist has probably been at it for years…’; “All I Have” is one of my favourite rap songs I’ve heard since Lecrae and Andy Mineo’s collaboration on the 2008 hit “Background”!
“Wake Up”, NF’s much more well-known mainstream-esque melody, is a musical dichotomy as we are met with the slow serene piano prominent chorus that calmly creates a moment where we realise that ‘…you spend your life in a dream that you can’t escape, cause you live your life in a coma, you’re never awake…’, while contrasting that to the fast-paced hip-hop verses where NF gives us confrontation, contemplation and comfort in us knowing that all we need to do to turn from the busyness to the calm is just to wake up as we delve deeper in God’s presence. A song that is crafted in a way that places NF as one of the most ingenious rappers/music choreographers since artists like Lecrae and Andy Mineo; “Wake Up” is for the person who may feel worthless, and in need of an encouragement to just wake up and turn to the Father.
Title track “Mansion”, “I’ll Keep On” and “Can You Hear Me” all deliver powerful messages of hope and heart as each melody has NF singing with a different stylistic vocalist- Fleurie, Jeremiah Carlson and Britt Nicole, each of them enhancing the tracks and making these three melodies, alongside “All I Have” and “Wake Up”, some of the songs that stand out on this release. With the title track depicting a metaphor of the rooms of a house that equate to each story in NF’s life so far; we see a man that is brutally honest- something that doesn’t necessarily come by for any artist, mainstream or Christian, that I’ve seen thus far (yes, NF can even be as honest, or even more so, than Lecrae through his work!). Both NF and Fluerie bring the song to another level, and remind us all that the mansions in our minds need to be visited by ourselves otherwise we may shut down our pain and bury deep emotions that may surface years or decades later in ways we don’t want them to.
Worship is visited in “I’ll Keep On” with the Neverclaim’s frontman Jeremiah Carlson, and while at times it seems the song doesn’t gel in terms of style, the acoustic backdrop brings the frenzied energy of NF down so we can soak in the lyrics much more, showing the realness and raw nature of NF’s rapping skills. Britt Nicole, one of CCM’s most successful crossover artists with her single “Gold”, makes the album ender one not to be missed as her passionate vocals fit right in to NF’s rapping style. A song that makes us long for God to hold us in the moments where we’re falling apart; the hauntingly honest cry of ‘…can You hold me…’ is as emotive as a song can be, thus making “Can You Hold Me” one of NF’s most unique, different and genre-stretching melody I’ve heard since Moriah Peters’s collaboration with Andy Mineo last year.
With the first song on the album called “Intro”, one can be forgiven to think that this melody is just an instrumental, or something that NF uses as a precursor for the entire album. But one listen to this 3 minute 20 second song and you hear prose, passion, power and poignant production as NF tells us his personal story of how he came to be signed with Capitol CMG, and how ‘…it’s hard to get people to listen when no one’s behind you, and then [the label]…came in the picture and gave me a shot and look at it now…I was in a whole different place a year ago…’ A great way to start a collection of songs that arguably show one of the most real and rawest moments of an artist ever; NF continues to wow listeners (myself included!); from “Wait”, a hip hop ballad about a lost love as NF asks the question of ‘…wait…don’t leave me, where you going? Where you going? Why you leaving?…’, and “Face It”, a moment of truth where NF brings a theme of avoidance to the fore as we realise that there are times where all we want to do is not face circumstances, either because they are too painful, raw or even real for us to comprehend.
“Motivated” allows NF to describe what motivates him to record his music, and with a monologue that starts with the insight of how ‘…it’s awesome for me to be able to put out music that people will actually hear, especially when you put this much time into something that you love, something that you have a passion for…’, it is the screamo that occurs afterwards that’s RED-esque that caught my attention and what makes “Motivated” different from any other NF track recorded. “Notepad” delivers the theme of friendship and shows us an allegory of a writing to a friend in the form of a notepad as being a prayer of thanks to God for being there during good times and bad. While “Notepad” can also succeed on mainstream radio because of this ambiguity (you could think he’s talking to a mate, yet we know because of NF’s history he’s relaying about God), NF reminds us all to always have someone in our corner (God, family, friends) to share successes and failures with. With “Turn the Music Up” showcasing a dance/electronic element we’ve never seen from NF on this album thus far (a song with a similar theme to Group 1 Crew’s “Goin’ Down” or “Live It Up”) that’s sure ought to give listeners a great beat and anticipation at his live shows; and “Paralysed”, a hauntingly refreshing piano melody where NF shares that he’s paralysed from his feelings, a moment of realisation we all need to express in how we don’t have it all together sometimes, that “…I’m paralyzed, where are my feelings? I no longer feel things I know I should…”; NF has showed us through these 12 tracks what it means to break ground and impact both the Christian and mainstream music markets that I believe Mansion will do in months to come.
NF has surprised everyone- from listeners to his music, to record labels, and everyone else in between. Mansion is a revelation- his energy infectious, rhymes catchy, lyrics encouraging and passion motivational. Full of honesty, musical ingeniousness, articulate rhyme and enjoyableness written all over the album, NF joins the likes of Flame, Lecrae, Andy Mineo, Da’TRUTH, Derek Minor and KB as some of today’s powerful and poignant rappers of today. His rap style and music will continue to be the talk of the town in months and years to come- expect his name to be floating around both the Christian and mainstream industries a while yet. Fans of Lecrae, Flame, Da’TRUTH and Andy Mineo are sure to enjoy NF and his batch of 12 songs. Well done NF for such an enjoyable and heartfelt album. Can’t wait for more music in the future!
3 songs to listen to: Wake Up, Mansion, Motivated
RIYL: Lecrae, Andy Mineo, Flame, Derek Minor, KB