“HOPE” by NF
It’s been awhile since we heard from NF, who concurrent with this writing can be considered the top Christian-based hip-hop artist in perhaps the entire world. For example, despite his well-known religious leanings, the Michigan emcee’s two most-recent studio albums, 2017’s “Perception” and 2019’s “The Search”, both topped the Billboard 200.
Meanwhile, his 2021 mixtape, “Clouds”, fell just a couple spots short of replicating that feat. The late 2010s also saw NF drop a string of hits which achieved RIAA-platinum status or better.
NOW FINALLY, THERE IS “HOPE”
So now, after nearly four years, NF is finally coming out with another studio album. This is once again being done through his own label, NF Real Music, in conjunction with Caroline Records, a company founded by Richard Branson, which has also been holding down the rapper throughout recent years.
This album, which is NF’s fifth studio album, is titled “Hope”. And to set things off, NF dropped its title track as the album’s lead single on February 16th.
As usual, as far as the composition of this track of his goes, NF has teamed up with Tommee Profitt, with both artists being credited in a writing and production capacity. And the other producers of this single are Patrick Tohill and Jeff Sojka.
Tohill, another regular NF collaborator, is actually known more as a director than musician. So he also directed the music video to “Hope”, alongside the multi-faceted NF himself.
NF, RAGING AGAINST THE MACHINE IN HIS OWN SPECIAL WAY
The sentiments behind NF’s lyrics can classify him as a countercultural artist, even though he isn’t the violent type. Rather, this emcee prides himself on going against the flow in a manner of speaking, i.e. not being willing to spit the same type of negativity and braggadocio that is norm amongst industry rappers.
Well actually, he is boasting in a way. But what NF values for instance is ‘standing up for what he knows is right’, even while others are ‘tucking their tail between their legs’, i.e. chickening out and going against their own beliefs when faced with controversial topics. That is a powerful thing to say considering that, according to some pundits, the mainstream is becoming increasingly less-tolerant of opposing views.
Then NF expounds on his own “definition of success” which, unlike every other rapper out there, has nothing to do with how much money he makes (as stated). Instead, he prioritizes the likes of being genuinely creative and doggedly pursuing big dreams, i.e. the types of goals that would intimidate others.
The way he defines such aspirations is as those which, let’s say under normal circumstances, a person wouldn’t believe they could achieve to begin with. And again, such goals aren’t solely about chasing paper, as the vocalist lets it be known that sometimes in the process, you even have to ‘take (a) pay cut’ in the name of ‘doing something that you really love’ or, as implied, believe in.
“HOPE”, AN EXERCISE IN SELF-REFLECTION & KEEPING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE
The latter part of the lengthy first verse takes on a different tone though. Here, NF is instead critical of himself, inferring, when also taking the intro into consideration, that he spent most of his life not thinking or behaving in a manner conducive with his belief system. But at least throughout it all he held onto his faith which, as holistically implied, is what ultimately led him to being the success he is today.
And so it is, to some degree, with the interlude, which is held down by a singer known as Fleurie. Therein, the vocalist takes on the role of a person who, most simply put, seems lost in terms of ever achieving a fulfilling life. Within the context of the overall narrative, that mentality would be indicative of the type which took hold of NF himself before he found “hope”.
Indeed, as illustrated in the second verse, in hindsight he realizes that all of the past self-doubt, depression and demon battling was part of a growing process. And as such, the vocalist is presenting himself as a “prime example of what happens” when a person steps up to the plate and confronts his or her shortcomings instead of giving into them.
Yes, it may have ‘taken him 30 years’ to get here. And more specifically in that regard, what NF is putting forth is that having a child, which he did in 2021, is what helped him get his priorities straight in terms of what it means to be a man in this world.
The outro of this song is also relatively lengthy and is actually labeled as part two of “Hope”. In this segment, NF touts his unwavering dedication to his son, i.e. presenting himself as someone who has every intention of being a loyal dad.
Here, the point is more solidly driven home that the birth of the child, which did transpire a little while after NF turned 30 years old, was the catalyst that led to the vocalist effectively casting off his former, self-destructive self.
Finally, he closes out the song by alluding to the type of self-doubt which tends to permeate our minds when we decide to make a permanent change for the better. But as inferred, such weaknesses can be mitigated by adopting an uncompromising stance towards self-improvement.
As usual when dealing with an NF track, there’s a lot going on here. But in the end, this piece isn’t necessarily about “hope” in the most-general sense of that term. Rather, what can be deduced is that the vocalist, under his own estimation, was able to finally effect a positive internal transformation, which is not an easy thing to do, considering for instance it took him a good 30 years to reach that point.
But what actually gave him the hope, or let’s more precisely say strength to do so was being inspired by the birth of his first child.