NF ‘The Search’ Breakdown: Rapper is Out of His Cage & Moving Past Conformity
Coming off of the success of his platinum album Perception, NF has announced his fourth official studio album with a lead single of the same name. With an anticipated release date of July 26, fans around the world await the Michigan native’s The Search with eager anticipation.
Nate Feuerstein has defied all expectations of what is possible for a “faith-based” artist and will have the opportunity to continue to assert his dominance of the hip-hop world as he commences his search.
If there is one message that NF has made clear since the smash hit releases of Perception, and more specifically, “Let You Down,” it is the danger of success. Dropping only two singles since the aforementioned 2017 releases, “NO NAME” and “WHY,” Feurenstein gave listeners a look into the pain of the Capitol artist. With bars like, “I mean, where do I start?/Feels like I’m fallin’ apart/Act like my image is hard/I always put up my guard/Even when talkin’ to God” and “I push away the people that I love the most; why?/I don’t want no one to know I’m vulnerable; why?/That makes me feel weak and so uncomfortable; why?/Stop askin’ me questions, I just wanna feel alive,” NF has communicated his utter brokenness to those willing to listen.
The 28-year-old artist has retreated into himself as a means of dealing with the doubts and criticisms that come with sudden growth and suffered the consequences.
With the announcement of The Search came a music video with symbolic imagery reminiscent to both NF’s 2017 album Perception, and 2018 single “WHY.” Starting from the opening, one can clearly see the cage that was used in the cover of Perception as a representation of the rapper’s past issues. Whereas in the lead up to the 2017 album featured the Michigan native trapped within this cage, it has since been opened, and NF is dragging himself away from it. While NF has stated that before he had the means of opening the cage but simply allowed himself to remain trapped, it appears that he has since decided to leave the cage behind. He instead is wheeling the shopping cart and balloons that fans had seen previously in the video for “WHY.”
Within the video for “The Search” NF gestures to his black balloons while stating: “Grabbin’ my keepsakes, leavin’ my burdens/Well, I brought a few with me, I’m not perfect,” indicating that the balloons are symbolic of the problems that continue to plague Feurenstein in spite of his growth.
The figurative meaning of the balloons is only compounded by their ability to defy gravity, hanging over NF with each step he takes. The balloons also harken back to Stephen King’s IT wherein a local town is haunted by an evil entity known as Pennywise. The character is known to feed on fear and marks his appearances with haunting red balloons. The use of the balloons could be an indication that NF’s largest lingering issue is his own fear. Given the artist’s meteoric rise, such fear would not be unreasonable. Fame can be incredibly dangerous for any human being as it opens an otherwise average individual to the scrutiny of an ever critical audience. While NF may be leaving his past issues behind, he is now bringing along new fears that continue to haunt the artist.
Another symbol that has reared its head in the video for “The Search” is that of NF’s shopping cart. In the videos for both “WHY” and “The Search,” NF brings the cart everywhere he goes, perhaps using the vehicle as a smaller, more portable version of the cage he once kept himself in. Considering the similar structure of the cart, it seems possible that the artist uses the cart when his feelings of entrapment return. In the closing moments of the video for “The Search,” NF climbs into the cart, folding up into the fetal position. While NF left the Perception cage behind, reaching a new pinnacle of success in the process, he continues to face feelings of fear, doubt, and pain just as any of us.
As the video for “The Search” progresses a number of figures dressed in white with their own black balloons appear, each moving sluggishly. These individuals could be representative of the general populace, as each, like the artist carries their own set of challenges as symbolized by the balloons.
Perhaps the most intriguing moment from the video can be found in the final moments wherein one of the costumed beings drops a pile of white clothes into NF’s shopping cart. With a number of the extras used for the video wearing this sort of uniform, it seems that Feurenstein is using the clothing as a metaphor for conformity. The gifting of one of the bright costumes to NF could mean that he too can simply blend in and move in the same monotonous pace as those around him rather than stand out, but even this action will not take away the issues NF deals with regularly. NF is on a search for hope, and in the weeks to come, we will begin to find where this search leads him.