Five years ago, the image of a man mummified in caution tape introduced me to NF. His lyrical claim of being “dangerous” gained some credibility as his “Intro” played through my speakers. When his debut album released and he invited us into his mental Mansion, I knew there was something different hiding behind his familiar delivery.

Comparisons to artists, specifically Eminem, turned out to be a catch-22. His sound familiar and accessible, but too similar for some as he entered the scene. With each new release, his journey played out with sincere vulnerability and genuine authenticity. This “REALness,” and NF’s knack for solid storytelling, presents us with a biographical listening experience. His openness about inner struggles with things like fear, past trauma, failure, and love are impactful, both spiritually and emotionally. Some may empathize and it will be hard to hold back the tears, but the redemption and successes NF speaks of are inspiring. Through these struggles and life experiences, you can hear his call for others to start their own journey.

Check out his visual use of balloons in his most recent music videos for a thoughtful metaphor. His recognition of personal demons and how external sources can expose them feels like advice on how to combat your own. His progression as an artist can be heard both lyrically and stylistically, now offering much more than the comparisons he received starting out.

His appreciation for Big Sean can be heard in some of his latest work, and I’m here for it. His energetic and passionate delivery is founded in his drive to overcome the battles he faces in life. Paired with his now signature cinematic beats, he creates a “dark and moody” soundscape of victory through struggle. When your options are “I gotta make it, or make it,” killing your fear is a good place to start. And NF has literally done just that.

Weaving across four albums, bits and pieces of his story fell into place. Those bits and pieces intentionally placed create a cohesive listening experience, like a better version of an audiobook. Follow along with the accompanying playlist below.