Michigan rapper NF – who recently topped the US charts with his third album ‘Perception’ – has spoken to NME about reaching number one with very little press or mainstream media coverage, his kinship with Eminem and his upcoming London debut.
“I was hoping that we would sell a lot of records and that the fans would show up, I just didn’t know how many,” NF says, describing himself as “super thankful, super appreciative”.
NF plays a sold-out show at London’s Camden Assembly on November 8. He tells NME that things will be a bit “different” and more “intimate” than his recent shows in the States, promising: “The same emotion you hear on the record, I perform on stage.”
Speaking about fellow Michigan native Eminem, NF describes growing up and listening to the Detroit rapper’s music as “one of the first times I felt like I heard something that was super raw”.
Read NME‘s full Q&A with NF below:
How does it feel making it to number one in the US?
“I was thankful. I’ve been doing this for a long time so it was nice to know that some of the hard work paid off, but honestly it just motivated me to keep working; keep working hard and keep moving. I was super thankful, super appreciative to my fans.”
Was it something you were expecting or was it a surprise?
“The cool thing is since my first album in 2015, with ‘Mansion’, everything had just doubled since then. So I wasn’t expecting anything. I always expect the worst – I’m like a pessimist to the highest level – but I was hoping that we would sell a lot of records and that the fans would show up, I just didn’t know how many… Like touring, records, and everything have just doubled after every single record. This is the third album and for me to watch it grow as much as it does on every album is just amazing to see. So no I wasn’t expecting it; I was hoping for it but I wouldn’t say I was expecting it.”
You managed to get a number one record without massive amounts of press or mainstream coverage. What do you think helped you?
“Honestly, for me I think it’s just being myself and being authentic. I think when people listen to music they can truly feel authenticity. For me personally as a listener, there’s certain songs where I’m just like: man, I know that person was really feeling that… And so what I’ve realised is I just went in writing and being myself, and then there’s so many people out there who feel like me and want to say the things that I have to say but maybe don’t know how to say them. And I just feel like just how some artists have been a voice to me, I’ve kind of been a voice for other people. So I think it’s just people relating to something that’s real to them, and they can tell it’s real to me as well. It kind of brings a group of people together that maybe would’ve never been together otherwise.”
Do you feel like the way the industry is nowadays you can have that kind of connection between artists and fans that wouldn’t have necessarily been there before?
“I think it’s more rare now because we’re in such a place where music is like… you don’t necessarily have to have a label to have millions of people hear you. You can upload a video on YouTube, or do whatever, and people can see you but there’s so many different kinds of artists and I think it’s just more rare now. There’s some artists that get number ones on radio but no one really follows them personally, you know? No one shows up to their shows… it’s no shade on anyone but it’s just a different game. I’ve been blessed with having fans who show up to my shows, buy all my merch and buy my records. The day and age of people buying full-length records is starting to fade, but for me it has actually just grown.”
You play the UK for the first time with a London show next week (November 8). What can fans expect from that?
“I’m going to play some stuff from my last albums ‘Therapy Session’ and ‘Perception’. So I mean, my shows are pretty live and they have a lot of energy. I guess I would just say expect a lot of energy and expect the live version of what you’re hearing when you hear the record. The same emotion you hear on the record, I perform on stage.
It’s going to be a little different… more intimate. I’m actually excited to go back to playing for a few hundred fans and who haven’t seen me live. Other than that my energy is going to be the same whether there’s 200 people in the crowd or 2000 like in the US.”
You’ve spoken about being influenced by Eminem, have you ever met him? Is he someone you’d like to work with in the future?
“No, I’ve never met him. I just started listening to him at a really young age. It’s not like I related or thought all the things he thought or raps about, but I guess that was one of the first times I felt like I heard something that was super raw. I just felt that authenticity. I also love the sound and the energy he puts off, but more than that, it was like a moment in time where I heard someone who I felt was super authentic but I also I loved his style. That’s why he’s the biggest influence for me, personally. I like music that moves you; I like music that can take you to a place that you just wouldn’t be, you know?”
How is the next year going to lay out for you?
“Honestly it will be a lot of touring. I have a tour in the US that I’m starting in January, ill do like 40 shows. In April I’ll probably go over to Europe and then I’ll do another US run. It’s hard to say because you never know where it’ll be, but honestly the next year will be really focused on just getting in with the fans, trying to pack out venues and doing shows.”
How do you feel about that? Are you an artist who likes to tour?
“My favourite thing to do as an artist is record. It’s a super therapeutic thing for me. Not to sound corny, but it literally is a stress relief for me. It’s just amazing for me – recording and writing. Touring is extremely exhausting for me personally as well, because I’m a high-stressed person but it’s just part of the deal. There are shows that I love but any artist you talk to gets exhausted, in my opinion, on the road. For me personally, I definitely get exhausted but at the same time I love going out and putting on a show for the fans.”
Are you able to make music on the road or do you wait until a tour finishes?
“I do both sometimes. It just depends. My last tour in the US I was writing for my album, and I always like to be doing some writing on the side and making beats with people I work with, but honestly, I do a lot of my writing that gets used in the studio. So I’ll make a beat, and then work late that night, write the song, and then the next day record the song. That’s when I’m most inspired – when I know I’m going to lay it down right after. I can record little pieces and get inspired by those pieces. But yeah, I write on the road sometimes, but I don’t record on the road that much. I try to focus on the live part, but sometimes I play beats on my buss and write.”
There’s hardly any features or collaborations on your albums. Is this an intentional thing? Are you looking to collaborate more in the future?
“Honestly man, right now I’m just doing my thing, sometimes I live in my own world. I don’t really go out a lot, I kinda live in my own world. I’ve connected with artists I respect and stuff but I’m just doing my own thing right now. If something comes along that I really feel inspired by or I really wanna do, I’ll do it. I’d quite like my record to be my own story right now, but who knows. In the future I may feel inspired to have some other hip-hop artists on the track.”
Who would be a dream person to work with?
“I honestly don’t know who I would say at this point. I used to have an idea in my head, but now I honestly do not know who it would be… When I get a beat or sit in the studio and create the beats with my producer, it’s just like that for me. It’s like I’ll hear something and I’ll be like damn that’s making me feel this way, I wanna right to it right now. I feel like it’s the same thing with the feature, like if I make a track and I really feel like this fits this person’s vibe then I’ll really wanna do that, you know?”