NF’s music has always been deeply emotional, with earlier tracks in his discography talking about his mother’s addiction and death, and earlier albums showing NF  struggling with the demons in his head.

His fifth studio album HOPE, while emotional, is the music of a man turning his face toward the light and breathing fresh air for the first time. 

The titular track shows NF breaking through his demons to take control of the album and refusing to be put down anymore. He also calls back to some of his older songs, showcasing his perspective on success has changed.

On this new album, he also talks about his mother with immense love and hope, contrasting the pain with which he spoke about her on earlier tracks. In one of his most well-known songs, “How Could You Leave Us,” he is angry at her for overdosing — but in “MAMA,” he raps about how he wants her to be in heaven and hopes she is happy there.

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Throughout the album, NF shows his move toward happiness, even with tracks such as “HAPPY,” which emphasize how confusing and unnatural it is to feel joy and be OK opening yourself up to the world. It’s one of the tracks I relate to most on the new album. It puts words to the feeling of uncertainty and doubt that comes with dealing with and fighting my depression. I never believe happiness will last, which makes it so much easier to just live in the sadness.

NF also uses the album to show his journey to be different from the mainstream music industry and famous rappers. I have mixed feelings about his songs “MOTTO,” “TURN MY BACK,” “LET ‘EM PRAY” and “CAREFUL.”

These songs push a little too close to the “pick-me” mentality, where he talks about wanting to be the rapper who isn’t focused on being on the radio. While some parts, such as when he talks about giving money to the people he loves, are close to his norm, other pieces of the songs make an attempt to call out other rappers.

It feels unnecessary. Sometimes it’s amusing, such as when he raps that we, “Might catch me at the award show / Eatin’ popcorn in the back row / Catchin’ Zs with my hat low / No nominations, but it’s cool though,” in “MOTTO.”

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But my favorite song, possibly because I like pop music but also because I’m a sucker for romance, is “BULLET.” The ninth of 13 tracks — it’s a hidden gem in which he talks about and to his wife.

NF has rapped about his wife before, describing how they bonded over their family life and chronicling their ups and downs in the songs “Got You On My Mind” and “Time.” He is relatively private about his wife and son, mentioning them just a few times throughout his albums.

“BULLET” exposes NF’s feelings of failure as a husband and his immense love for his wife. It’s a very raw track about a topic he doesn’t speak on often, and it also makes me long for a person who loves me enough to admit they sometimes suck.

As a whole, the album feels a little disorganized, but it’s a positive turn on NF’s usual content. It feels good to see him growing and becoming happy, and it gives me hope for my own future.