Excluded Yet Explosive : “Outcast” by NF

Tommy Braunsteiner
Oct 8, 2017 · 3 min read

The long awaited day has come. The up and coming rapper NF has released his junior album “ Perception”, which climbed to the top of the iTunes album charts within hours of its anticipated release.

With the album release also came the music video to the track “Outcast”, which focuses on how NF has perceived himself as an outcast within the rap culture that America seems to adore. NF also speaks on his battles with depression and how he feels cast aside whenever he reaches out for help.

If there is one thing that stands out when it comes to this music video, it has to be the setting that NF uses. The grand majority of the video has NF locked within a jail cell that he has the keys to. So the big question presented is why doesn’t NF unlock the cell if he keeps talking about wanting to escape his prison? Could it be that NF considers the jail cell to be an Ebeneezer to his struggles as a musician? Could the cell potentially be NF’s throne within the rap game?

One of the most powerful visual weapons NF uses throughout the video is a fake smile that he draws on his face with a black marker. Many critics of NF, including many of my friends, believe that NF’s music is ‘too dark’ or ‘too depressing’ and that NF needs to ‘smile more’. This idea of ‘smiling more’ seems to be found within a grand majority of music, but most songs when examined can be seen as fake or superficial to the message they write. Sometimes artists have to lie about their well-being within their music just so their music is still marketable. NF’s response to this cultural numbness is legendary. Instead of changing to fit into what the critics want, he mocks them by drawing a fake smile that looks quite similar to the infamous Joker played by Heath Ledger. This physical marking could possibly solidify NF as a villain within the rap scene, in the relative view of mainstream America.

One quick thing I want to throw in is a verse which seems to be a response to other rappers and men in suits who want NF to talk about more ‘acceptable’ things within rap; such as the objectification of women, and the want to be included through explicit lyrics.

Yeah, I guess I don’t fit the mold of rap
’Cause I’m respectin’ women
“I heard your record, I was laughin at it”
Maybe they would like me more if I got a little graphic with it
Nah, I don’t wanna blend in with you little rappin’ idiots, I’d rather be the outcast
I ain’t never puttin’ out trash
I take a hundred and staple it right to my tongue
I always put the money where my mouth’s at, ah!

Another visual implementation is the inclusion of NF’s fans within the video. Very rarely do we see an artist, especially within the rap game, use fans instead of females to fascinate.

In some shots the NF fans are within the jail cell with NF taking photos for a meet and greet. One interpretation could be that NF always feels trapped and secluded in his cell of self-judgement,even when he meets fans, which I could see when I met him in May of this year. I also believe that the message here is that once the fans enter the jail cell and become fans of NF, they also believe in the message that NF is writing.

NF fans can also be seen surrounding NF’s jail cell like zombies, reaching into the cage where NF lies in. What is NF’s message to culture with the use of his fans? By the end of the video, all of the fans are locked (or maybe contained is the better word) with NF in the jail cell. How do you interpret this ending?

It is clear within this video how determined NF is when it comes to his mission within music. With the album only being released two days ago,who knows how far NF will go in the culture we live in today.

    Tommy Braunsteiner

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