A GenX and Two GenZ’s Go to a NF Concert

I watched an arena full of beautiful young kids connect with a guy who has been pretty open about his own struggles with mental illness. Why? These kids are convinced that he understands them.
Image courtesy of Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Last night I took my boys to go hear NF in Fort Worth, TX.   My youngest son’s (17) birthday was in May.  This was his present.  

I was introduced to NF by my millennial son-in-law a couple of years ago.  He showed me “When I Grow Up”, which resonated because I am still trying to figure out what I will be when I grow up.  This year, he released “Motto”, which ought to be licensed to Loor for theme music.  

(Hey NF’s peeps, answer my emails on this issue.  We want to get a license for this. )

When you start digging through his catalog just a little, the music gets decidedly darker.  

About halfway through the concert I stopped watching NF’s brilliant performance and started watching the crowd around me.  Mainly because I noticed that the crowd was as loud as NF.  

I watched my son.  He was spittin’ lyrics like he wrote them.  

And then I noticed the people around me.  They were yelling them.  They were pointing to Heaven and screaming at God.  

I was overwhelmed.  With hopelessness.  

NF sold out a 14,000 seat venue and sold a pile of $50 t-shirts and $75 hoodies to a generation that grooves to lyrics that include lines like, “I hate myself.”  

My generation was doing the same thing to lyrical genius like, “Material Girl”, “Funky Cold Medina” and “Shout At The Devil”  

Let’s get this out of the way now.  NF is a genius.  He releases on YouTube, knows the value of feature quality video production, understands how to bring the same production values to a live show (and then some)--but there is something else going on here.  

It’s not just branding smarts.

The man is a poet.  He is to this generation what Robert Frost was to The Greatest Generation and what John Lennon was to The Boomers.  

Sometimes poets wear white hoodies.  

There is a huge market for artists who are true to who they are, don’t give a rat’s posterior about the industry, and have some sense of awareness about this generation.  

I watched an arena full of beautiful young kids connect with a guy who has been pretty open about his own struggles with mental illness and they were singing like they were my generation doing Michael W. Smith’s Agnus Dei in concert.


These kids are convinced that he understands them.  He is this generation’s poet.  

On the way home, I had to ask my birthday boy—”What is it about NF’s music that you like?”.  It’s a good question.  I had no reason to believe my son has ever contemplated suicide, he does not hate himself, he doesn’t walk around pushing grocery carts with black balloons tied on or plaster a black grin on his face.  

I won’t give you the entire answer because most of those words belong to us.  The Cliff notes version—he’s been depressed but not because of our family life.  He’s struggled monumentally with—and overcome—dyslexia and incredible skin allergies.  I mean incredible.  On the Biblical scale; like Job.  We used to put tube socks on his arms every night when he went to bed, after lathering his whole body in medical cream, so that he would not dig himself raw when he slept.  I remember one autumn when he could not play outside because of the environmental allergies.

He’s not been able to eat what everyone else eats, ever since he was just a nursing baby, weeks old.  He’s not been able to read what everyone else reads.  He sometimes feels like an oddity and that can be depressing.  He sometimes wishes he was someone else.  

He came to Christ a little over a year ago and I baptized him.  

I’d love to tell you that his dyslexia disappeared (although he has taught himself how to read, with my wife’s help) and that he doesn’t need his shots any more.  Or cream.  Life’s not that easy.  The Scriptures are his rock; he figured out that if he highlights whatever he’s reading the letters don’t jump around on the page.  I know he’s reading his Bible.  The whole thing is highlighted.  We’ve bought him two since he figured it out.  

NF’s music doesn’t give him hope like the Scriptures do.  But he said that when he listens to NF he knows that there’s someone out there who understands him.  The lyrics put words to his emotions when he’s having bad days.  NF’s career gives him hope that he can do something special when he grows up.  

My son is an artist in his own right.  He is a gifted gamer (he beat Ninja in Fortnite and is sorta infamous for making him rage-quit during a livestream), can draw, is gifted with his hands (he’s learning welding) and is gentle with his friends.  Whatever he ends up doing, it’ll be art.  I’m thankful for NF’s poetry and inspiration.  It is a common grace gift from a loving Heavenly Father who has also given His special grace to my son in the form of the gospel.

NF’s not my hero.  My son is my hero.  We need poets to give expression to our deepest frustration and pain.  Thanks, Nate, for creating music that has given my son hope in an unexpected way.  

My prayer for your fans is that they find their ultimate hope in Christ.