What does "Nate" by NF mean?
“Nate” Lyrics Meaning
(The following blog post is a transcript created by Xalma of the below video.)
Today we're talking about “Nate” by NF, from this new album; he's got some stuff to say, guys; and this song is probably one of the most vulnerable interesting songs off the album; he is talking to the younger version of himself; and, you know, it is a typical writing prompt; songwriters write a letter to their ex, best friend, or your old self; and in this case, he chooses his six-year-old self; and NF has got some serious stuff to say, so let's go ahead and jump into it.
Yeah, sometimes I wanna disappear like I just don't exist
Or find a time machine and take me back when I was six
Maybe younger, either way, I guess the point of it
Would be to tell that little kid that he's gon' take a lotta hits
This is the whole premise of the song; he's saying “I want to say something to six-year-old me about what's coming”; keep in mind that NF had a rough childhood, as we’ll see as we jump into these lyrics; but out of that rough childhood, came the music, and the things that he has to say today. He continues,
Yeah, I'd probably grab your hand and tell you life is hard
If you got questions or you need advice, then talk to God
'Cause He's the only one that listens even when you think He isn't
So he is suggesting that God is the solution to a lot of his younger self’s problems;
I know some things we could avoid to save embarrassment
but everything that breaks you down can also build your character
He's not going to give away things to avoid; he knows what's coming for this kid; and a lot of the song is about empathising; but he's not trying to solve the problems. I can’t help but to think of how many of us would make that exact decision, if we could go back, and fix some of those embarrassments, and I don't really know; but he is saying that those experiences actually turned into something good for him; in the same way that he has turned his bad experiences in the past into really great songs, right?!
I know you feel like you're alone and no one loves you maybe
And you gon' cover insecurities with lotsa anger
Which is a trademark of NF style, he sounds really angry; like a lot and all of the time, but without being innapropriate.
The weird thing is, someday all of this will make you famous (Oh)
You start to write about your life and while they're all relatin'
You'll make up a slogan, call it "Real," but feel like you're the fakest
And that is this imposter syndrome that a lot of creators have; I mean, I can empathise with that for sure; like, where I put out an explanation, and I might seem confident, and that I know what I'm talking about, in some of them; because in some of them, you can see the anxiety and the stress; but a lot of times, I'm putting out explanations, and I'm sitting there waiting like “oh gosh, somebody is going to prove me wrong; I don't know, I'm not good at this”; so yeah. He feels the exact same way when he talks about this real-life slogan; like he probably second guesses whether he is actually showing his real life.
I feel on this whole album, I've gotten this vibe of a lot more directness and literal lyrics; I mean, in the past with Mansion and Therapy; it felt like there was a metaphor kind of protecting or separating us from some of what was going on; but in this new album, he's already specifically mentioned OCD, he gets into his marriage relationship, he's talking about God; so this already feels a lot more real than other albums; not that they weren't real; but you know, this just feels closer; it feels as if we broke through a metaphor, and now we are at the literal meaning.
I don't know if you can hear me or not
But if you can, I just want you to know
You gon' make a lotta mistakes
And they gon' laugh in our face
That's part of life, that's just the way that it goes
That's more of that stuff about embarrassment, that he's apparently not going to help this kid avoid; he's just like “yep, that's how it goes, kid”.
Then we have verse two, which is interesting; because there's this distinct theme of mentioning the things that are hot points for this kid; like he's just going down this laundry list of insecurities and traumas, and those things that happen that have shaped him to be who he is now.
See, Mom and Dad are not together, they took different routes
but you probably already knew, you gettin’ older now
remember back when Mom picked us up from Grandma's house?
and she hid her boyfriend in the trunk and drove a couple miles?
own the street, and then she pulled over to let him out
'cause she ain't want Dad to know she had these type of dudes around
'cause last time he found out, he had to take us from her
you look uncomfortable, I'm sorry, let me change the subject
So he is talking about his parents separating; and he talks about how his mom would sneak guys into their house when she wasn't supposed to; otherwise the dad would take the kids back; and that is a really rough place for a kid to be in, you know?
You know how we've always struggled with abandonment?
and when we feel like someone's leaving, we start panickin'?
and yo, I wish I could say I've learned to manage it
you think it's bad now, but you don't know the half of it
And there's the second issue; he fears abandonment, and he doesn’t know how to handle it properly, in a way that isn’t harmful for him, as he panics and loses control; and he says that it unfortunately got worse by time.
Passion is somethin' we have never lacked
we see it the most when we're writin' raps
they think it's funny now, let 'em laugh
I know you think it's just an outlet when you're really mad
but you don't know the platform you're about to have
So he says that his passion is strong in general, and when it comes to rap; it is how he deals with a lot of those really strong emotions, particularly anger, just like he has mentioned before; and then we hear another problem,
We walked around with the devil talkin’ on both shoulders
wish I could tell you that he disappears when we get older
He doesn't feel like he always has that voice that he needs to be able to balance out the negative thoughts, or these suggestions to go and do something wrong; and he states that he’s still struggling with this till this day.
You know how intoxicated people make us nervous?
to the point sometimes we shake and it feels so disturbin'
don't be scared, that's just trauma tryna reach the surface
and tell us everyone we love is gonna try to hurt us
And then there's another problem,
Yeah, you might get a glimpse of happiness from your achievements
but what you'll learn as you get older, every time you reach one
is you'll just make another goal that doesn't lead to freedom
That one hit hard for me; it hit home, gosh!
I'll say real quick, that up until this point from the second verse till mid verse three, he's listing problems basically; that's the whole goal; but when he says “don't be scared, that's just trauma tryna reach the surface”; he's really starting to flip the script and say “that’s the problem, but here's the solution”; and the solution in this case is self-awareness, realising what's happening, which is a huge part of personal emotional healing; so being self-aware and realising what's happening, and being able to separate those feelings from who you are. It takes all the way to verse three for him to get to that point, right?
Then we get to this part that really hit home with me; and that's something that I've talked about a lot, and I'm still not exactly sure where I stand or how I feel about it; but if NF, somebody who's made millions has this sort of thing figured out, then I should probably listen to him maybe; but basically what he's saying is that he has these goals; he wants to make a million, or he wants to drop three albums, or he wants to get a million likes on an Instagram picture, or whatever it may be (the Instagram likes is not one of his goals, I'm pretty sure); but he has these goals, yeah? Keep in mind, he has had enough success, or like more success than almost all people see in a lifetime, and he's only like 27 years old; and so it's got to be a little anticlimactic for him when he reached his goal; he probably doesn't think “oh I thought that would be harder”; but he's definitely doing things that a lot of us will never actually achieve, so it's interesting when we hear from somebody who's highly successful saying “what you'll learn as you get older, every time you reach one; is you'll just make another goal that doesn't lead to freedom”; and so, even though he keeps reaching these goals that most people dream of; he just sets another goal beyond that, and he doesn't get to enjoy that happiness; it's just a striving after this feeling that he never actually accomplishes; because it's just time to set the next goal. That's something that people have told me I need to watch out for; and it's really interesting to hear him say that.
He then finishes verse three, giving this list of the albums that he has dropped,
At 24, you'll drop an album, and you'll call it Mansion
at 25, you'll put out Therapy and gain some traction
skip to track number four, now that's a really sad one
yeah, Perception's coming next, we 'bout to reach the masses
it sounds awesome; at the same time, it doesn't matter
at 27, we'll make millions, but it's really sad 'cause
you learn to realize that none of this will make you happy
Well, we have heard that from a lot of different celebrities, and a lot of people who you would think are super happy; I mean why do you think celebrities commit suicide? I think it's because of a lot of what NF is talking about here; like it could be very applicable to that conversation.
I wish that I could look at you with empathy
sometimes I feel like I've become what you were scared to be
which makes it really hard to look at you with sympathy
because if I'm feeling bad for you, then I have to feel bad for me
and that's just something I feel like we don't deserve
that's why I'm always looking down on you, I know it hurts
If I had to guess, I would say that he is basically saying “I can't give you that empathy, because then I’ll have to feel bad for me; and it's just not a healthy place to be”; and so that's why he's kind of giving this tough love, and this advice, without giving practical help necessarily; the kind of help that’s like “No, avoid this, and avoid that. Invest in Apple stocks”, or whatever. He's basically just giving that empathy, staying away from sympathy; because empathy is saying “I feel what you're feeling”, but sympathy is like “Oh man, that must suck”; and so he's coming alongside, but he's not fixing things, and he's pitying himself, because then he would have to pity himself now; because he's basically that six-year-old kid, 21 years down the road.
So that was the explanation of “Nate” by NF, guys; if you have more to say about it, I’d love to read about it in the comments. If you want to check out the song for yourself, click on the link below for the official audio of the song.