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Burn Movie Review

Sizzlingly Odd
In his debut feature, writer/director Mike Gan has created a small film that, if there's justice, will attain a cult-like status. "Burn" takes place in the course of one evening and entirely within the confines of a rural, out-of-the-way gas station shop.
It's the kind of place that loners might wander into for a hot cup of coffee at 3am. Obviously this is not a big budget film, but Gan squeezes an awful lot of goodness out of it. Maybe we should call it badness.

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NF - The Search Music Album Reviews

With a persona modeled after Eminem’s, the Michigan-born star of Christian rap recently notched his second No. 1 album. But to most of the secular world, he’s a ghost.

While most of the hip-hop universe spent last week breathlessly debating Chance the Rapper’s event album The Big Day, that record was quietly outsold by an act almost completely off the radar of the general public: Michigan rapper NF, whose The Search became his second consecutive No. 1 album. NF has cemented himself as the biggest Christian rap star since Lecrae, and yet even with a No. 1 pop song under his belt—his sentimental 2017 crossover hit “Let You Down”—he’s a ghost to most of the secular world. Rap radio doesn’t play him. The music press barely acknowledges him.


It’s no mystery where NF’s following comes from. He’s a lyrical, white, and Christian rapper in an industry where all three identities can provide a fast track to a devoted audience. It doesn’t hurt that he models himself after perhaps the most successful white rapper of all time: Eminem, whose brooding persona and twisty delivery NF copies with the reverence of a 16th-century Japanese painter replicating the masters. Like Eminem, NF draws from his traumatic childhood, never shying from ugly thoughts or inner demons. And like Eminem, he’s from the technical school of rap, where the height of artistry is cramming as many syllables and as much internal rhyme into each bar as possible, nuance be damned. The only real daylight between the two is that NF doesn’t swear.

NF also shares Eminem’s shrillness and distorted sense of volume, rapping like he’s putting on the world’s loudest Punch and Judy show. He spends much of The Search darting in and out of an overbearing rappity-rap snarl-yell that can cut right through you if you don’t relate to his roiling anger. “Last year I felt suicidal, this year I might do something different like talking to God more,” he roars on “Change,” as the track unleashes sheets of Imagine Dragons-esque thunder, swelling like a gospel song. Later, “I Miss the Days” makes the gospel connection explicit with an actual choir.

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The Search is a dark record. NF may be a Christian rapper, but his primary muse is misery, not faith, and although he uses too many words, he doesn’t mince them: His struggles with mental illness are life-threatening. On “Hate Myself,” he pictures himself in hell, where he belittles his own corpse: “You ain’t nothin’ but poor and weak.” On “Leave Me Alone,” he’s undone by obsessive-compulsive thoughts, like a character in an Edgar Allen Poe story. And on “Like This,” “Trauma,” and a few other somber tracks where he isn’t scream-rapping, NF begins to sound less like Eminem and more like Mac Miller circa Swimming, maybe the last major rap record that was this blunt about its creator’s longing to escape his suffering.

And like Swimming, listening to The Search induces a feeling of powerlessness: How are we supposed to respond to an album that often reads like a suicide note? At least some listeners are finding comfort in this music. On a Reddit forum dedicated to the rapper, a small community of fans post about how seen and comforted NF makes them feel, sharing hopeful memes and heartfelt testimonials. If nothing else, it’s a relief to see that something constructive has come from his pain. But the considerable chunk of the listening public that remains unaware of NF’s music may want to stay that way. The Search is an unpleasant ride.


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