For most, the declarations of prodigy and lofty expectations surrounding Bishop Nehru would quickly inflate the ego. The 21-year-old rapper from New York State is just about the only MC who can coax DOOM out of hiding, and since his teens Bishop has been building his own brand of beyond-his-years heady rap music packed with references that span everything from spirituality to sports and philosophy to video games.
Today, Nehru - who doesn’t enjoy travelling, but loves to connect with his fans in person - is in London to host an invite-only Pizza Party for some of his most loyal followers, where he will preview his new album ‘Elevators: Act 1 & II’. A mission for pancakes has brought him and his impressively small party of three - himself, his manager and PR - to The Breakfast Club in Hoxton. As he sits plotting how he can fit the events of NBA All Star Weekend - with an eight-hour time difference - into his busy schedule, it’s clear that Bishop Nehru is a regular twenty-something who just happens to rap, rather than a clout-chasing diva out for likes.
His quiet confidence begins to surface when his attention turns to “Grammy rap”, a descriptor he’s been using for the sound of ‘Elevators’. The record deals with the yin and yang of emotions that we experience in life; we can’t have ups without having downs, and vice versa. Split into two parts, ‘Ascension’ is produced entirely by Montreal beat-smith Kaytranada, while the second half ‘Free Falling’ sees DOOM back behind the boards following their 2014 collaborative album ‘NehruvianDOOM’. Tying into the theme of duality, each producer coaxes a different approach out of Nehru: “With the DOOM beats I was definitely more focused on bars, punchlines, stuff like that,” he explains. “The Kaytranada side I was focused on songwriting in general.”
With ‘Elevators’, and the visuals that surround it, Bishop has executed a body of work that he believes is worthy of a Grammy. Despite debate around the relevance of the awards over the past few years - with regards to hip-hop in particular - it’s still an accolade that Nehru is shooting for. “To me it’s like a basketball player winning the NBA Championship and getting the ring,” he says. “It’s definitely important to have one.”
Whether this is true or not, the aspiration itself is carrying Bishop Nehru to new heights. The pride that lifts his whole demeanour when talking about ‘Elevators’ is an award that he’s already won.
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‘Elevators: Act 1 & II’ is out now.
Words: Grant Brydon
Photo: Vicky Grout
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