In a way, Bishop Nehru has always been out of time. Placing those early downloads on rap forums when still in high school, he seemed to self-consciously echo elements of early 90s hip-hop with his jazzy beat selections and caramel flow.
Since then, though, times have changed. A new wave of MCs and producers have updated that sound, with Bishop Nehru becoming a leading voice in translating those influences for a new era, earning plaudits from Nas and Kendrick Lamar in the process.
Billed as rap’s ‘Pet Sounds’ by none other than Bishop Nehru himself, ‘Elevators: Acts I & II’ should be the moment he moves out of the shadows, and into the light. A superb conceptual achievement, the opening side – Ascension – is produced by multi-dimensional Montreal producer Kaytranada.
Incredibly dexterous, the musically involved production – the flute-driven haze on ‘Driftin’, the sudden appearance of Lion Babe on ‘Up, Up And Away’ - seems to push Nehru further and further, resulting in some of his best lyrical performances. At times biting, at others reclusive, he seems able to bob and weave within the music, his bars reflective while also teasing out fresh nuance within Kaytranada’s own arrangements.
The second side – Freefalling – is steered by DOOM, echoing the pair’s partnership on 2014’s full length ‘NehruvianDoom’. Where that album demonstrated the potential of their creative relationship, these five tracks spotlight two artists at their apex, with DOOM sluicing through jazz-like flexibility while supplying a supple but rock hard beat.
‘Tasers’ is a heady thrill, while ‘Potassium’ finds DOOM hiding sonic easter eggs within the multi-faceted production, small bulbs of light that seem to go off when least expected. The two combine perfectly on ambitious finale ‘Rooftops’, a song that jams hard while supplying Bishop Nehru with the platform for one of his most versatile, wholly engaging performances on record.
In an era dominated by single drops and mixtape streams Bishop Nehru has reached back to one of rock’s formative releases for a truly album-minded project. In the way it binds contrary moods to mellifluous influence across two sides, and one unified document, ‘Elevators: Acts I & II’ has to be applauded. Once again, Bishop Nehru steps outside these times, to define these times.
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