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Bishop Nehru Elevators: Act I & II Nehruvia

There’s been a lot of love for 21-year-old rapper Bishop Nehru among hip-hop cognoscenti. Nas, DOOM and producers like Premier and 9th Wonder are among the elder statesmen who’ve given him their blessing. But his 2014 collaborative album with DOOM didn’t make as much impact as it could have. And in a hip-hop scene in which boombap-fixated grandads have plenty of new talent to get excited about (Conway, Westside Gunn, Hus Kingpin) it might seem like Nehru’s moment as reanimator of rap’s potential for depth and intrigue has passed.

But that’s not the case. The New York rapper has called Elevators his “attempt at a hip-hop Pet Sounds” and fortunately it’s much better than that rather worrying ambition might suggest. Production duties are split evenly between Kaytranada (who produces side A, or Act I) and DOOM who takes over for Act II on the flip. Conceptually, Act I is a portrayal of Nehru’s artistic ambition to ascend from a world determined to derail that ambition, while Act II is an engrossing portrait of his freefall back to lurid reality and the artistic negotiations necessary for him to struggle on and survive.

At no point does Elevators feel like it’s trying too hard to find a hot track or fall into step with so many of hip-hop’s current dwindling returns. Tracks like the stunning Game Of Life and Potassium achieve a miraculous balance between sounding cutting edge and yet unconcerned with the clichés currently boring mainstream rap to death.

Whether the world notices how great Elevators is shouldn’t dissuade you from investigating it immediately. Not the state-of-the-art, but the state the art could be in if it tried harder.