You’d be forgiven for having wondered where Bishop Nehru had disappeared to.
Not long ago, the prodigious teenage rapper was attracting some serious accolades – praise from Kendrick Lamar, label interest from Nas’ Mass Appeal Records and, remarkably, a collaborative album with the notoriously elusive alt-rap icon DOOM. But for around a year, Nehru’s name wasn’t cropping up quite as frequently as it had been when he was going bar-for-bar with his masked mentor. But now, the 19-year-old is back with a solid bank of fresh music that sees him depart from his 90s-influenced style and explore a more contemporary sound. We spoke to Nehru about the cornerstones of his career thus far and how they’ve helped build his mindset for the future.
2009: Making jazz and hip-hop instrumentals under the Kelz Scott alias
I didn’t want to pay people for beats, so I wanted to hold off on putting stuff out until I could make good sounding beats myself. I always listened to a lot of hip-hop but I was probably like 13 and I was really into rock and roll and punk. I was really into like Incubus and System Of A Down. I was pretty much just freewheeling – my beats all sounded different. I had stuff influenced from jazz too. I had this teacher Mr. Arnold that put me on to a lot of instrumental stuff. He told me about Louis Armstrong and artists like that. I got into different types of music and different types of sound and I really started to expand musically. My grandma had it all, I’d just go to her house and find Al Green, Jerry Butler, The Temptations. I wanted to incorporate that style and make it feel “now”.
2012-2013: Releasing the Nehruvia and StrictlyFLOWz mixtapes, touring Europe with Wu-Tang Clan
I’d rapped and stuff since elementary, I’d always been into poetry. When it picked up I just kept rolling with it, I didn’t want to pay too much attention to the blogs. I just wanted to keep getting better with it. It’s like a sport, you just have to keep going like an athlete. When I wrote Nehruvia there was nobody watching who was going to care if I said something wrong. I didn’t care if nobody liked it, cause it was my art. That’s the mindset I’m getting back to. I just wanted to make great music. The Wu-Tang shows were really hype too, it was just an awesome experience to be a 16-year-old kid from New York and leaving the whole country. I’d never been out of the country before, so I had to sort my passport and all of that.
“The shows I did with Wu-Tang were hype, it was an awesome experience for a 16 year old kid”
2014: Recording NehruvianDOOM with DOOM
We met at a [London] show for Converse, it was me, him and Ghostface. Then in the sessions, we were just kicking it and talking about life outside of music. Looking back on it now, I don’t look at the music different because that’s the person I was at the time, but if I had the opportunity to work with him again I’d like to do something more raw where we could just vibe out for like a month. I know it would be something completely different and something I’d be way more proud of because of where my mind is at now. One of the biggest things DOOM told me was ‘Do you’. He signed those exact words on a vinyl he gave me which up is in my room, I see it all the time. He told me, ‘If you know what you want to do don’t let anybody tell you it’s not the right thing’. It’s really that simple.
2015-2016: Year long absence
I was never really tied down to a label, so there haven’t been any real issues like that. I’ve really just been working on the album and I didn’t want to do any press or nothing. In a lot of interviews they were just asking the same stuff and I felt like it was a routine. It was all just a learning process and I wanted to focus on getting better at making music. I don’t wanna say I cancel out attention [from Kendrick and Nas] but I’ve tried not to let it get to my head. If I pay attention to the people giving me the most praise, I have to pay attention to the people giving me negativity.
Present: Magic 19 mixtape and debut retail LP
The Magic 19 tape is very versatile. Thriller doesn’t sound the same as Bad you know? I want to try different things. I feel like this tape is natural Bishop. I’m really really confident. I don’t think I’ve ever been this confident about a project I’ve made. It’s the best I’ve felt so far and after this I’m just going to keep ascending and getting better and better and better. When I do drop the album, I want to have made the beats. I have a lot of it done and there’s some fire on there. I could definitely say it’s coming along smoothly.