Bishop Nehru: From High School to High Expectations
Bishop Nehru is not your average 16 year old rapper. Hailing from Rockland County, Bishop Nehru sounds more like a teenager stuck in a 90’s time warp with his Golden Era-influenced mixtape, Nehruvia, a surprisingly solid offering that has the streets and internet buzzing. Remarkable, considering he has only been rapping for a little over a year and a half.
Nehruvia is a 13-track album which includes production by MF Doom, Dilla, DJ Premier and original production by Ghost McGrady and Raz Fresco as well as Bishop’s own self production on “S.S.S (Split Society Syndrome)”. The mixtape has yielded three singles, his debut, “Languages” and the more recent tracks, “Light Leaks” and “Misruled World Order.” The multi-talented artist also directed the three respective videos including the low budget video, “Languages,” where we see the high schooler rapping over the beat DJ Premier used for Mos Def’s “Mathematics.”
Birthplace Magazine had an opportunity to talk with the young wunderkind, who has garnered attention from major hip hop websites, to see what goes on in the mind of a 16 year old multifaceted artist. Bi$hop Nehru seems super relaxed as I speak to him over the phone, but seems guarded in his responses, revealing just enough to answer my questions, but not enough to really let me into his world. However, after speaking with him, I was surprised by how intelligent and how focused he seems to be about what lies ahead. Trust and control, it seems, are consciously paramount to his success.
Only weeks earlier, Bi$hop opened for Black Hippy’s Ab-Soul at S.O.B.’s taking the stage on a night that would later feature guest appearances by Joey Bada$$, Schoolboy Q, and Kendrick Lamar. And off the strength of that show, Bi$hop Nehru subsequently opened for Schoolboy Q on March 28, also at S.O.B.’s, and is scheduled to open for Ghostface Killah and Doom on April 18. In London.
As I start my interview, I can almost picture him in his room surrounded by music equipment, watching cartoons, multitasking on his phone or plotting his next move, possibly even directing a new video. I get the idea that doing interviews may not be his thing, but he does it anyway, despite the fact that he might rather be making beats or playing Xbox 360 than talking with me. I sense that he doesn’t want to give away too much about what he’s up to or who he is working with. His music speaks of a polished, educated rap artist that has explored the many facets of hip hop music in order to be better, well-rounded and not fall into the trap that others have fallen into, following dopey musical trends. One thing is for sure as Bishop made clear several times throughout our conversation; he is the one running the show.
Prime $ociety is his crew, although the collective is still in their infancy stages. “Me and four of my homies,” he explains. “We just make music together.” This crew includes rapper Que Hampton, rapper/producer Iggy Dash and producer Massology. While Que Hampton made an appearance on Nehruvia, Iggy Dash and Massology did not. Bishop Nehru states that they will be involved in the next project.
When did you first start rapping?
I was a producer before I was a rapper. I was making beats before I started rapping. Recording wise, a year and a half. Writing, probably since like the second grade, somewhere around there.
Why did you release Nehruvia now?
I don’t really know why I released it when I did. I guess the record was done so I just tried to push it out when it was finished.
I hear a lot of references from the movie Juice on Nehruvia. You were born after Juice was released in 1992. When did you first see Juice?
Uhh, when did I first see Juice? I was probably like 11, 10. I think it was just on TV one day like on BET or something and I seen it from there. That’s how I seen it.
What are your songs inspired by? In “Misruled World Order,” you talk about police brutality? Where do your lyrics come from? From a bunch of different things or real life experiences?
A little of both. Sometimes it’s real life experience, sometimes something that someone I know experienced. Something that I could tell a story about.
How did your debut video for “Languages” come about?
That one was random. That happened out of nowhere. I made the track the night before and then I was just like I’ll guess I’ll do a video. It wasn’t supposed to be a track, it was supposed to be just like a promo video, but it turned into a track, so I was like “whatever”.
You are listed on one of your websites as rapper, producer, director, graphic designer, photographer and designer. You are literally a one man show.
I think it gives me more control over my own stuff. I can paint my picture better, so once I make a record, I already have the idea for a video in my head. If I could do a video for every song on my tape, I probably could. I have like all the visions in my head, as weird as that sounds.
How do you manage trying to get your material out amongst everybody else?
I just focus on doing me. I think people dwell on ‘maybe they’ll like it, maybe they won’t’ too much. I just put it out and that’s it. Whoever likes it, likes it. Whoever doesn’t, doesn’t, and I move on to the next thing.
Do you have someone in your life that assists you in making decisions relating to your career?
I keep a lot to myself. I don’t really like talking to other people too much or expressing myself to other people. I’d rather just keep it to myself and then later make a song about it.
In one of the skits on Nehruvia, we hear Tupac talking about trust and how he came not to trust those around him. Do you trust people?
Not at all. Not at all. At the end, everything is a game. You trying to eat and I’m trying to eat the same thing you are trying to eat. So, you going to tell me whatever you want so you can get it.
Now, I see you rocking some baseball caps. One of them has the word “HUNGER” in caps. What does that mean?
Nah, that was just a cool hat that I got. It doesn’t mean nothing. It’s just a cool hat. That’s from the big homie, Stevie Williams.
You had mentioned on Facebook that you didn’t want to put together albums with too many tracks.
Quality over quantity – 100%. The reason why I said I was gonna only going to do a maximum of 15 is ‘cause I think that’s enough. I don’t want to just flood 18-20 tracks on the person. It’s like an hour and 15 minutes.
That’s a lot. Nehruvia is not that long. It clocks in at about 42 minutes.
Yeah, it’s 13 tracks and 41 minutes, I think.
I think you can put together a compact album in 40-something minutes. I remember Common’s Be clocked in at about 38 minutes and people said, “Oh, that album was too short.” But he got his message across in the amount of songs it needed to be. The same thing with MF Doom. He puts out a lot of short tracks. He throws a few verses in and the track is over in two minutes.
Yeah, but I think that’s what makes him dope. He has short tracks. When he raps, because his beats are repetitive, so he changes it with the snares and stuff. He doesn’t keep the four minute track with the same beat.
You can’t be going on forever like some dudes do, like five to six minutes with the same beat.
Yeah, it gets old. He’s smart about that too because his beats are crazy good. He knows his beats are good, so people can restart the song and keep listening.
You’re in high school now?
I’m in the 11th grade.
Managing your schoolwork and your rap career?
I’m starting to take online classes, so I don’t really have to be in school, but I still get the knowledge of being in school.
Is your school cool with you missing time because of career moves?
Yeah, I talked about that with my school already.
Do you enjoy performing live?
It’s cool I guess. When I’m on, I don’t really notice anyone, like if they feel me. I just black out kinda. That’s really it. I just go there, hit the stage, leave.
You grew up in a different kind of era, but you still have the essential hip hop roots. How did that all come about, you being so entrenched in that “Golden Era” vibe?
Probably, a couple of years ago. I wasn’t always into the Golden Era sound. But I never really was into really actually sitting around listening to the crunk or hype sound neither. I was always kind of neutral. One of my cousins put me on to some real rappers like Black Moon, Nas, Jay-Z, and MF. I actually got put on to MF Doom through the Boondocks. I forgot about that.
Were you skeptical at first about some of these artists? Like who is Black Moon? Had you heard some of these artists before?
I never heard them before. (He laughs). It was my older cousin. He’s actually a smart guy, so I figured he knew what he was talking about so I listened and he did know what he was talking about.
Do you ever think that you could be doing better if you went the more lucrative route, just riding the wave of the commercial stuff that’s popping right now?
I actually did that when I first started. The first song I ever recorded was over Raekwon’s “Guillotine.” And then after that I recorded it over “All Caps” and that’s when I really posted it. And I was posting it places. People, they liked it, but really weren’t feeling it. So, I was like, “Alright, forget it then. If they not gonna listen to that, then I’ll just switch over with all the rest of them and then think like that.” I really did make a hype song and I was like “Nah, I can’t do it.” I listened to it and I said, “Nah, that’s not me. I can’t do it.” And then I just started back on my old school. I don’t know, I just switched back. I don’t want to say I switched back, I reverted.
What are some mistakes you have seen other rappers make that you told yourself, “That’s not happening to me?”
Man, there was a lot of ‘em too, actually. I actually think about that a lot. I don’t remember honestly, but there was a lot of them, a lot of them.
What’s the first rap album you remember purchasing?
The first rap album I ever got was Lil’ Bow Wow from the Like Mike Soundtrack. That was the first CD anyone ever got me. Other than that, my parents were listening listen to Nas and stuff like that, but I just never really paid attention to it. But it’s always been around me.
Do you see yourself going into other avenues? Has acting ever been a thing for you? Possibly television?
Actually, I did want to act, be in movies, do clothing. I did want to have my own TV show but I don’t think I do anymore. I would have a reality TV show. Like how Mac Miller’s show is, that’s how my show would probably be. That show is actually pretty good.
Besides rap influences, you seem to have a lot of jazz influences in your music? Do you listen to particular kinds of jazz?
I listen to fusion jazz, jazz funk, Blue Note. I listen to a lot of Roy Ayers, Incognito, Chet Baker, John Coltrane, stuff like that.
In making a track, is it the beat that inspires you? Do you already have the lyrics? How does that process work creating a song?
Sometimes I have the beat and then I write. Sometimes I write and then find a beat. But, if I hear a beat that I like, it just hits me and I take it. It’s like instinct.
Who do you make this music for? Do you make it for the fans? Do you make it for yourself? Do you make it for your moms?
I make music for myself. If I don’t like it, I’m not putting it out, no matter what anyone says.
What kind of input do your parents have in your career? Or do they just let you do your thing?
Yeah, they let me do me. They really don’t interfere too much anymore.
How do you deal with comments and criticism especially in all the postings online and on YouTube? Do you read the comments?
I read them. But I don’t really pay attention. Sometimes there will be that one comment that I take into consideration. I’ll be like ohhh. Yeah, that is true. Blah, blah, blah. But other than that, I don’t really pay attention. I just read them. The negative ones I really don’t mind.
What’s going on in the future? Obviously this is a free release. Are you going to continue to go the independent route or just see what’s out there or maybe do a paid release?
I’m gonna see what’s out there. I’m not too sure. I’m gonna see what’s out there and whatever I like, I’m gonna go with.
You release music digitally, but if you had to do it the old way with CDs and LPs, would you?
I’m gonna have vinyls. I like the way they look. The feel of them. You can hang them on your wall. You can’t really hang a CD on your wall. It would look weird. I’m definitely gonna have vinyls.
[DOWNLOAD/LISTEN] Bishop Nehru – Nehruvia