As he builds up walls in the video game Fortnite, Bishop Nehru aims to break them down in music. “I’m tryna shoot for the sky like it’s rooftops / I know that they could see the rise like new stocks / So I’m headed for the rooftops,” he raps on “Rooftops,” the final song on his solo debut album Elevators: Act I & II.
“I feel like the SoundCloud part of my career is done,” he reveals. With over four years in the game, Nehru’s ready to break out of feeling boxed in and make music thats on a new level, “Grammy rap” level.
Bishop is a bridge between old school New York hip-hop and the new. His looping flows, internal rhyme patterns, and taste for vintage East Coast beats caught the attention of raps OG supervillain MF Doom. However, his ear for experimental sounds has him “making music all day” with electronic star Kaytranada. Since Doom is mostly off the grid since the release of their 2014 collaborative project NehruvianDOOM, Bishup has been looking for a new direction, and it’s starting to form on Elevators.
Split into two halves – with hot Canadian producer Kaytranada helming the first and MF DOOM the latter – Nehru’s debut solo album blends both the world of NY hip-hop with progressive genre-bending production. His creativity and vision ensures that both Part I & II are as vital as each other. It’s very reminiscent of Outkast‘s Speakerboxxx/Love Below double album. MF Doom’s deft hand on the second half is a smorgasbord of samples, whereas the futuristic first half is chockablock with dreamy synth lines and euphoric sounds.
As Bishop anxiously continues to try to win a match in Fortnite, the 21-year-old is building out his own arena in music. Continuing to experiment and fine tune the Bishop Nehru sound. As he carves his own lane, he’s no longer up against other artists, only himself. It’s more than rap, it’s Grammy music.
We sat down with Bishop to discuss the deeper meanings behind Elevators, his relationships with Kaytranada and MF Doom, and making Grammy music. Read the full interview below.
Why Elevators? What does the title mean to you?
I pretty much had a nightmare one night about me in an elevator and it kept going up and down. Pretty much like a free fall ride at Six Flags or something. I don’t like heights, so I felt it for real. So it kind of was sticking like, I had to find out what it was about. Once I found out what I thought it was about, that’s pretty much the concept I wanted for the project.
What influences helped inspire this album?
I was listening to a lot of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album and I had heard select singles from the project but I’ve never really listened to the whole thing. So when I really sat down and listened to it, I felt connected. Certain things that I was connecting with I wanted to incorporate into the rap because I felt it wasn’t done before. Things like layering to the production overall was definitely things that I looked at and figured out how we could incorporate that into a hip-hop album. Even, Elevators isn’t really the final version of how far I want to take that sound. I feel that there is definitely more I could do. But I feel like that was the start to it, or the beginning.
The album is split into two acts, “Ascension” and “Free Falling”, can you elaborate on what both represent?
They’re pretty much both based off the falling and rising in the elevator that I had in the dream. But “Ascension,” I wanted to call it because ascension is more like spiritual growth and growing into yourself. “Free falling,” is more of an earthly dynamic of things of how you sometimes let materialistic things get you down. Things like that, or not being in the situation, life, or relationship you want to be in. Whatever it may be, it’s something earthly that’s holding you back. So that was the concept for the free falling and the ascension, is more spiritual.
Kaytranada produced act I, and MF Doom act II, what was it like in the studio with both of them?
We actually made “Driftin'” in the studio the first night we linked up, it was cool, honestly. I actually got him on some background vocals on “Driftin’.” He really didn’t even really want to get on the track but I was like, “Nah, you gotta get on the track, for it.” I’m that kind of guy that want to experiment with certain things that I hear and that I think would sound cool. I feel like we’re kinda similar as far as like, being reclusive and make music all day. Chemistry was definitely dope.
How did you and Kaytranada originally link up?
I had worked with his brother Lou Phelps. He was pretty much just interested in working, and Kaytranada did the beat. So, once we did that, we pretty much stayed in contact ever since and we linked up when I was out in L.A. We had a session, And the rest turned into Elevators.
How has your relationship with MF Doom evolved overtime?
Um, I feel like it’s honestly the same. It’s always been more like a… I feel like to the outside world, it looks like a mentorship, but to him it’s not really like that. It’s bigger than that, honestly, to me. And I think to him, as well, from how we talk, interact. I’ve met his family. Like, to the world, it’s just like a mentorship, thing. But it’s definitely like a person that I’m cool with.
To someone who hasn’t heard you music before, how would you explain the Bishop Nehru sound?
I started recently saying, Grammy rap. Hopefully, I can get some music that I feel like would win a Grammy, when I hear the word Grammy. So, that’s pretty much the type of stuff that I make. I feel like the SoundCloud part of my career is done.
What do you think of the term SoundCloud rapper?
Honestly, I feel like it’s just another term, to be honest. There’s people that get successful from it, but at the same time, I feel like they’re more known on the Internet I feel like it’s a certain stage. I want to be a household name, so that’s what I mean when I say Grammy rap. I’m trying to be known, make sure people know Bishop Nehru. I feel like SoundCloud is like a certain stage. You obviously still have the buzz, people know about you. There’s definitely that barrier of being somebody that’s not on the Internet and that’s known musically for their talent.
What advice would you give to up and coming rappers looking to stand out from the rest?
Honestly, to be intuitive and use your instincts as artists. There’s a lot of people that aren’t artists that try to tell you what to do, but just know what you wanna do as an artist, for sure. I feel like even certain trap shit, there’s shit that I want to get on and do trap wise. I feel like I’ve been boxed in, kinda. People think of me as just a rapper. So, that’s my next goal, is to break barriers and show people that’s not really what I do. I do whatever the track needs.
I’ve always said that since I was younger, I could rap really well with rhyme scheme and stuff like that. So. I want to do more. It’s also what I’m most comfortable with, so as I grow more comfortable with doing other things, like singing or producing different types of vibes, for sure people are gonna see my potential. I haven’t really reached my full potential yet.
What’s next for you?
Honestly, just keep doing the same thing. Keep working on my music, do more shows, festivals, hopefully and just keep writing.
Can we expect a tour?
Bishop Nehru dropped his solo debut album Elevators: Act I & II on March 16. The New York rapper reunites with his prodigal mentor, MF DOOM, and forges a new partnership with Kaytranada on his full-length solo debut. Stream the album below.
Also, check out the real story behind Kendrick Lamar’s Kung-Fu Kenny.
- Photography: Thomas Welch / Highsnobiety