While old heads debate as to can rightfully earn the title of King of New York, a dark horse emerges. Proving that the highly revered boom-bap sound isn't a relic of the past is Bishop Nehru. From his signing with Mass Appeal Records to working with MF DOOM, the being responsible for reinventing underground backpack raps, Nehru forces us to reexamine our own mediocre achievements. I'm not a betting man, but I can guarantee the Rockland County, NY based rapper and producer has a promising future ahead of him. With the release of Nehruvia: The Nehruvian, we got to sit down with and ask him about his past collaborations and what's in store for the future.
EARMILK: First of all, thanks for all of the great music you've been putting it out. How does it feel having cosigns from MF DOOM and the Mass Appeal guys, especially since you're still so young?
Bishop Nehru: It's really cool and I appreciate it, but I don't see it like that, you know?
EM: The first time I heard you was over that "Mathematics" beat. Tell us about how that went down and why you chose that beat in particular.
BN: The story sounds so simple but it's the truth: I was in my room going through DJ Premier beats. I would always be in my room chilling and free styling over beats, but I came across that one in particular and loved it so much that I had to say something over it. My remix is called "Languages" and the first line is "Forget math, I ain't riding with arithmetic/rather ride with sentences" because I had an idea of switching things to languages, my favourite subject in school.
EM: What are some of your favourite Preemo cuts?
BN: I wish there was a select few to choose from *laughs*
EM: I've got that same problem; he's my favourite producer.
BN: He's not my number 1, but he's up there in my top 5. J Dilla and Madlib are battling it out for that top position right now.
EM: Most definitely; both of those guys are in my top 5. Do you have any standout joints?
BN: I mean there's tons…"Unbelievable," Kick in the Door"… I tried not to name any just so people wouldn't grill me about ranking his beats *laughs*
EM: Pete Rock dropped a leak from Petestrumentals 2 not too long ago. How has he influenced your sound?
BN: I wouldn't say he influenced my sound that much, but it's funny you bring that up. He lives close to my place and we've met a few times. I think the last time was at the Time is Illmatic movie premiere. It was dope.
EM: Any standout beats from his catalogue?
BN: Man…I wish you asked my about Dilla *laughs*
EM: No sweat, it's your interview.
BN: As cliche as it sounds, "The World Is Yours" is one of my favourites. That beat is flames. "Smooth Sailing" and "T.R.O.Y (They Reminisce Over You)" also bang. *Nehru sings the beat from "T.R.O.Y."*
EM: Let's talk standout beats from Dilla. I know it's hard—
BN: No it's not. Donuts from front to back is fire. "Anti-American Grafitti?" Fire. Have you heard "All Good" from that Illa J project? I did a track ("Sounds Like Love") and turned it into "Sweet Lips;" I also made "DFTF" into "Welcome." "All Good" is one of the best though. *Nehru begins to play "All Good" through the phone speakers*
EM: What about Champion Sound? I feel like most people look over that project.
BN: I don't know how they could. You've got Dilla and Lib on the same record…that's every hip hop head's dream come true. I wish Dilla was still with us; his discography was fantastic.
EM: Tell us about your creative process. How do you get so much work done? What do your days look like?
BN: Honestly, everything is spontaneous. I don't force myself to make music; I make it when I feel like making it and I always keep things natural. That's how everything started and I think that's how it should keep going. Obviously I have every intention of recording when I get in the studio, but I always want to be open to a random moment that might come up. Recording was expensive back in the day and and it wasn't as simple as recording through a USB microphone, so the older guys had to be more diligent about using their time wisely. I've had a few ideas and songs planned out before recording, but most of the time I like to do things on the spot.
EM: You've been killing it with the jazz raps. Where do you think the sound is going from 2015 onward?
BN: Everything I do know is based around music theory. I've always used been aware of it and used it, but now I have a better understanding what it's all about. I don't use it to set guidelines; I use it more as a reference. I'm evolving my style into an orchestrated sound—something a composer would be involved with. I want to eventually do scores and branch out to other musical forms.
EM: Nehruvia was a dope tape from front to back. What's something that most people don't know about the mixtape?
BN: That whole thing was written in school. The whole tape. Everything. There were some pieces that I finished up at home, but most of the time I was finishing my work early so I can focus on the writing rhymes in class. That's why on "Sweet Lips" I open up with "I'm walking down the hall and I'm waiting to see your face." Now that I listen to it, it's all real shit.
EM: On that note, what's your relationship with school?
BN: I think schools are there to educate, but clearly it's not working in the fullest extent. I think it forces students to make everyone the same; they teach one system and it's one size fits all, which doesn't work for everyone. It's clearly some type of attempt to make people all the same. Things get different when you branch off into college and university because you get some options, but school gives people the same attitudes, likes, and dislikes.
Not a lot of people are aware of who they are and what they should be pursuing. It does its job, but there's a lot that I can say that I've learned outside of school from the lessons. The teacher would teach half a lesson then I'd go and learn the rest. We're at a point right now when you can't get by by doing the bare minimum.
Let's talk about a master and slave relationship: the master tells you what to do all the time and the slave can't do anything but follow their orders. Obviously schools aren't exactly like that, but it's a similar dynamic. It's a form of locking people down mentally. Once you mentally enslaved, you're physically enslaved too and there's only spiritually after that. I've never worshipped school and I know people who were successful without it, so I always knew there were other options.
EM: MF DOOM seems like a big influencer. How did that relationship come about?
BN: I was a fan of his from the start. He had these beat tapes called Special Herbs and I would bump and rap over them. I started doing recordings over them and DOOM ended up hearing one of them. We just hit it off like that. I can't remember any of the names, but I'll recognize them when I hear them *laughs*
EM: Yeah, I just copped Vol. 1 and 2 on vinyl the other week
BN: I need to cop them on vinyl. I picked up a special edition of Operation Doomsday in Toronto. It's got Pokemon cards and stuff but with DOOM on em.
EM: DOOM seems like a mysterious guy to work with, can we expect any more collabs soon?
BN: Working with him was a great experience. I don't wanna guarantee anything, but I talk with him all the time and I'm confident we'll get back together. He told me he's still working so there should be more music real soon.
EM: How did the Disclosure joint come about? Seems like they're got the dance game on lock
BN: I like to make music, regardless of what the genre is. If it sounds dope, I'll check it out. I listen to jazz, electronic, chillwave, rock and enjoy all of it. They said in an interview with MTV UK that they'd love to work with me and we connected after that.
EM: And those guys are so young too. Just goes to show you that musical talent and age aren't correlated
BN: There really never has been. Look at guys like Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson; they were killing it from the start.
EM: Good point; even Mozart had the juice from a young age.
BN: Truth *laughs*
EM: You've linked up with Raz Fresco for "Equinox" not too long ago (Big ups for Canadian rap!) How did that go down? I know he produced that "Mob Dizzle" joint.
BN: I've known Raz for a minute now. Even before we met in person we've talked over Twitter for a few years. We used to listen to each others stuff in high school and it grew from there. No A&R stuff was involved; it was an authentic relationship.
EM: What's the deal with Mass Appeal?
BN: I went there for a meeting for the magazine and I said something about Nas who happened to be a partner at the time. We got talking and it's been great ever since.
EM: What have you got planned for the rest of 2015?
BN: The new EP is done and we're working on the Mass Appeal album right now. I've been experimenting with all kinds of music and having fun, so I'll continue to do that.
EM: What's your favourite kind of milk?
BN: Fuck milk *laughs* I slowed drinking milk, but I'd have it with cereal all the time. Almond milk is really good.
EM: Anything else you'd like to add before we close things up?
BN: Shoutout to EARMILK and Nehruvia. Thanks for the opportunity.
If you haven't peeped it yet, stream Bishop Nehru's latest mixtape Nehruvia: The Nehruvian down below and let us know what you think.
Nehruvia: The Nehruvian
- Mass Appeal Records
- May 12th, 2015