Fueled by a love for Hip Hop’s Golden Age and an inescapable energy that has led to a rocky relationship with school administrators, 17-year-old Bishop Nehru has worked hard to craft quality bars and beats while residing in Rockland County, New York, located roughly 15 minutes outside New York City. It’s this short distance that gave him plenty of inspiration yet offered him enough space to channel his creative energies in peace. His 2012 mixtape debut Nehruvia let people in on Nehru’s immense talent, and last year’s StrictlyFlowz only furthered his buzz with co-signs from Peter Rosenberg and the UK’s DJ Semtex. Since then, he’s received praise from Kendrick Lamar and been lauded by two of Hip Hop’s titans, Nas and the Wu-Tang Clan. After South By Southwest, Nehru was headed to Europe to open up for Earl Sweatshirt, proving both Hip Hop’s stalwart talents and its emerging voices have recognized his talent.
Yet his upcoming project with the much-lauded and highly mysterious rapper MF DOOM will be his biggest yet. The effort is fully collaborative, with both sharing duties in front of the mic and behind the boards, a testament to the confidence DOOM has in a talented emcee just at the beginning of what should be a lengthy career. DOOM fans and Nehruvians alike can rejoice, as Nehru revealed the project is indeed in its final stages and should arrive in full quite soon.
Additionally, Nehru noted how a name-drop from Disclosure led their new collaboration, “You Stressin’,” and pointed out that while he’s already earned co-signs and touring slots with an incredibly talented, and varied, roster of Hip Hop talent, he maintains he’s only at the beginning of his journey to seize the throne and become the “emperor of Rap.”
Bishop Nehru Shares Advice From Nas, Kendrick Lamar & Others
HipHopDX:It’s crazy looking at your co-signs. You’re opening for Earl Sweatshirt, and you’ve got veterans and up-and-coming acts alike singing your praises. How does it feel for you to get those co-signs across the board?
Bishop Nehru: It really brings more confidence. That’s really, truly it. I didn’t really gather anything else, except for confidence and knowledge, because they share a lot of information.
DX: Speaking of which, a key moment for your career came when video surfaced of Kendrick Lamar offering you advice on camera. In the months since, what are key moments from that talk, either on air or off air, that still stick with you?
Bishop Nehru: There was one thing that all of them said—Kendrick, Wu-Tang, Nas: no matter what happens around me, keep making music and keep staying real to myself. That was the one thing that they all told me: keep making music no matter what. If people are asking you for the radio record or blah, blah, blah, just keep doing you and let everything come to you.
DX: That does bring up a good follow up point. You’re kind of involved with all aspects of your output: you’re behind the boards, you’re on the mic, you work on your videos. Why is being in control of your artistic vision so important for you?
Bishop Nehru: I know what I want to do already. It’s like if you wrote a book, and you go back and somebody tells you, “No, take this out.” You’d be like, “What do you mean take it out? This is my book, not your book.” It’s the same thing. When I make my music or have my own vision already, I don’t want anyone to come in and try to say, “No, this doesn’t work. You have to switch that,” because it does work. I see it that way. It’s the only way.
DX: If you’re saying you know what your vision is right now, what is the long term vision? And if you gauge where you’re at right now, where are you at compared to where you’re trying to go?
Bishop Nehru: I’m not even close to where I want to be yet at all. I want to build an empire, literally. I want to be an emperor. I want to be known as an emperor…the emperor of Rap. I’m gonna build an empire of a bunch of fans, and I’m gonna have an empire.
DX: What does that extend to? Does that involve releasing just your own stuff, or does it go to managing artists and having your own people?
Bishop Nehru: It doesn’t tie down to one thing. You’ve got to just keep working, making music and content.
DX: I want to take it back for a minute, back to your home in Rockland County. Tell me a bit about what it was like growing up there. What was it like being that close to Manhattan, yet still being a little bit away from the epicenter?
Bishop Nehru: When I was younger, it was a bit harsher. Now it’s real calm. All the nonsense isn’t there anymore. I was around older people. I was always outside with my older cousins doing stuff, but as I got older, I became more introverted to myself. So I was just into doing my own thing, trying to find my hobby…something I enjoyed.
Why Traditional Schooling Didn’t Work For Bishop Nehru
DX: Did that isolation give you a bit of focus?
Bishop Nehru: The isolation of course gave me a bunch of focus, but outside of school. That was really the only time where I had any time to myself. You go to school for six hours, and then you have to sleep for another eight, so there wasn’t a lot of time in the day. When I had that time, I used to just do whatever I could get done. Then it came to a point where I would go to school and think, “I don’t even want to be here. I want to be home doing this.”
DX: Where are you at right now school-wise? Are you still on track? Are you done?
Bishop Nehru: It’s kind of an iffy thing for me. I don’t really go there anymore, just because I know if I was still going there, I’d be in, like, legal trouble—facts. But it wasn’t because I was doing bad shit, like hitting kids or stuff like that. It was just because I was disruptive, and I wasn’t fit for the school teaching.
I can’t sit in a classroom for however long and just sit there and talk. That’s like military; that’s not school—especially my school. New York schools right now are getting bad. There was a lot of stuff cut in the budget, so there’s really no reason for me to look forward to going to school. Usually, there’s electives and other things you can do, but a lot of the electives at my school got cut, so you’re just going to school to learn math and science and that’s it.
DX: I can see why that would be a real big problem, especially for someone like you.
Bishop Nehru: Dude, you don’t understand! And I have ADHD, so when I’m sitting in class, I’m kind of fidgety. When I finish the work, I can’t just sit there and wait for everyone else to finish, so teachers would get mad that I’d disrupt their classrooms. I’d just get kicked out or I’d walk out of class, like, “I don’t have to be here. I’m out of here.”
It would get to a point where the dean of discipline or whatever was like, “Yo, you’ve got to stop or we’re going to put you on probation.” What do you mean you’re going to put me on probation? I’m not selling drugs in school or anything. I didn’t think it was that serious, but it turns out disrupting the classroom and just doing your own thing can get you on probation with the school.
The Influence Of Suburban Life & Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru
DX: Let’s get into Suburban Shoguns. You say you want to own that suburban side. Were there any rappers or any inspirations that made you want to own that and say, “This is where I’m from”?
Bishop Nehru: I don’t think there was any rappers in particular. I think it was just me; that was where I was from. To me, it doesn’t matter where you’re from. If you have a talent, you have a talent. There’s no doubt about it.
In the NBA, there’s people from Spain and everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you’re from to be able to compete. That was just Roland. That’s exactly what that was. It was Roland being Roland. I don’t know if you know what that means, but die-hard fans are gonna know what that means. It was just Roland being Roland.
The Suburban Shoguns—it’s not a physical group. It’s more of a mental, emotional group. It’s a thought. It hasn’t manifested yet into a physical thing, if you know what I mean. I probably sound weird as hell right now [laughs].
Right now, the Suburban Shoguns is not active anymore. It’s just Roland finding a group of people who he felt were semi there that had talent. Suburban Shoguns is a weird thing. It’s not a group like people think it is, or a new crew or a new label. It was just a thing. It’s just a phase. I go through a lot of those, so when I’m 20, you’re gonna hear me say something else, and then I’m gonna be 21 and it’s gonna switch.
DX: The second half of your stage name, Nehru, pays homage to Jawaharlal Nehru—India’s first prime minister. What does it mean to you to add him to your stage identity?
Bishop Nehru: It’s kind of the same thing with Tupac and Machiavelli. I wanted to take the name and rebrand it. It’s something that I felt should be noticed and something that stood for something good but was just under the rug.
When I picked “Nehru,” I was in global history class, and they were talking about Gandhi and all the stuff they went through to get India’s independence. They were fighting just to be peaceful and a happy country. To me, that’s what I want to do with music. I’m just trying to be happy. I’m trying to find peace and be happy and harmonious.
How Bishop Nehru Reacted To MF DOOM Calling Him A Young Master
DX: I want to jump into Nehruvian Doom for a minute. What’s the status as of today?
Bishop Nehru: Yeah. [Laughs] Nehruvian Doom is coming extremely soon. The first single should be coming soon. It’s getting mastered now still, but there’s some tracks that are already mastered and ready to go.
As far as a release date, there isn’t a release date yet. But after everything’s mastered, it shouldn’t be too long after that it gets released. Just be patient. It’s gonna be worth it, I promise. I’m so excited for it.
DX: It’s seven tracks…something like that?
Bishop Nehru: Yeah, we’re gonna do seven tracks. We were gonna do more, but I cut a couple beats off. I was like, “No, they don’t need to hear this yet. We’re gonna wait [laughs].”
DX: You guys are sharing duties both on the mic and on the boards, correct?
Bishop Nehru: Yeah, all of it.
DX: What does it mean to be given that kind of artistic freedom from someone who, you admit, is a very large inspiration for your work?
Bishop Nehru: It was amazing. [DOOM] really just sat back at first and let me pave what I wanted to do, and once he had seen that, he was like, “Alright.” It was synchronicity, man. We had the same ideas already when we first met, and we were in the studio working a couple months back. We kind of had this same idea with where we wanted to take it, but after the name came along, we met again, I flew out to London and we started mixing everything. We could really tell we were in sync with each other. We knew exactly where we were gonna take it.
We know that the name itself [Nehruvian Doom] is gonna be memorable, because the sound is so adapted to the name, if that makes sense. I just can’t wait to get it out. I’ve never been this excited to drop anything. It’s weird. I know it’s gonna be big. That’s why I think I’m excited. Or maybe I’m excited because I feel I know it’s going to be big. It’s just anticipation.
DX: In relation to you, DOOM said, “Emcees are born. You can’t make an emcee out of somebody who has never been born to do this. It’s innate talent. I can’t really give advice to another young master.”
Bishop Nehru: Yeah.
DX: How does it feel to hear those words from him, basically stating saying, “This guy’s already got what he needs”?
Bishop Nehru: If anything, if you look at me when he said that in the video, I kind of turned away and was like, “What the fuck…” That means he really sees the talent in me, so I appreciated it a bunch. Everything that he did, I appreciated it a bunch. The little things, from EQ’ing to producing. There’s just a lot of stuff he taught me equipment-wise…how to do certain things, how to get certain things to sound a certain way. He was a great teacher.
DX: Reading up on you and looking at the accompanying comments, something does pop up from time to time. How do you feel about those Joey Bada$$ comparisons?
Bishop Nehru: It’s whatever. It’s gonna happen. I’ve been compared to Black Milk, Danny Brown… Everybody gets compared. It’s just how you handle the comparison. Honestly, I don’t really care for them. I just keep doing my thing.
Me and Joey are cool. That’s the homie, so it’s whatever. I don’t mind it. We’re both from New York, putting on for the same state. It’s because we both have similar influences. We both are fans of the Golden Age, so comparisons are gonna happen.
DX: It just seems like an outgrowth of what’s happening in New York right now. Is its just largely coincidence?
Bishop Nehru: It’s synchronicity. There’s no such thing as coincidences, ever. Remember that. Remember me telling you that. Seriously. When you leave here and something happens, you’re going to be like, “That’s a coincidence.” It’s not a coincidence. It happened for a reason. If you leave here with anything, leave here with that.
DX: You had mentioned you’re a fan of Jazz, and in time, you hope to perform with your own quartet. Do you remember when you first encountered Jazz? Are there any artists in particular that you’re fond of?
Bishop Nehru: My grandfather passed away when I was younger, and my grandma still has all his stuff—VHS tapes, vinyl and cassette tapes. Every day after school, I used to go to my grandma’s, and she used to listen to Al Green, Luther Vandross and people like that…Gerald Levert. That was her real soulful side, and my grandfather just had a bunch of Jazz all over the place. I guess I heard it from listening to it in my grandma’s house. [Then] I just went and did my own research, sort of like with Hip Hop. I found a bunch of people I’m fans of, like Roy Ayers. Roy Ayers is the man…Hubert Laws.
The whole quartet thing…I kind of want to do just an album with a whole quartet doing the beats. I think it would be amazing. That’s something I plan on doing in the future.
DX: I’d like to end with a quote of yours. “I think people are just trying to make money now and that’s something that took away from that art.” It’s a very fascinating point, and I’d love it you could elaborate a bit more on that thought.
Bishop Nehru: I think now, people are too stuck in materialism and man-made things. It took completely away from the art of Hip Hop 100 percent, because people started rapping about the clothes they had and the stuff that they did have instead of what they didn’t. That’s what Rap really was; it was rapping about the stuff that you didn’t have but wanted to see yourself having. Now, it’s just completely different. People who don’t have are rapping about stuff that they do have, and they don’t have it. So to me, it’s just materialism. It’s not here for the art anymore. I kind of want to be the one act that does bring the art back to music.
DX: With that said, what does it mean to you to be an emcee? How do you shoulder that burden, and how are you pushing the culture forward to counteract that materialism?
Bishop Nehru: It’s just evolution. I think my new stuff is a huge step [forward]. It’s gonna keep evolving, and through evolution, it’s gonna take me to the top.