Over the last few years there has been a constant conversation within the hip hop community; is rap’s lyricism dying out?
Trends come and go, but with the majority of the game’s newest artists coming through, their art seems to focus more on image and bravado, but not all young rappers have this mind-set – Bishop Nehru is cut from a different cloth.
At only 21 he has discography that reads like a rapper’s twice his age. His new album Elevators: Act I & II is billed as his answer to The Beach Boys’ seminal Pet Sounds – a prime example of his musical knowledge and desire to create a piece of art, rather than just a record. They say judge a person by their friends, and Nehru’s clique are some of the hottest artists on the planet. After earning his stripes supporting Earl Sweatshirt and Joey Bada$$, Nehru has gone from strength to strength. These artists are known for their lyrical acrobatics, but none of them compare to the skills of MF Doom. Often noted as the rapper’s rapper, MF DOOM is one of the most respected producers and MCs of the underground scene. Nehru has been taken under the masked villain’s wing, gaining his respect throughout his early years and even collaborating together on their full length LP NehruvianDOOM – further proof of his irrefutable wordplay.
Elevators: Act I & II is an album in two parts, with Kaytranada taking the reins for Act I. Kaytranada’s production style often drifts through hip hop, house, R&B and all that lies between. His loose, swinging hip hop rhythms are the perfect backdrop for Nehru’s New York twang. “Driftin’” eases the listener in with a languid beat, laced with melodic flute flourishes, whilst the strummed guitar sample of “Game Of Life” harks back to the Pharcyde’s classic anthem “Runnin’”. The production is tight, precise and clinical, much like Nehru’s vocal delivery. Tracks like “Get Away” dull the spark slightly, with the song’s hook seeming somewhat lazy for an artist known for his way with words. As Act I comes to a close, it is DOOM’s turn to step behind the buttons for Act II.
In comparison to Kaytranada’s style, DOOM’s production is more unpredictable, taking samples and riffs and jamming them together like old jigsaw pieces that have been bent out of shape. The following tracks have a more organic, funk influence – largely due to the live instrument samples that are expertly sewn together. After hearing this added experimental approach you can see why Nehru namechecks Pet Sounds as a major influence.
Rather than filling his album with 20 tracks and fruitless skits, the album is kept concise at under 30 minutes long – the rapper never wasting one word throughout. This is a confident warning shot to his hip hop peers; with nothing else to prove these tracks speak for themselves.
New rappers will rise and fall but Bishop Nehru is in for the long haul. Whether Elevators: Act I & II will stand up as a classic album is up for debate, but what is certain is that Nehru has a lot more to offer and we’re only just scratching the surface – and no matter what beat you throw at him, he will kill it with ease.