In Conversation: Bishop Nehru Eschews Lyrical Boom-Bap for Something More Fun
The East Coast rapper takes us behind the scenes of Nehruvia: My Disregarded Thoughts, out this Friday.
Based in New York, Bishop Nehru is an enigmatic figure who’s hid behind his impeccable lyrical ability for most of his career. Now, the twenty-three-year-old rapper is at a point where he’s ready to show the world who he really is.
Nehruvia: My Disregarded Thoughts displays his evolution as a rapper and as a human. Vulnerability was something he solemnly displayed in his earlier work—now he not only raps about his insecurities, but sometimes even confidently sings about them. This record exhibits his dexterity to not only create lyrically inclined rap, but also flesh out fun pop songs. He’s always disliked being pigeonholed as a lyrical rapper, so with this album he shows fans and critics he’s capable of much more.
Recorded in DJ Premier’s Queens studio, Disregarded Thoughts features production credits from MF DOOM, Preemo, and Nehru himself. Stylistically, Nehru embraces several genres including R&B, trap, spoken word, and pop, and configures these genres through his unique, creative mind.
What was the reason for your album’s delay?
It really wasn’t anything specific. I wanted to make sure I had the right amount of PR on the project. I wanted to make sure this was rolled out as an actual album. There are things a label would do to make sure the album is good, and I wanted to do it that way for once in my life. I just wanted to make sure there was a plan before it came out. But yeah, it’s been done for some time.
What led you to change up your style on this album?
I don’t feel like I was trying to do anything—this is the type of music I listen to. I feel like people think that because I can actually rap, that’s all I’m supposed to do. It’s kind of aggravating. Like me, the average twenty-three-year-old doesn’t really sit around listening to lyrical music all day. They want to listen to turnt-up music. It was me listening to these beats in the studio and saying “This beat is fire” and rapping to it—forcing myself to do boom-bap beats all day isn’t ideal for me. I like having fun with music.
Do you listen to anything current that may have influenced your music?
“I feel like people think that because I can actually rap, that’s all I’m supposed to do. It’s kind of aggravating.”
To be honest, not really. Maybe back in the day, when I was in high school. I look at certain projects and how they’ve been received by the media. And, I listen to those albums versus listening to whoever just made something and what everyone is raving about now. If I try to listen to that, I feel like I’m going to be copying what that dude is doing. If I listen to people from back in the day, like Jay-Z, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Quincy Jones, and Incubus, and work with producers from now, I’m creating my own sound. Eventually something is going to catch on and [people will] say, “That’s his sound.”
What inspired you to focus on your songwriting instead of your usual lyrical style?
Honestly, songwriting has been my focus since I started. I never really wanted to be just a lyrical rapper. When I was fifteen, first putting out “lyrical music,” I didn’t think I was good at lyrical rap. That’s why I did a lot of work to get better, and started doing lyrical rap to work on my lyricism. I didn’t want to be someone who doesn’t care about being able to rap. I guess that’s hard to admit, because people want me to be as lyrical as possible. From when I first started making music, it’s always been about making a good song, whether it’s an R&B song, or a rap song, or whatever.
Why did you title this album Disregarded Thoughts?
I came up with the idea of Disregarded Thoughts…in, like, ninth grade. Me and a bunch of my friends saw Justin Bieber’s movie Never Say Never, and from then on I realized I wanted to make music. If he did that shit by accident, I can definitely do it on purpose. After seeing that movie, I came up with a few ideas and Disregarded Thoughts was my favorite one. I ended up not using it because I wasn’t good at mixing or recording—and there was a lot I didn’t know about music yet. I felt like I needed to sharpen my tools.
Since this album is introspective and personal, did you learn anything new about yourself?
No, I know myself pretty well. I felt that this music was more about me being vulnerable. When I was making Nehruvia nobody was watching me, you know what I mean? So I felt like I could say whatever the fuck I wanted. When people start watching you, you start to wonder in your head, “What if this person feels this way about me saying this or that?” This album was me getting a lot of things out and venting.
When did you achieve the confidence to really get introspective and personal with your music?
“Me and a bunch of my friends saw Justin Bieber’s movie Never Say Never, and from then on I realized I wanted to make music. If he did that shit by accident, I can definitely do it on purpose.”
For a long time, it wasn’t the right time to talk about these things because of what other people wanted. But I knew I could drag it out with my lyricism. I could get people to watch without doing too much, or telling my story. I’m just going to hit the people with bars until I get enough attention, so I can give them stories from my life.
You mentioned in several interviews that you want to win a Grammy. What does it mean to create a Grammy-winning album to you?
I would be fucking stoked. Honestly, it would be a dream come true. That’s like winning the NBA championship, or the MVP award. Especially for winning Album of the Year. The artists who I’ve seen win a Grammy—like Kanye or Lil’ Wayne—they just stayed really consistent, and there was a unique feeling their music gave you. And I feel like there aren’t too many dudes who’ve won a Grammy from solely being lyrical.
You structured My Disregarded Thoughts by parts, almost like a book. Is that on purpose?
I’m happy you said that because it’s supposed to be structured like an audiobook. There’s a way you can connect this album to my last project [ELEVATORS: Act I & II] but I don’t want to say how. The reason I used the structure of an audiobook is because I never heard anyone do it before. It’s like the smartest shit ever, but nobody has done it. I listened to a few audiobooks and thought, “If someone would do an album like this, it would be the fucking shit.” At the same time, Quentin Tarantino was a huge inspiration, and in his movies he puts “Act I” and “Act II,” so I thought that would be a cool way to put in a little Easter egg. FL