Bishop Nehru’s 20th birthday is looming. It’s an event the New York-based emcee is not looking forward to, which is surprising considering his career is just beginning to blossom and his whole life is ahead of him.
In less than three years, the 19-year-old Hip Hop prodigy has already put out an album with one of his heroes, MF Doom, signed a record deal with Nas’ Mass Appeal Records (albeit brief) and routinely collaborated with Hip Hop heavyweights like DJ Premier. In 2014, Nehru released the free BrILLiant Youth EP with Dizzy Wright as he continued to work on his first official full-length album.
As he prepares to unleash his latest mixtape MAGIC:19, he talked to The Source about the dissolution of his relationship with Mass Appeal, writing bars in the bathroom and making mama proud. MAGIC:19 drops June 3.
The Source (Kyle Eustice): With “Highs and Lows,” you’re really putting out some positive material. Is that your therapy in a sense?
Bishop Nehru: I’ve always said that writing is like a venting process for me. It was just me writing about things that affect me so they can’t affect me anymore.
Reading about some of the music you like—The Turtles, Radiohead, Roy Ayers, all of these different genres—is impressive. How did you get such a mature palate for music?
A little of it was through middle school. That’s when I got into more jazz, Quincy Jones, Roy Ayers, Barry White—all of these people I really started to get into. My grandma had always listened to The Temptations, Luther Vandross and Al Green so I was always around that. My mom just listened to R&B and neo-soul like Pharrell, Fantasia, stuff like that. I had influences from everywhere. I liked rock and all that. That was stuff I pretty much listened to on my own.
Despite your age, you still seem to gravitate towards the “golden era” sound. When did you get into that stuff?
My mom used to listen to old school Hip Hop. I remember she used to listen to “Warm It Up Kane” a lot in the car by Big Daddy Kane—just a bunch of different stuff. I don’t really know how to put it. I guess I just listened to stuff that was in my surroundings. In 7th grade or 8th grade, I also listened to the newer stuff they’re selling now—the trap stuff, the stuff that’s auto-tuned. I still listened to all that stuff, too, even though people hated auto-tune for awhile, I was still pretty into it. I always thought it was pretty cool. It was kind of like, at one point, I started to listen to more lyrical rap, I guess, and I noticed the difference. It’s a whole different feeling. One is just for partying and one is more of a serious vibe for listening, and actually learning something. With that, it was just like that’s what I wanted to make. I wanted to have the balance of both. I like being known as a person who can rap instead of just a party rapper.
You do that on the mixtape. You have some beats that go really hard and have more of a fun vibe, but you’re also spitting intellectually, I guess you could say. There’s obviously thought behind your words.
So big question—are you still signed to Mass Appeal?
No, I’m not.
Right now, I’m doing stuff independently. It wasn’t like anything with me and Nas. We didn’t have a disagreement or anything. No. It was pretty much just the people at the label. We didn’t see eye-to-eye with the project and the way the music was going. Even outside the music, we didn’t see eye-to-eye.
You just didn’t share the same vision?
There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what’s cool about being young and in your position. You have the time to figure things out. Do you plan on going to another label in the future?
I wouldn’t mind it.
Do you have a dream label?
I don’t know. I don’t think I have a dream label [laughs].
Would you ever consider starting your own imprint?
For sure. But I feel like I would have to do that after, you know what I mean. I can’t do that while I’m still trying to get things done because I would get sidetracked—too many expectations.
You haven’t really released an official album, right?
This mixtape is just another project. The album is still going to be coming out for sure. It’s pretty much done. That’s the thing—it wasn’t 100 percent done, but it was working towards getting finished. I guess where we didn’t see eye-to-eye was they wanted certain producers on there and I kinda saw other producers on there—if that makes sense. I already had a lot of stuff finished that I thought was dope. It was pretty much a lot of…I don’t know. I don’t want to make them seem like they’re bad because they weren’t.
How do you go about choosing the first single from a project?
I don’t usually make it a big deal. I try to do everything as spontaneous as possible. With this one, I felt it was the perfect balance between boom-bap and the gateway into more of a fun party track.
Where were you when you wrote the last track “Midnight Reflecting?”
I think I was in my bathroom, to be honest. I like the sound of the shower. I like sitting in the bathroom with the shower on and listening to the sound of it. My mom always yells at me about wasting water for the water bill. It’s soothing. I have to stop doing it. I used to mediate and do that. It’s soothing [laughs].
Do you still live your mom?
What does she think of all of this?
She always tells me she’s happy. When I say stuff to her like, ‘I’m going to make you proud.’ She says, ‘You already have.’ I guess she’s happy for me and stuff. I feel like there’s still more I have to do. I shouldn’t be living with my mom [laughs].