The Sides of Nehru

words by Sunny Pruthi

I heard about Bishop Nehru through Reddit of all places. The community regarded him as talented, and he certainly had the accolades to back those claims up. At 13, a young rapper from the outskirts of New York City named Markel Scott (going by the name of Kelz Scott, and later Kile Kanvas) gained popularity on the Odd Future forum with his jazz and hip-hop instrumental beats. He’d later receive more praise for an 8-bar freestyle over Mos Def’s “Mathematics”, and proceed to open for the Wu-Tang Clan’s 20th anniversary European tour.

At 15, Scott (finally deciding on the moniker Bishop Nehru) released his first mixtape, Nehruvia (unrelated to his latest EP). The project was blessed with production from some of the biggest names in hip-hop, such as MF Doom and J Dilla. Doom in particular views Nehru as somewhat of a protege, and with that kind of recognition there were bound to be some very big shoes to fill and hefty expectations for the East Coast up-and-comer. In 2014, building on the praise from artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Nehru signed to Nas’ Mass Appeal Records, in addition to dropping a 3-song EP with Dizzy Wright.

When news broke that MF Doom would be doing a collaborative album with Nehru, I was excited to see what these two could do in full partnership. Suffice to say, the creative sound and complementary lyrical styles of both Doom and Nehru were enjoyable. However, the album wasn’t without its faults. Many of the songs on NehruvianDoom, with the exception of “Om”, didn’t feel very memorable. There wasn’t a strong desire to go listen to the album again and again. Moreover, the album felt like it lacked some production quality. Yet, despite these issues, NehruvianDoom managed to boost Nehru’s fame. Most recently, Nehru came out with his first full-length EP, Nehruvia: The Nehruvian EP. Nas served as Executive Producer, which instantly added credibility. With a track record like Nehru’s, the hopes for this album were high.

Nehruvia starts off with “Somebody Waits”, which defines the tone for the rest of the album. The production value and crisper sound give a more polished feel over NehruvianDoom. The beat is a blend of a mild-voiced line repeated over and over, comforting keys, and subtle percussion. The song sends a message of breaking out of your shell and confronting internal struggle. The line “Have you ever felt inside a giant eye that’s watching, So confined in that hiding’s your only option” resonated with me, and it’s something that anyone who’s ever felt trapped or alone can relate to. The songs reminds listeners that they’re not alone, and it’s worth a listen for both musical and therapeutic purposes. Nonetheless, there were two things that could have taken Somebody Waits from good to great. Although they’re minor issues in the context of the entire album, they permeate through every song and take away from the overall experience. The consistent line throughout the beat clashes with the rest of the song, it interferes with Nehru’s verses. The hook, or many of Nehru’s hooks for that matter, leave something to be desired. This one in particular seems forced and doesn’t flow very well in the context of the whole song.

“User$” continues the same trend: great lyrics, a beat that makes anyone want to bob their head, and a chorus that throws off the song sometimes. “MansSin” doesn’t even have a chorus, although it does have a fantastic verse by Que Hampton. Instead, the song cuts to an audio clip of Charles Manson on trial. It was so sudden and it catches you off guard to the point that you might not even realize who it is at first. It makes you wonder what’s going on in the Nehruvian mind on a daily basis.

It’s very apparent that this album is produced by Nas. “MellowWithMe”’s beat is very reminiscent of Nas’ “The World Is Yours”. Just like with Illmatic, a tweaked instrumental version of Nehruvia is desirable. Nas’ mentorship of his record label signee shines through in Nehru’s latest dark but hopeful sound. Nehruvia: The Nehruvian EP brings the classic East Coast style with a personal flavor that’s been developed through years of iteration. It’s a different sound than his first project labeled Nehruvia, and while Nehru moves away from the original mixtape’s jazzy sound, there are still elements that remind you the essence of Bishop Nehru hasn’t gone away.

This lyrical bildungsroman has something for every demographic. The album’s central theme of individualism and overcoming internal struggle makes for a relatable experience. Teens and adults alike will be able to empathize with Nehru’s words. Hip-hop fans will enjoy this album for the sounds that emanate from Nehru’s other influences, as well as his past. “[justfriends]ZONE” has a beat that emulates a Tyler, The Creator song, a carryover from Nehru’s start on the Odd Future forum. Nehru’s ability to tie different aspects of his life together and rap about issues every other 18 year old has gone through is enough reason to give this a listen.

Bishop Nehru has solidified himself as a great up-and-coming lyricist. It’s apparent that Nehruvia comes from a dark place in Bishop’s life. The album is awash with struggle and uncertainty in its words, evidenced by lines such as “I lost my mom needed dad or a tide, and I just can’t find it…plus I have a hard time deciding what to do with life” and “Cause the chick that I went on Sway to discuss told me she sees me as friends and that ain’t much”. Despite everything that’s great about the album, the autotuned reverb-laden hooks leave much to be desired. This might have been the album that Nehru wanted, but there’s still room for improvement. Regardless, Nehru continues to show promise, and the evolution of his style will follow his own personal maturity. Nehruvia’s setbacks are more than compensated by the simultaneously cathartic and enjoyable experience it offers, that helps the listener come to terms with personal issues through Nehru’s classic “Nehruvian flow”. Bishop Nehru will hopefully build upon what looks like an incredibly promising career, and speculation about the development of his style and new projects will keep the masses interested in what he delivers in the future.