(AllHipHop Features) Three years ago I interviewed a then 16-year-old newcomer named Bishop Nehru. The Nanuet, New York rhymer was just months removed from dropping his official debut project Nehruvia and on the cusp of releasing a second mixtape titled StrictlyFLOWz.
At the time, Bishop was just as eager to talk about NBA 2K and The Boondocks as he was to talk about his burgeoning rap career. While he always exhibited an advanced sophistication and intelligence, our most recent conversation felt as if the artisan born Markel Scott has matured well beyond his 19 years on this Earth.
A lot has changed in Nehru’s life since July 2013. His music catalog grew to include joint efforts with Dizzy Wright and 9th Wonder (Brilliant Youth EP) as well as MF Doom (NehruvianDoom).
In addition, Bishop became one of the first signees to Nas’ Mass Appeals Records and also one of the first performers to amicably part ways with the Hip Hop legend’s company.
Bishy Chulo decided to follow advice given to him by Kendrick Lamar: “It’s Hip Hop. Keep doing it. Do not stop… Even when labels don’t [listen to you]. You just got to go for self.”
The emcee/producer did just that.
Nehru is set to return this week with his latest independent body of work - Magic 19. Over 11 tracks, listeners will get to further experience Bishop's transformation from a wide-eyed youngster just happy to be at the big boys table to a young man with a clear vision of what he wants in this world.
I once again got the chance to speak with Bishop Nehru. This time we discussed his new collection, his evolution as an artist, the magical power of music, and more.
You have Magic 19 about to drop. Can you talk about the meaning behind that title?
Magic 19 is an expression of myself. I like to say that it’s magic, because I feel like I’m becoming the best version of myself, starting to be able to control what I want, and have everything come to me.
That’s where the magic part come from, being able to change things with my mind and have things happen the way I see them happening. The 19 is just because I’m 19 years old. And this is the year that I’m putting the magic to use and really understand it.
When do you turn 20?
August 26... Actually, I don’t think I’m going to say I’m aging anymore.
So you’re going to stay 19 forever?
That’s a good age. The only problem is you’ll never be drinking age.
I don’t drink anyway.
Okay, that makes it easy. [laughs]
Going back to you saying you’re becoming the best you, as I was listening to the project it felt like one of the themes was the idea of evolution. I could hear how you evolved musically. Do you feel like you’ve undergone a personal evolution as well?
For sure. I'm definitely feeling like there was a lot of growing that has happened in the last couple of years. It was stuff that I probably never talked about before in my music. I felt like this project was the one where I felt like I really started to express all the experiences that are starting to go on. A lot of the stuff I was putting out before this project was really just stuff to show off lyricism, but I feel like with this project I was writing more for a story, experience, and feeling.
There were a few times where you were talking about the idea of people doubting you or hating on you. Do you feel you haven’t been properly recognized as an artist so far?
Yes and no. It was really kind of a shot at people who are fake fans. People who will say, “You don’t put out enough music.” But I haven’t stop putting out music for the past three years, and some years I put out three projects.
It’s not that I don’t put out enough music. It’s that you’re not looking to find the music I’m putting out. I feel like there are always going to be people who say, “There isn’t real Hip-Hop this. There isn’t real Hip-Hop that.” But if you’re not looking for it or trying to find it, how can you possibly say it’s not out?
It was pretty much shots at stuff like that. It wasn’t really like I felt like I wasn’t getting credit. I don’t really care for credit. When you make music, it’s not the credit that you want. You just want people to see it.
I feel what you’re saying about listeners not necessarily paying attention to what’s happening. I feel like part of that is on us. I feel like the media sometimes focuses a little bit too much on the sensationalized stuff and not as much on the art. But I definitely feel like the project you did with Doom got a lot of attention. Did you work with him again for this project?
With this project, it was pretty much all me and a couple of other producers. I did it kind of the same way I did with Nehruvia. I looked for beats that I already had that I wanted to use. But I’ve been talking with Doom still. The stuff we talk about is not really about music.
I’m sure it has to be great to have somebody like him with that experience that you can talk to in general. As an artist, there aren’t too many people that can relate to your lifestyle. What is it like having somebody like Doom that you can talk to?
It’s grounding. You can get away for a second and actually have somebody that’s going to look at you as a normal person, a person who just wants to have a conversation.
I want to go back to the project’s production. I know you didn’t produce “It’s Whateva,” but it did have a similar sound to Kendrick’s “untitled 07.” Was that a coincidence or was it intentional?
It was a coincidence. The “Want You” track was intentional. I actually had that beat on my computer for a while. I just never used it. It was on SoundCloud, but when [Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly] album came out they made the producer who made it take it down, but I heard it before he took it down. I just hit him up and asked if he could send it to me. He sent it to me, and like 9 months later I ended up rapping to it.
The “It’s Whatever” beat was from a different producer. I was in Dallas to do a show - I happened to already know the producer from social media - so we linked up out there. He played that beat for me then, and I told him I wanted it. This was way before the Kendrick project was even talked about. I had the beat for a while and the track done.
Wayne and 2 Chainz even used it [for “Bentley Truck”]. It was just a huge coincidence. It must be a sample that’s easy to find or something.
I’m glad you cleared that up, because sometimes people don’t realize months go by before a track gets released. People would probably hear it and think, “Wait a minute?”
Yeah, when I heard [“untitled 07”] I was like, “Damn. Should I still put this out?” I had a video ready and everything. [laughs] It was just like, "F-ck it."
Do you prefer a particular art form - emceeing or producing?
Not really. Honestly, I like doing both of them. Sometimes I do just sit and make beats all day. I wish I had an artist I could make beats for like a Dr. Dre or Quincy Jones.
Somebody doing a full project produced by Bishop Nehru? That would be interesting.
Yeah, I want to do that. I’d definitely be down for that.
Going back to Magic 19, I noticed that on this project you were making blatant sexual references. That was something different to hear from you. What sparked that different approach?
[laughs] Getting into sexual situations. I guess that’s part of the experience of getting older that I was talking about. There’s certain stuff that I never really rapped about. It’s like a whole different world of stuff for me to rap about now.
I try to look at everything like Louis Armstrong did. He said he wrote down everything that he felt. Once I heard that, it was like why not? Why not express how you feel in the moment? I’ve been growing and living life, so there’s always going to be something new to talk about.
I don’t want to be that censored rapper. I want to be that rapper who just raps about what he raps about. That’s because I don’t look at myself as a “rapper.” I look at myself as an artist. One of the biggest things with artists is that they don’t have boundaries. They’re supposed to try to change people’s perceptions. It may cause a stir, but it’s life.
There has been this concept that music is magic and it’s almost spellbinding in a way. What are you thoughts on that?
Music definitely puts people in a trance. When you hear certain songs, sometimes you just can’t control how you feel. I definitely feel like music is a form of magic by putting people in a trance.
You can control people with music. You give people a certain feeling. You can make them feel happy, sad, angry. You can make them want to punch someone. You can make them want to kill someone. You can make them want to give someone a hug. You can make somebody want to cry. I guess it kind of magic in its own right.
You have a track on Magic 19 called “Sacred Visions.” What do you see for yourself in the future? What is the vision for Bishop Nehru?
Right now at this young age, I’m just trying to get everything for myself, so by the time I’m around mid or early 20’s I can start trying to do thing for others. I feel like now at 19 is the time I start setting things up myself and getting everything I see myself doing in order first.
Then I’ll try to start doing other things. Just expand and help other people. I feel like right now I could help people in the smallest way by doing the little things, but I mean helping on a larger scale.
Are you interested in signing other artists eventually?
Probably when I’m in my 30’s. I don’t think I’d want to do that now until I’d want an artist that I would want to be the best, and I still wouldn’t want to be at the top anymore. But I still have that hunger to be at the top.
You’re still just 19, but you’ve had a lot of experience in the business over the last few years. What have you learned about the industry?
I learned that I should have stayed in school and played basketball, got scouted and went to the league. [laughs] Nah, I learned it’s a business. Everything is business. That’s something a lot of people don’t care to believe, but everything is pretty much business.
I know you're just joking, but somebody might see that statement and wonder: Does that mean Bishop’s not really dedicated to the music? Is this not necessarily something he wants to do?
I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant… I feel like with music it’s a lot more to it than people get to see. Everybody thinks it’s just touring and having fun. But if you want to be the best, and not just a rapper that comes and goes, you got to put in a lot of work which I’m not opposed to.
I’m just more of the artist who wants to be in the studio making music rather than being at a video interview, getting asked questions. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s something you have to do if you want to be at the top. It’s not like I don’t have any passion for this. I definitely love doing it. It was just a little joke.
Bishop Nehru’s Magic 19 is scheduled for release on June 3rd via bishopnehru.com.
PHOTO CREDIT:: Raph Ofina of Defeat Media