ABOVE: BISHOP NEHRU
While most teens spend the summer kicking it with friends, or working local summer jobs, 16-year-old Bishop Nehru, né Markel Scott, will be touring overseas and rubbing shoulders with hip-hop luminaries. It's been a progressive year for the Nanuet, New York native, thanks to his budding Internet presence and precipitate thought process. He's a calculated lyricist who's still finding his footing, but possesses remarkable self-assurance—as though he knows exactly what it is that he wants to project, but he's just trying to maneuver how to go about it.
Until this week, Nehru's body of work consisted of a single 42-minute mixtape, Nehruvia: a minimalist compilation of laments (not his own) and tracks each of which blends right into the next. His name is a juxtaposition of very different, and opposing, cultural dispositions: Bishop was the antagonist played by the late Tupac Shakur in the cult hood film Juice, whilst Jawaharlal Nehru was a nationalist and statesman who became the first prime minister of independent India. For an audience thirsting for a "purer" form of hip-hop, one dating back to the inimitable golden era, Nehru's positioning himself as quite the ambassador. We caught up with the MC via Skype to reminisce over jazz and having RZA as a guide. We're also pleased to premiere his track "Mobb Dizzle," from the new album Strictly Flowz (out this week), below.
SAFRA DUCREAY: How did your first time doing a show in London come about?
BISHOP NEHRU: Well, my manager asked me if I wanted to open for Ghostface [Killah], and DOOM, and I said yeah.
DUCREAY: You had said during your performance in London that people are nice. So would you say that they're not nice in New York?
NEHRU: People in New York are dicks. London people are cool. They were mellower towards me.
DUCREAY: Do people in New York stick their tongues out at you or something?
NEHRU: In New York, a lot of people here walk around mad for no reason, instead of just waking up happy like everyone else. They stick to the gloomy side. I love New York, but people here are just very distinct from other places.
DUCREAY: Do you think that type of attitude can have an effect on your mood as a person?
NEHRU: No, not at all. I'm not like that.
DUCREAY: So you're not really sensitive to those type of things...
NEHRU: I'm not really saying that; I get gloomy, too, but I don't hold on to it for too long. I'll find a way to express it, and then I'm good.
DUCREAY: You're going to be back in London when you open for Wu Tang. Don't you think the weather's a bit depressing?
NEHRU: It was cloudy and it rained a lot. But when it rained, I just listened to nice music. Have you listened to jazz music when it rains in London? It's sick. I was looking out the window from the hotel room, listening to John Coltrane.
DUCREAY: You also listen to Roy Ayers...
NEHRU: Yeah, Roy Ayers is sick. I didn't even listen to him out there.
DUCREAY: Chet Baker, Incognito. You're more into jazz than I could say I ever was.
NEHRU: I don't think I like jazz more than hip-hop, but it's my second-favorite genre—and jazz funk. I like how they compose the instruments together. It's smooth; you can listen to it anytime, and through the different weather.
DUCREAY: Would you say you get into that on your down time?
NEHRU: It depends on what kind of mood I'm in. I listen to jazz a lot, though. I know more jazz music than I do—not rap music, but the rap music that I like, I can actually say I have more jazz.
DUCREAY: Can you recommend three albums I've never heard of?
NEHRU: Lemme see... Do you know Hubert Laws?
NEHRU: All right, hold on. I have to go through my iTunes just so I can find the perfect songs. You have to listen to... I don't know if Erykah Badu counts as jazz...
DUCREAY: I already have all her albums, so that's not going to work, sorry.
NEHRU: Oh all right, cool. [laughs] Listen to Debra Laws' "Very Special," I think you'd like that. Now I gotta put you on to a Roy Ayers album. Do you listen to him, by any chance?
NEHRU: You've never listened to Roy Ayers. [laughs] Listen to Roy Ayers' Stone Soul Picnic and Vibrations. Those are two different albums, by the way.
DUCREAY: And you should listen to Neil Young.
NEHRU: Who's that, is he a jazz artist?
DUCREAY: No. But he's a very important artist.
NEHRU: What does Neil Young do?
DUCREAY: Basically he's an iconic rock legend, but he's the type of artist even rappers listen to—Bob Dylan as well.
NEHRU: I'll definitely check them out. I listen to all types of music, I don't just listen to rap.
DUCREAY: You know who else you would also like, Leonard Cohen.
NEHRU: Let's see. [does a Google search] Is he a gospel singer?
DUCREAY: Not even close.
NEHRU: [laughs] Oh, that's that guy that sings that song "Hallelujah"...
DUCREAY: But it's not a gospel song, it's figurative.
NEHRU: What the hell. He's 5'9"—he's shorter than me. [laughs]
DUCREAY: Tell me about Strictly Flowz.
NEHRU: That's my next project coming out. It's gonna be sick. I think people will like it more than Nehruvia. Well, nah—I dunno, it depends, it's more aggressive.
DUCREAY: What do you mean by that?
NEHRU: The music's matured. It's more Bishop-y.
DUCREAY: What happened in the last three months that caused such a growth in your sound?
NEHRU: I got more confident in my vocal abilities. The beats I have now are different. I changed from Nehruvia—but I just needed a little change for now. Just to see if I could do it. I could, and it sounds really good. It sounds more like my Nas side than my Tupac side. My Tupac side didn't go anywhere, though. I still have that, the Nas side just shining for now.
DUCREAY: Basically, you've taken Nas as more of an inspiration now...
NEHRU: Not even. I'm just saying I'm weird, and in my body, now that I've show my Tupac side. The side with the more jazzy stuff to me—I'm not saying I have Tupac's style of music—it's just where his mind was then, I have that mindset, and it's with jazz. But then I have that other side that's just raw hip-hop, that's the Nas side.
DUCREAY: A lot of people are wondering if you're the next rap prodigy; what you think about that?
NEHRU: I don't really pay attention to it. To me, in my eyes, I'm a normal kid. I'm just a teenager that makes music, 'cause before I was getting recognized, I was still making music—I like doing it. I don't see it as a way to make money or anything other than what I see it as. It's art to me, it's fun to do, and if people want to say I'm the next prodigy, then that's their opinion, I can't really change their minds on what they think. I'll take the role for you, as in your eyes, but in my eyes, that's not what I am. I'm not going against them, though. I'm more than happy to step up, but in my eyes I'm still the same normal teenager.
DUCREAY: A music critic said your lyrics are based on being righteous and having morals. Do you agree with that?
NEHRU: No. I instinctively live. I do what I do. A lot of people live off of logic rather than emotions. I just live off of emotion.
DUCREAY: So you'd say you're an emotional type of guy.
NEHRU: Not an emotional type of guy. But I follow my emotions more than my logic.
DUCREAY: Well, in order to follow your emotions you must be emotional.
NEHRU: Yes sort of. Slightly.
DUCREAY: But you are what I would call precocious.
DUCREAY: No, precocious.
NEHRU: I don't know what that means, sorry.
DUCREAY: In this instance, it just basically means for your age, you definitely are ahead of your time musically. But as a musician, this is not an uncommon trait.
NEHRU: I guess. [laughs]
DUCREAY: How old were you when you listened to any type of music and had an understanding of what it was?
NEHRU: I don't even remember that—probably really young, though.
DUCREAY: Roughly, five, maybe four?
NEHRU: Nah, like three.
DUCREAY: You know, a lot of musical geniuses started playing instruments and composing songs by the age of three.
NEHRU: That's cool.
DUCREAY: Do you communicate with the Wu-Tang?
NEHRU: Nah, not yet. I wish. I wanna be RZA so bad, he's so cool. I want him to mentor me. That guy is so cool. You know he produced "Triumph" without any samples?
DUCREAY: Yeah, that is cool. Maybe he will mentor you. When you see him, you can ask him, don't you think?
NEHRU: I don't wanna sound fan-y, though. But I don't care, I'm a fan and I'm gonna fan out, but I don't know how he'll take it. I don't know if he's gonna come for me and get aggressive. That would be cool, though.
DUCREAY: Do you think you can handle something like that?
NEHRU: I'm focused on the music. I think, as long as I keep making music just because I like to make it, people are gonna like it. But if I start going after different aspects like money, blah blah blah, then I don't think people are gonna like it anymore.
DUCREAY: I don't necessarily think making money a motive is wrong...
NEHRU: If you're good at the art and you wanna make money, then it's fine. But if you're just doing it because you know you're gonna make money, then I don't know. Some people do it just because they need the money, but it depends on a lot of things.
DUCREAY: So, with you being the normal teenager now. When you get put on, what would the chick who wasn't giving you any play have to say about you? Would she say you were cool, you were kind of weird...
NEHRU: Oh, yeah. They're gonna say I was weird, that I did stuff for attention. They're gonna say I was corny, annoying...
DUCREAY: You, corny? Really?
NEHRU: I don't like to have a bad time. I like to have fun with everything. I don't like feeling nasty, I like positive energy. So if we're all sitting in the car and it's quiet, I have to do something to make it unquiet and laugh or something—I just have to do something cool. But they don't see that from me. When I say that they'll just say, "He's weird," or, "He's annoying for doing random stuff."
STRICTLY FLOWZ IS OUT NOW. FOR MORE ON BISHOP NEHRU, PLEASE VISIT HIS FACEBOOK PAGE.