My introduction to the strength and intention behind Bishop Nehru’s flow and lyricism was his first MF DOOM collab ‘NehruvianDOOM‘ in October 2014. It featured Nehru as a hungry young artist, who displayed not only a great respect for his ‘Classic’ Rap influences but also that he had the tools necessary to grow into a serious contender in the Hip Hop’s upper echelons. The album peaked at #59 on the Billboard 200, and while MF’s stardom and pedigree out-shone the 21-year-old Brooklyn native, the potential was apparent. After a number of well-received projects over the last three and a half years [the universally well-liked ‘Nehruvia: The Nehruvian’ and last year’s ‘Emperor Nehru’s New Groove’, Nehru has re-connected with the legendary masked producer once again; DOOM’s first project since the tragic death of his son at the end of last year. However, in a move surely to guarantee they can efficiently best their previous efforts, they’ve recruited some extra help in the form of Kaytranada, who has made a name for himself over the last decade producing vibe-inducing, rhythmic beats for the likes of GoldLink, Kali Uchis, and Mick Jenkins. The result: 12-track two-parter Elevators, a fantastic bounty of beautiful production and lyrical savvy.
The album broaches each of its two parts with an intro; ‘Ascension’ demarcating Kaytranada’s section, and ‘Free Falling’ establishing the entry of MF Doom. This segmentation adds an extra layer to unpack; the extent to which Nehru clicks with each producer, while allowing each of the renowned beat-makers room to breathe and create their own story through the production. In his typical, inimitable style, Kaytranada bestows Nehru with irregular, energetic beats to flow over. Similarly, Nehru spends this half of the album expertly treading the line; going hard enough to deliver satisfaction while exercising remarkable restraint. Kaytranada providing easy listening on “Driftin’” while flooding the listener with a pleasant wash of noise on “Get Away.”
The pleasant wash of noise that is ‘Get Away’ tees up Doom’s half of the project, ‘Freefall,’ beautifully. The Masked Marauder seems to take many of the cues from part one and cranks them up to an 11. Lead-in track ‘Tasers’ swiftly crashes into a scene that recalls 70s and 80s Funk, tinged with a familiarity that’s difficult to place. DOOM’s consistency is unfaltering, his beats so often become the highlight no matter who’s on the mic, and ‘Elevators’ is no exception. Bishop Nehru compliments him in a way that very few of DOOM’s previous collaborators have done, delivering big half-verses during a beat transitions, and never failing to keep up with DOOM’s hectic yet calculated pace.
While the album’s producers may be household names, Nehru is a comparative upstart. ‘Elevators’ shows a great deal of evolution from a talented lyricist. On tracks like ‘Game of Life’ and ‘Potassium’ we see Nehru dialing into his ability to effectively tell a story from track-to-track, using wordplay and metaphor to embellish a narrative rather than purely as an exercise in lyrical acrobatics. Like many of his influences and contemporaries, there’s a clear focus on musical stimulus and creating an experience, not trying to fit into a particular sound or mould. There’s a feeling that he has a greater story to tell, into which ‘Elevators’ just might be the clearest sneak peek we’ve gotten yet. Whether you’re familiar with Bishop’s work or not, this latest record is the ideal time to delve in.
Words: Zachary Mahabir