Photo Credit: Kevin Jones
At just 18 years old, Bishop Nehru embodies a sense of artistic determination and a veteran thought process that echoes that of his label bosses over at Mass Appeal. Having captured the attention of Nas in October, who released his own debut album two years prior to Nehru’s birth, Bishop swiftly went from an up-and-coming artist to a must-watch prospect. Following the release of a few mixtapes, his collaborative projects with Dizzy Wright and 9th Wonder, as well as an album with MF Doom last year, and more recently, his 2015 EP Nehruvia: The Nehruvian, Bishop has created a fanbase that bridges several generations of rap fans, and he plans on continuing to do so as he works on a new album. After having Bishop Nehru at the Manifesto Festival last year, I was happy to be able to catch up with him this past NXNE to talk about his new album, his favorite beats (of that day) and his artistic process and exploration in music.
A lot has happened since the last I saw you in September, especially signing with Mass Appeal. What have been your Top 3 moments since then?
Man, going to Japan was cool. I don’t know, I don’t even remember anything… I have a really bad memory.
Well you dropped an EP…
Yeah, I guess that. I don’t know, I don’t remember anything too memorable. I feel like if it was supposed to be said, it would’ve came to me already. (Laughs) I guess the EP was cool.
With Nas as the executive producer on your upcoming album, what would you say the relationship between you two has evolved into? Friendship? Mentorship? Business?
Shoot, I don’t wanna overstep any boundaries, but I think we’re just cool to be honest. And of course the working-music side is there too, but I just think right now we have a cool relationship.
Has he taught you anything that’s stuck yet?
Not yet, not yet.
I’m sure he will, especially with the new album coming. Does it have a concept to it?
Well, I don’t wanna say exactly what it’s about. It’s just a little more mature I guess… that’s kind of the best way to put it. A lot of growth. A lot of things I’m gonna talk about are… I don’t wanna say different from my old stuff because it’s not really different, it still speaks for me, but the subject matter is a little different now. I’m getting older now, seeing more things and getting different perspectives.
What about sonically?
Well, honestly, sonically I just want it to sound obviously clean but I kinda have my own idea of how I want it to sound at the same time. I don’t want it to just be sounding clean for radio and lose out on the vision that I have. I have to still figure out how I’m going to work it out sonically, but it’ll definitely be figured out.
Are you handling the bulk of production or are you looking to other producers as well?
Yeah. [And] I got a few beats from a few people. I got beats just from producers that Mass Appeal has connections to and things like that, but I’m definitely producing a lot of it.
Are you allowed to name names of these producers or…
I don’t know! Well, there are beats from like…well, a lot of them are just beats from producers they [Mass Appeal] had already, so I don’t know if the producers would know if I said their names.
Let’s dive into the studio. What are your go-to tools in the studio?
My MPC and my mini-piano honestly. I’ve always been interested in learning piano, [but] I just never had a piano. My first piano… my uncle gave it to my sister and she didn’t use it, so I just took it from her. I wanna say in middle school, when I was 12 or 13 that I just started to teach myself. I’m working on learning guitar… I wanna learn guitar, I wanna learn the flute, the saxophone… I played saxophone as a kid but I traded it in because it was too heavy and I couldn’t carry it. [Laughs]
Why the flute?
Just the sound of it. It has a nice sound, something high, something low. I want to learn a lot of instruments. I wanna learn them all.
What about your production studio essentials?
I don’t really have anything that I always have with me. Maybe like, water. But I can’t remember one single thing. I just work.
No snacks? Pizza?
That’s honestly what I would’ve said if I said something. I probably would’ve said pizza but I’ve never ordered pizza to the studio.
More recently, you’ve started to explore the notion of cross-genre production and music. Is there a place for that on the album?
Definitely. Instead of focusing on what other people think the album is going to sound like, I kinda just do how I want it to sound like and how I feel it’ll fit best. I don’t want to have things that sound the same over and over, so I feel like it’s necessary to just to get different people involved and different people attracted to the music. So, I’m definitely gonna cross the boundaries but I don’t think it’ll be too crazy or too many of them. I definitely want to just experiment to show people the stuff I actually like listening to and making. With the EP, I made stuff I just like to hear. I didn’t really care to experiment to find things that I really liked to hear and it was just me doing my sound, and me doing me. With the album, I think I’m gonna experiment more and find things that I’ll also end up liking.
With that being said, outside of hip hop, who are you currently listening to or looking to for ‘inspiration’?
I’ve been listening to Snakehips, Diplo, Skillex, Jose James…
I love Jose James!
Really!? I’ve never heard anyone else who knew who he is when I said that. That’s sick! I actually wanna get him on the album. Shoot… oh, there’s this girl under Capitol named Kandi Burruss, she’s dope. A lot of her stuff is like neo-soul, so I’ll probably do some stuff with her for the album as well.
Sounds great. Also, that last Diplo/Skrillex project was dope too.
Yeah, Mass Appeal actually had a Diplo beat so I might fuck with it. They have Cashmere Cat shit. Just a bunch of different sounds to see if I like how I’ll sound stuff.
Definitely go for that, it should be interesting. Let’s close this off – given the fact that it’s Boi-1da.net, what are 3 intrumentals you could never get sick of (as of today)?
So many beats. Damn, I’m about to look through my phone, that’s crazy. Beats I always go back to [are]… “All Good” by Illa J, that’s one. There’s so many fire beats that these last two are gonna be hard. I’m probably gonna end up saying a Boi-1da beat. The “No Tellin'” beat is FIRE. [Ed. note: produced by Boi-1da & Frank Dukes] I’ll probably say “Great Day” by MF Doom and Madlib…or “Rhinestone Cowboy,” we’ll put those in there. I had to take one banger and two smooth joints!
Bishop will be playing Osheaga’s 10th Anniversary Festival in Montreal this coming August, and continue to tour across North America this summer. Definitely check him out if you have a chance!
The views of our contributors are their own, and not necessarily those of Boi-1da.