Since 2012’s mixtape “Nehruvia” and hype from the likes of HOT 97’s white boy-famous Pete Rosenberg, Rockland County native Bishop Nehru, unqualified or not, has been deemed the prodigal harbinger that will spur hip-hop’s retrograde back to the wistful golden age. Much like his 90’s-resurgent “quasi” contemporaries Joey Bada$$ and much of the Beast Coast movement, lyrics that lack in coke price references and lust-crazed nightclub scenes are made up for in Nehru’s slick wordplay and syncopated delivery over DOOM production. Common to many prophecies of second-comers, the expectations bestowed unto the promised one are near impossible to fulfill. These expectations are exacerbated by a herd of rumor-grazing sheep, drum beating their follower to a platform of unattainable enlightenment. Mention an MF DOOM sighting, and total pandemonium ensues.
“Am I being idolized/ or am I a pair of idol eyes?”
Nehru bounces on “Om”, accurately channeling his inner Tupac (Bishop adopts the moniker from the late Shakur’s character in 1992’s film “Juice”). It’s smooth enough, and resonates particularly well given his newly found niche in the genre. More importantly, though, it begs the question; why exactly did DOOM recruit Nehru? Sure, the rapper has, for the most part, earned his chops. Few can claim they have had the awe-inspiring pleasure of touring with Wu-Tang, opening for the group during their 20th Anniversary European tour. And even fewer can have achieved this feat at the ripe, pubescent age of 16. I mean, who wouldn’t be jealous? But it’s increasingly difficult to locate the precise reasons for his underage recruitment when NehruvianDOOM delivers extraordinarily ordinarily. It’s not that the project is bad (as a whole), but that it is definitively mediocre. So very, I don’t know, serviceable.
This is not to say that Bishop Nehru is not a talented MC. He can belch a lengthy verse in one shallow breath. He is deft and quick witted, sure. But his age, his greenness and lack of seasoning reeks over the album to the point of sounding like some talented charter school student’s midterm project. Take “Great Things”, a song in which Nehru reminds us over ad nauseam chorus breaks that, he will, in fact, do great things, great things. Though the production is solid, as a whole the track does little but promise that hard work does in fact lead to success (yay!). The cadence only lacks a corny ass clap from the audience and the backup vocals of a children’s choir before something reminiscent of the theme song to Drake’s alma mater is fleshed out (“Whatever it takes, I know I can make it through! If I hold up, I know I can make it through!”)
The caveat is even if Bishop were to savage it up, it would just be a magnified look at what runs rampant within the hip-hop medium; if I don’t believe Chief Keef making claims of laughing to the bank, I’m certainly not inclined to believe Nehru of poppin’ bands or sweating over Pyrex. The most daring thing Nehru channels is “a frightening sight/ like Michael Myers when he strikes with the knife”. This from his producer/mentor who once slyly stated “say some sh*t to make your daughter laugh, then slaughter the ass“. Seriously, sometimes Metal Face’s involvement in the collaboration comes off as being a Big Brother after school project.
This becomes a caveat for the listener as well. It’s hard not to admire the young rapper’s candor and sincerity, but through the record’s progression it becomes increasingly facile to loathe the half-sung, half-spoken Sprechstimme of Bishop’s choruses. Too often is a solid track lyrically slaughtered, only to dwindle at the bridge. His most revealing track “So Alone” is brutally honest in both Bishop’s unrealistic expectations and own shortcomings. “They’re calling me the newest teen prodigy now/sixteen with big dreams, the world’s finally found”. Heads bobbing along slowly start a horizontal wobble and culminate in pursed lips and flared nostrils once reaching the teeny angst of the chorus, and again, Bishop does little but reiterate how alone he is.
DOOM’s production shines on the record, as is expected. Even the recycled and more obscure tracks found on the 2006 “Special Herbs and Spices” box set find new intrigue when spliced with non sequitur vocal rips. Here DOOM succeeds again in layering these whimsical spurts and shouts, effectively becoming makeshift prologues and epilogues that in the end knot together and create a tangible rope of meditative storytelling. To Nehru’s credit, the recycled beats in question are comparatively more difficult to rhyme over when contrasted with some of DOOM’s easier catalog.
The strongest tracks on the album allow Bishop Nehru to come into his own while reserving that laissez-faire “imma do me” attitude. “Caskets” finds a murderous display of rhythm that narrows down to a needle point of a capella showcase, sharpened along the way by wind chimes and mercurial bass lines. On the whole, the record is a solid platform on which Nehru presents his self formally to the hip-hop world. There’s certainly promise in is talents, prose, and delivery, not to mention some of the most successful and merited protégés in the craft. And it’s easy to write the weaknesses off, when most of them stem from one central shortcoming: age.