Heading downtown, I got the text from Juanyto at 17.22.
“We will be at the venue at 6.30”
Militant as ever, DJ Juanyto (Hot 97) and Bishop Nehru hopped out the car walking right up to the Fortune Sound Club, Vancouver BC.At front doors at exactly 6.30 for sound check. The doors opened like clockwork.
I followed in shortly after with the driver to set up in the green room, a large open space upstairs, luminous lights, with 70’s rock and punk wallpapers, and an old-school DJ setup with fully stacked shelves of old vinyl records behind.
4 hours later Bishop Nehru was set to hit the stage on the sixth stop of his current tour, we chopped it up shortly before.
Magic 19 & Tour
“Magic 19 was really a spontaneous project” he started. Talking on his latest effort, an 11 track mixtape which he mostly produced himself. “I took inspiration from the scene from the matrix, where Morpheus shows Neo the TV in the white room and explains what the matrix actually is.” The project, receiving a mostly positive response, comes at a time of transition for Bishop, following his previous collaborative projects with MF Doom and Dizzy Wright, and the move away from Nas’ Mass Appeal label.
“With Magic 19, I was kind of expanding on that theory from the Matrix, taking inspiration from it and it’s message, and then making an album out of it” he explained. “I tried to be really creative with it.”
Despite only recently celebrating his 20th Birthday, Bishop Nehru is showing real signs of development since his last few releases, and his current headline 25-date tour, providing the perfect platform for him to build on it, will see him perform all over Europe before finishing with 5 dates in the UK and Ireland.
“I just did my show in LA with Redbull, that was dope, and I’ll be heading to the UK soon. I’ve performed in the UK before and I’m super excited to do it again with this tour. I remember the performances in Birmingham and Manchester, in particular, the energy was great, dope. I do have to go back there.”
Hip Hop’s Chosen One
At such a young age, Bishop Nehru has been associated with some legends of the game, including MF Doom, Nas of course, and even by touring with Wu-Tang. “To be looked upon as ‘one of the hopes for the culture’s future’, comes as both a bit of a burden and a blessing” he explained, sat back, in a blasé manner. “It’s more of a blessing, though, because to have that sort of tag on my name is an honour.”
“It’s something I worked for. It’s why I make music, definitely dope”.
His first experiences in music started with production in middle school and since has evolved into much more. “When I had this class, we’d pretty much make beats in, we’d produce to whatever was showing on the TV, with the TV muted. So pretty much since then I started to make my own type of music and experiment with finding my own sound.”
For Bishop Nehru, the lyrical side comes from poetry, through school. He recalls always being good at English, that being one of his favourite subjects as well as taking a creative writing course in high school, helping him a lot with writing about different topics creatively. “So mostly from school, and of course the other rappers I listen to.”
“With regards to my influences, there’s a lot of different generations and times that impact me. But off the top of my head, Nas, The Dooms, Wu-Tang, Kanye, 50 Cent, Eminem, they were major influences” he lists off, quite impressively for such a young rapper out of New York, although not much of a surprise given the depth and lyrical ability he depicts.
“There’s a bunch of different influences, even Michael Jackson I’m a huge fan of, plenty of different music from all different types of places.”
Then the conversation moved onto his relationship with Nas and MF Doom. “I’m just cool with them both…” he said breezily.
“…Both inside and outside of music we’re cool”, expanding on his relationship with Nas, despite parting ways with the legends’ record label recently. “With Nas, it just clicked, I wouldn’t call it some sort of special connection, but we vibe and it works well. I flew out to LA to meet Nas one of the first times, and I was mad excited, that’s a legend. I was stoked to hear he was messing with my stuff.”
The Bishop’s Next Stop
“Besides Hip Hop, I’ve been listening to a lot of other things…” he responded to being quizzed on his current playlist. “…I’ve been trying to expand musically and sonically, trying different things, so Hip Hop isn’t really something I’m listening to a lot to right now, not a lot of current stuff whilst I’ve been working.”
Kanye, Lil Uzi, Kodak Black and Isiah Rashad are on his list of what he has been/wants to get to listening to, however. Although, nowadays it’s a tough pick in Hip Hop to find a lot of substance, especially given the latest XXL Freshman cover..a hem. Although when addressing this, his perspective is one of buoyancy yet indifference.
“The current NY scene is pretty cool, everyone is doing their thing, it’s dope to see. With Hip Hop in general, there’s a lot going on, different songs, genres, people, styles. A lot of different sounds, not something I’d call weirdness, but unique.”
What’s next – Perhaps there will be a full studio project? “I’m unsure. It depends on a lot of things. It really depends on how I’m feeling after the tour, where I’m at. Whatever I do, I’m not expecting it to go double, triple quadruple platinum or nothing like that, but I feel like if I’m gonna settle for less, then I might as well make it the best project it could be.”
“So after this tour, yeah I’ll probably move onto that, or another project like we’ve just done again. It’s gonna be whatever feels right, I don’t wanna force anything.”
With his next project in mind, we moved onto who Bishop Nehru would like to work with in the future. “A lot” was his response. The names included Wiz, Kanye, Madlib, A$Ap Rocky and of course J Cole and Kendrick Lamar. None of whom seem too out of reach for a future contender for the Hip Hop throne.
“What advice would I give to others up and coming onto the scene?” he repeated, “Just have fun. Whilst are you doing this, make sure you’re having fun when you’re doing it. For sure. If you’re having fun, all the other stuff don’t really matter.”
2 More Questions.
What was the first piece of music you ever bought? – “I’m not gonna lie since like the third grade I knew how to download music illegally…(awkward pause). Ha, yeah, so like the first album I probably bought, was…Kanye’s MBDTF. I never paid for music.”
“I got gifts as CDs, but I never got them myself. I was young, I didn’t have money to do that. But the only CDs I ever remember getting was; Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Bow Wow’s Like Mike Soundtrack and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. “
Stage or studio? – “Both. Hahaha. Can I do that? Nobody probably did that, they probably said one or the other right? I’ll do both. Haa.”
Photography – Michael Loccisano via Getty Images