Interview: Bishop Nehru, From Introvert To Rap Prodigy
At 18 years old, New York rapper Bishop Nehru (real name Markel Scott) boasts a pretty ridiculous resume. He opened up for Wu-Tang Clan on their 20th anniversary tour in Europe, was shouted out by Kendrick Lamar on Fuse TV, and collaborated with the likes of MF DOOM and British electronic outfit Disclosure. Not to mention, Bishop recently caught the attention of Nas, who signed the young MC to his label Mass Appeal Records and is executive producing his upcoming debut album.
But before this tidal wave of music-industry attention, Bishop, like most other teenagers, was just looking for a way to express himself. He put out his mixtapes Nehruvia and strictlyFLOWz when he was 16, showing off his intricate — at times existential — lyrical sensibilities and unabashed love for ‘90s boom-bap beats. He also directs, shoots and edits most of his music videos. Bishop talks about his creative journey, Super 8 cameras and his forthcoming full-length below:
I saw on your Twitter recently that you said, “I wish I liked traveling as much as the average person. It would make life a lot easier.” What don’t you like about traveling?
I’m an introvert. I like being to myself, thinking of new things to do, thinking of new ways to break barriers, thinking of new ways to do new things. Even if [my music] has sort of an old feel to it, I still try to expand and make things that sound different. Outside you can get inspiration, but being inside and truly working on it yourself is pretty much a way to build and be able to get your own sight of things and your own way of doing things.
Right. I know you also direct your own videos. Do you have any movies that have been influencing you recently?
Right now, I’m pretty much going back to the roots of directing and film and starting to stray away from watching movies that I would normally watch. I’ve always kind of watched different movies, but now I’m starting to watch movies from the ‘50s, the ‘60s and moving into the ‘70s. I like the Technicolor look to it, and the way it was shot on film. I just admire directing a lot more back then because, on film, you only got one chance to shoot.
I feel like if you were born a little earlier, you’d be the kid with the Super 8 camera just filming everything.
Yeah, I say that a lot too! I still want to get a Super 8 camera that’s the thing. It’s just harder to come by that. But I’ve said, when I get a lot of money, I’m going to be that rapper that, instead of buying $50,000 chains, I’m going to be buying $50,000 camera lenses.
Definitely not a bad way to be! Seems like you were influenced by music from a young age. When did you first know that you wanted to start making music?
Man. I wrote my first rap in like first or second grade, maybe a little younger than that. I was like heavily influenced at the time by Lil’ Romeo and Lil’ Bow Wow. *Laughs* So I had a notebook, and I took it to school and I wrote some raps in it. My mom found it, and she told me to never bring it to school again.
It had curses and stuff in it. It wasn’t appropriate to bring to school. *Laughs*
Were you interested in school?
Growing up, I always had good grades until like high school I think. Because it kind of got repetitive for me. Since a young age, I never really liked school, but I always dealt with it. And actually when I was in high school, the music started to get really big for me too. I was doing interviews at lunchtime and leaving the class to go to the bathroom to do interviews. So it was like music was getting big while I was in school.
So, Nas took you under his wing and is executive producing your album, you’ve opened up for Wu-Tang, Kendrick Lamar shouted you out on Fuse TV... That’s insane to me. How does it feel to get noticed by all of these big names so early on in your career?
It’s cool. These are people I’ve listened to for a very long time. Kendrick I’ve literally been listening to forever. Before good kidd, m.A.A.d city dropped, I was still in high school making music, but I was listening to that in the hallways. And Nas even. I don’t want to even say how long I’ve been listening to dudes like that. It’s cool to see everything come 360.
And so you and MF Doom recently collaborated together on NehruvianDOOM. But it seems that you’ve been influenced by him even when you put out your first mixtape Nehruvia. Have you learned any tricks from him? Has he given you any advice?
This is a thing he told me, and it’s pretty much just “Throughout everything, you already know what you want to do. You already have your plan.” There’s going to be a lot of people that want to add to my plan and subtract to my plan. He told me what I want to do is working, and he told me what I want to do is good. Stick to the plan that I already have and keep going. Don’t let any outsiders or anything like that mess it up. And that’s what I’m going to keep in head.
I also wanted to talk to you about your song “Darkness (HBU)” on NehruvianDOOM. For lack of a better word, it’s quite a dark song.
No pun intended. *Laughs* Well, it’s pretty much a dark time we live in. It was pretty much an expression of that. You know, a lot of teenage kids being murdered and police killing blacks. It was pretty much a song against all that. Against all the negative energy in the world and speaking on it.
Was this around the same time that you were collaborating with Disclosure? To me, it seems like a very different direction for you. What was it like working with them?
It was dope. They’re influenced by hip-hop as well, and a lot of hip-hop dudes I’m influenced by, J Dilla being one of the key ones, so we definitely linked with that. Electronic music is something I listened to as well. I listen to literally all types of music. I’ve been listening to dubstep-type of music since late middle school, so it’s just kind of a way to show different influences that I have of mine. And I think it was in an interview that they said they wanted to work with me as well. We kind of came together like that.
Yeah, and this is all leading up to your debut album. What can we expect to see from that?
Honestly, I could say that sonically it is a little different than the usual. But it’s, much like with NehruvianDOOM, I say this about all my projects. I always try to find something different to say, but I always end up saying the same thing. It kind of has its own sound. I don’t ever try to make a project sound like my last one on purpose.
Is there anyone you’d like to work with for your album?
Nas is on some stuff. I want to get a beat from DOOM. I’m not really too sure about collabs yet. I know there’s a lot of singing stuff that I want to put on there. So I might be looking for a couple of singers. Doing more singing collabs than rap ones.
So is it in the writing stages right now?
I already have new stuff recorded. I have some stuff produced by myself on there. There’s probably going to be a lot of stuff produced by myself on there. Some stuff I give to other people, but I really want to focus on branching out with my production. I want to focus on people hearing my sound, so they don’t think that the sound another person produced is the sound that they’re going to get on the next project.
Written By Rachel Sonis (@RachelSonis1)