Is discussion about rap over afternoon tea
Two months ago Rockland County rapper Bishop Nehru stopped going to school. He was 16, still is. ‘Dropped out’ is too strong a term, and wholly inaccurate – Nehru switched to home tutoring so he could make time for studies and music and days like today.
In a few hours the boy from Upstate New York will perform his first show outside of the US, at London’s 100 Club at the behest of co-headliners and Nehru heroes MF Doom and Ghostface Killah. It’s pretty big deal for a kid who’s released one mixtape and has never left the States until 8pm last night.
We meet at Soho Hotel for the proud English tradition of afternoon tea – me, Bishop, his press officer, manager and father. Of course he’s chaperoned, yet I half expect him to arrive alone. The ‘Nehruvia’ mixtape has an affect of skewing how old he actually is – 13 tracks of mellow, story-telling hip-hop that harks back to the Golden Age of beats and rhymes, wisely told and deftly put together. In turn the tracks feature beats from Doom, J Dilla, Madlib and DJ Premier, and humid jazz samples – pianos, clarinets and warm brass that conjures images of kids playing double-dutch on a hot city night. There’s more of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest about Bishop Nehru than peers A$AP Rocky, Lil B and Tyler, The Creator. He’s the antidote to the shock and awe of Odd Future, in fact, rarely cursing, pro school, laidback yet decidedly un-sleazy. He’s a good kid and makes no bones about it. “The older records sound so much more complex,” he says. “I would rather sound intelligent than ignorant. In hip-hop now it’s cool to be dumb, but I don’t think that’s cool at all.
“To me, curses are emphasizers. Let’s say you call someone a bitch, if you put ‘fucking’ in front of it, it emphasizes it, but I don’t know why rappers cuss so much. It’s ignorant, but people like it, and that’s even more odd to me. To me, people are just trying to sound tough, which is why people in hip-hop say ‘fag’, because they see calling someone else feminine in some way makes them less feminine and more of a man.”