Bishop Nehru's "Elevators: Act I & II" Review

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Despite his demonstrated prowess, and relative success Bishop Nehru exists somewhere outside most hip-hop conversation. He’s independent but not quite underground. Not quite a newcomer but not quite a veteran. Beyond the Beast Coast, his music is mostly an outlier if compared to many his rap peers, those who are in his age group. Not to mention he’s practically MF DOOM’s protege. And much like DOOM, beyond the rapping, Bishop himself is mostly quiet.

Drawing inspiration from The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, Elevators features an eclectic and heavily layered soundscape for Bishop to stretch his lyrical prowess on. Kaytranada handles the production for "Act 1: Ascension" and MF DOOM covers "Act 2: Free Fall." Elevators is a fitting name for the album because social mobility and change are the most pervading themes the album. Even "Act 2: Free Falling" is very much thematically about improving one’s place in life and overcoming difficulty. Bishop Nehru is somewhere between feeling he is greatly overlooked in current rap debates and not caring at all about the debate. Bishop’s energy on the album is best summarized by a gem on the final track,“Rotops.” “I said it loud, still nobody would hear/ But if a tree falls in the forest and you ain’t near/ Does it still make a sound or will sound disappear? Huh Exactly, just as I expected/ Knew if I kept dropping they’d hear it at any second.” Whether it’s heard or not, the sound still exists just as a lack recognition or perspective doesn’t diminish one’s success. We’re living in a time when controversy and spectacle is rewarded much more quickly than good rapping, but Nehru is very clearly in it for the long haul no matter how he’s initially received.

Beyond a few moments where a choir appears, and the introductory skit, Lion Babe is the only additional vocal feature on the effort. Bishop provides a plethora bars, but some there’s something about his delivery that sometimes causes his words to gets swallowed up by the intricacies the production. Bishop sounds much more compelling on the DOOM-led second half Elevators. It’s hard to tell if it’s the comfortability created from frequent collaborators or something else entirely, but Nehru’s lines punch significantly harder on the "Free Falling" side. Accurately assessing a body work based on dichotomy gets difficult because it’s hard to discern intention, but there’s clearly a much deeper sense urgency in the albums second act.

It seems as though the Bishop on "Act 1: Ascension" is calmer, and the version himself that appears there is writing from a place confidence and success. The first half the album has Nehru looking down from a lty perch, although he is still dealing with the struggles success, with his new found perspective he is mostly looking back at the bad times as a thing the past.

There’s a sense that the first half the album is more theoretical or intellectual when compared to the second half. Although it isn’t necessarily celebratory, Kaytranada’s section certainly has a more positive lilt than "Act II." By the time “Tazers” (which is almost certainly a reference to the opening track on King Geedorahs’s “Phazers”) comes around it no longer feels like Nehru is rapping about the darkness abstractly but rather he’s been plunged back into the depths it and is swimming strongly not to be swallowed by the current.

It’s interesting to note that the album starts on Nehru’s upward trajectory and ends with him falling, instead the perhaps "more obvious" opposite. Nehru has said that he’s been focused on studying music theory as late and that much the Kaytranada side the album was a result these forays. Having already done a project with DOOM closer in the style the second half the album, perhaps it is meant to be representative the “old” Bishop and the free falling is analogous to him falling back into his comfort zone and not branching out as far musically beyond simply “having bars.” This is merely speculation but perhaps it would explain the increased zeal on the latter end the album, even on songs that are about more depressing subjects.

Much like Pet Sounds there are a number extra-musical sounds included to round out the sonics the album. “Tazers,” for example, contains a number electrical buzzes and bird chirps interwoven throughout the beat-- and if you listen carefully there are a number little seemingly tangential sounds peppered throughout the work. Unfortunately, there is a sense that Nehru is riding the coattails the production on the project. While there are plenty moments where he meets the sonics head on (“Drifting,” “Rollercoasting,” “Again and Again” especially so) it too frequently feels as if his energy is being overshadowed by the lushness the beats. This unevenness is echoed by Bishop himself, in the first words on the album: “Welcome to Elevators. An MF DOOM and Kaytranada production.” That being said Elevators is a sharp and concise piece work from one rap’s most promising young artists. As an avid student the game, Nehru is sure to keep growing and expanding his sound, and only time will tell what he’ll eventually manifest into.