The big thing is the age difference. It’s quick math: A full quarter century separates the 43-year-old DOOM and the 18-year-old Bishop Nehru, the latest startlingly young New York rapper. On his debut mixtape, Nehruvia, Bishop showed his respect for his now-mentor by opening with a rip of a DOOM interview and proceeding to nab two of his instrumentals. Now, the two are NehruvianDOOM, and they’ve made a record that owes more to the East Coast’s ’90s than anything that’s remotely new-sounding. Ultimately, their brand of preservation — which includes everything from the usual signifiers (like boom-bap production) to old-hat slang (like when Bishop is “mackin’ with your chick”) — shows that a veteran and a newcomer can exist on the same page just fine.
“Moving thick bricks is not the only way to get rich,” declares Bishop on “Darkness (HBU)”, which recycles a prior DOOM instrumental, “Bergamont”. That line alone is enough to position him opposite rappers who view drug dealing as a path to a luxe lifestyle, and in general, Bishop seems skeptical of such trends. As it turns out, the darkness he’s talking about on “Darkness (HBU)” partly refers to his impression of today’s hip-hop. He flatters old heads on “Disastrous”, too: “No, this ain’t no ’94 shit/ Still classic,” he goes, as though the year of Illmatic and Ready to Die is the undeniable Golden Age.
That’s not to say he’s constantly slamming a gavel. Mostly, Bishop just seems awed by all the possibilities the act of rapping has to offer. If you knew of him a couple years ago, you may have taken the usual athletic-scout note: The potential’s there, but it’ll take some time before everything comes into focus. Unsurprisingly, Bishop is now proving himself with line after line. From “Great Things”: “Rappers mad ’cause I show ’em hearses/ It’s not my purpose, they just worthless.” On “Darkness (HBU)”, he shares the basis of his writing method: “I express the stress that invests my chest.” On “Great Things”, he shows both ambition and doubt with another shipment of internal rhymes: “He might go psycho trying to top Michael/ But I know my rhymes pyro and won’t spiral/ Unless it’s vinyl.”
Those lines hint at Bishop’s utter sincerity, which is ultimately what separates him from so many of his peers. Here’s his willingly corny hook on “Great Things”: “I’mma do great things, great things/ No, y’all can’t stop my dreams and my vision.” On “Caskets”, he’s humble enough to admit he was shot down by his ideal prom date, a traumatic experience most rappers would never recount. “Mean the Most” strolls in stark contrast to other rappers’ more graphic lines about women: “For real, girl, I will satisfy your needs.”
Bishop’s mature outlook is more vital to the album than anything, but DOOM, for his part, also delivers. Beats-wise, he rounds up a long list of soul and funk samples, punchy drums, and screwball skits. Standout instrumentals include “Darkness (HBU)”, which is a cosmopolitan rush of horns, and “Great Things”, which is jazzy and fittingly optimistic. There are also DOOM’s usual comedic interludes, and the one that never fails to make me laugh is the Smurf-sounding one on “Coming for You”: “Hey! Here’s a magic message. Read it, and pass it on.” (You have to hear it.) In fact, if there’s a theme to these pieces of dialog, it’s the importance of self-teaching, and DOOM gets the point across without relying too much on samples.
On the other hand, DOOM only occasionally shows up on the mic, which means he doesn’t even rap enough lines to make the mark he did with Operation: Doomsday or Madvillainy. However, he makes the most of his time. He zigzags all over “Disastrous”, and on “Great Things”, he offers words of advice: “Beware of apathy and procrastination.” On “Om”, the normally chorus-averse wordsmith’s hook outlines his and Bishop’s imminent impact: “Point blank, right between the eyes/ Any fool can get it, so don’t be too surprised, guys.”
Despite the cosign, Bishop still raps likes he’s an underdog, someone who’s at an inherent disadvantage because he doesn’t endorse, say, selling crack. And yet, in New York alone, you have Joey Bada$$ (another DOOM disciple), The Underachievers, and Flatbush Zombies toying with words in all kinds of dexterous ways and thriving because of it. If anything, Bishop is an underdog because he’s younger than all of those MCs, but that’s hardly something to be worried about — it just means his fans have great expectations for his future. It’s promising that a kid as talented and hungry as Bishop already has the experience of working with someone with several classics under his belt. And, while NehruvianDOOM is solid on its own, he’s still working toward his destination.
Essential Tracks: “Coming for You”, “Darkness (HBU)”, and “Om”