Bishop Nehru remembers the title of his eighth album, My Disregarded Thoughts, appearing to him in a vision when he was in the seventh grade.
“I knew I wanted to make a concept record about what it takes to free yourself from mental enslavement,” the New York rapper recalls over a crackly phone line. “The plan was to make something that showed real vulnerability and was, like, the polar opposite of masking how I felt.”
Thankfully this high school pledge is something the artist has more than honored as a 23-year-old adult, with the artist’s new record underpinned by a brutal honesty. Clearly seen as a coming-of-age album, My Disregarded Thoughts - particularly via highlights like Colder and Too Lost (produced by DJ Premier) - is about showing young black men and women how to escape a culture that encourages their morbidity, and to find a way to embrace getting older.
The introspective trap of “In My Zone”, which includes the boast: “I have no friends / I be chillin alone”, promotes self-love and an inward-looking perspective at odds with the Instagram generation’s need for persistent external validation. But these were all intentional moves by Bishop, who explains: “Violence means so many black people don’t get the chance to grow old, but I want to show my people that growing old is something to cherish and a chance to gain more wisdom. Like, I don’t see it as bad to chill alone either. If you are able to chill by yourself and still feel great then you’re a lot stronger than someone who always needs external validation. When I was 15, the idea of being alone was terrifying, but now it’s like: being alone is cool as fuck.”
He clarifies: “This music is about me growing older and changing, but actively embracing that shit. It’s a record about being alone with your thoughts, but learning how to create a world with your imagination that can be used to heal and move forward. If more black people were comfortable with their own shadow then the world would be a much better place.”
The new album also marks some serious growth for Bishop as a musician and producer, with the artist interpreting a diverse set of sounds that draw upon pop, rock, emo and jazz. The nostalgic guitars of Wide as the Night Sky are his attempt to create the rap equivalent of Porcelain by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, while the pop-driven theatrics of Emperor exudes a much lighter mood, where Bishop confidently raps: “Killed the scene since a kid they should call it The Omen.”
This is the kind of record that shifts between light and darkness with the same dynamic variation of Lupe Fiasco’s diverse masterpiece The Cool, and Bishop is acutely aware that the greatest artists are able to create their own universe by crafting records that have real depth.
On first listen, a song like “Little Suzy” might sound like a conventional tale of tragic drug dependency, but the more you sit with the song, the more likely you’ll start to interpret the storytelling in a different way entirely. “I learned that technique from working with MF Doom,” Bishop adds. “He’s one of the few artists where you can spin their shit back 10 or 20 times and still be like ‘yo, I never caught that before!’ My music is layered so something that sounds one way now could mean something completely different as you get older. I think the best rappers really make you invest in their struggle and their world, and I pride myself on being that kind of artist.”
MF Doom, who has been a friend and mentor to Bishop ever since their raw 2014 collaborative effort NehruviamDoom, even turns up to spit surrealist bars over a trademark soul sample on Meathead. According to Bishop, his new album’s confessional nature was inspired, in part, by the veteran rapper" “DOOM just kept telling me to stop overthinking things and that I needed to use my own intuition more. He taught me how to really embody the music and feel it deep inside my stomach. When we’re together, he’s like Shaq and I’m Kobe."
People know Bishop Nehru is a great rapper, but My Disregarded Thoughts is about proving he’s a great artist, too. Looking ahead to the future, Bishop concludes: “It can be limiting to just be called a rapper, especially when your music touches so many different bases. I know the perception people have of rappers: they think you're a dumb kid who makes music. But I think this record shows that I'm not like these regular ass rappers; I’m a true artist. My music is about making people feel fearless."
released May 8, 2020
All Tracks Mixed & Mastered By Corey Tunnessen except EMPEROR mixed by Markel Scott & Too Lost Mixed by DJ Premier
supported by 20 fans who also own “Nehruvia: My Disregarded Thoughts”
Like so many others, this came like a bolt out of the blue and, even though it's well before payday, I had to have this astonishing album on vinyl to prove it exists. The feel of the tunes makes me feel like the Impressions do, Curtis Mayfield, the big spaces and instinctive horns and stuff drifting in and out. Great grooves and I can see lots of ghosts nodding along to this with big smiles on their faces. At last! Anthony Cottrell