The veteran mentor/young up-and-comer dynamic almost always has a good story behind it, even if it’s a simple one. In 2013, when he was still two years away from the legal drinking age that his show’s attendees were at, rising NYC phenom Bishop Nehru shared a bill with MF DOOM in London’s renowned 100 Club. Nehru had already seized on the opportunity to rhyme over a DOOM beat the previous year on his early release Nehruvia: the Mixtape with his track “Lemon Grass”. Even more fittingly, he opened the mix with an interview clip of DOOM venting about the state of the hip-hop industry, one that could’ve been recorded any time in the last ten years and still more or less held true.
With Nehru operating as an East Coast classicist-minded MC with a ’94 revivalist mindset that rivals Joey Bada$$, forging a relationship with DOOM should have solidified his status as a strong young talent. But NehruvianDOOM sounds more like the work of an MC with a little while longer to go and a producer who’s sounded more inspired in the past (even in exile). Even at only eight tracks—nine if you count the intro—Nehru’s presence starts to tread water, a technically sound voice with solid lyrical structure that isn’t quite there yet as far as bringing a unique perspective is concerned.
To be fair, harshing on a teenage rapper still finding his voice is like griping that I Was Made to Love Her is a weaker album than Innervisions. It’s easier to shrug at what DOOM brings to the table, actually; his role on this record, touted as the first full-length production job by DOOM since King Geedorah‘s 2003 album Take Me to Your Leader, is largely relegated to unearthing some of the more underused stuff from his Special Herbs archives. It still bumps, just in a way that a lot of hardcore heads have likely heard before, all blurry soul-jazz and punch-drunk underquantized drums. DOOM’s verses, rare as they are, also still show glimmers of the off-the-cuff-sounding, truism-tweaking conversational punchlines that made him so appealing throughout the ’00s—but they mostly come across as autopilot or hook-duty versions of his usual self, with the occasional contemporary reference (like a missing Malaysian airplane joke in “Disastrous”) held up like a newspaper headline in a proof of life hostage photo.
So Nehru’s shortcomings are easier to forgive, even if the best you can say about him at this point is that he’s lucky to be one of those rare high-school age artists who doesn’t let his own naiveté get the best of him. He maintains a solid balance between conceptual wordplay, philosophical musings, and internal rhymes, but it’s not quite well-traveled enough to possess a real authority. Which makes sense, in that he’s still figuring shit out; a line like “Am I being idolized, or am I a pair of idle eyes” in “Om” or the frustrated come-up aspirations of “So Alone” touch on a nerve of creative-teenager introspection. Those lines are delivered with more finesse than personality, a flat-voiced series of monologues that have their share of nod-worthy internal rhymes but still need refining into a style that outgrows its influences. The number of recent artists who’ve done that by the time they hit 18 can be counted on one hand, so it’s still worth following Nehru’s development just to see where he takes his style. But in the meantime, this generation-crossing collaboration feels like a record lodged in a sort of chronological rut, one where a young artist fronts an old-sounding record that sounds like it could’ve been released at any point in his lifetime—and helmed by any number of MCs that could’ve sounded like him.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1pllDVE