Bishop Nehru & MF DOOM craft the fall's first great hip-hop album.
In superhero literature, it's not uncommon for an aging master like Bruce Wayne to find himself a protégé. Often arriving at our hero's lowest point -- after the death in the family or, perhaps, a critical injury -- this stranger inspires the hero to get back to doing what he does best: fighting crime and selling a ton of movie theater tickets.
No matter how much he insists on painting himself as a villain, MF DOOM is a hip-hop superhero -- an iconic figure in the hip-hop community that achieved notoriety by doing right by the people: by making great music. The fact that he has managed to become such a known figure with not a single hit single or platinum album to his name is nothing short of incredible. After fifteen years in the game, he's still going strong.
When Operation: Doomsday was released, Bishop Nehru was three-years-old. At first glance, their pairing on NehruvianDOOM is an odd one as far as collaborations go. Most collaboration albums are the result of years of casual collaboration that accumulate into something bigger. Compared to something like Watch The Throne, NehruvianDOOM sounds, on a surface level, almost too random to be excited for. Musically, however, it's about as thrilling as anything else you've heard in 2014.
The most impressive feature of NehruvianDOOM is how fluid the project sounds given the dramatic age difference between the ringleaders. Owing a great deal more to vintage East Coast hip-hop than DOOM's more experimental efforts (the best of which remains Madvillainy), the project finds the duo meeting somewhere in the middle of their respective influences. The result is an album that neither sounds catered toward DOOM fans nor enthusiasts of Bishop's original tapes, but rather an intriguing mix of both parties.
Lyrically, Bishop carries the bulk of the material here, so MF fans hoping to hear some new verses from metal face will likely be disappointed. Fortunately, the young emcee proves himself as not only capable of crafting some dope lyrics, but even outperforming DOOM himself on select tracks. Nehru's strength is being one of NY's most unique lyricists. "Moving thick bricks is not the only way to get rich,” he proclaims on “Darkness (HBU)”. It's odd to think that a rapper taking a firm stance against pushing drugs is somewhat novelty but it is. Throughout the project, Nehru demonstrates a conscious pull away from these kind of industry cliches. He's an intelligent and compelling speaker whose maturity is a few years ahead of his age-group. It's easy to hear why DOOM (and Nas for that matter) decided to take him under his wing.
If the album suffers any fallbacks, it's in performance. While Nehru's lyrics are always compelling, he has yet to really find his energy as a emcee. It feels inappropriate to say that Nehru needs a "gimmick," but the truth is, he does very little to stand out here. Plenty of rappers can be philosophical, but the greats do more than that: they create a sound. Great emcees can be impersonated. Nehru's voice here lacks any distinct tones and his flows tend be to be a bit all over the place like he's trying -- as he should be -- to find which suits him best. If he finds that sound for the next release, I'm expecting something truly special.
At the end of the day, NehruvianDOOM is the fall's first truly exciting hip-hop release. While it's not perfect, it does establish Bishop Nehru as an up-and-comer to watch. DOOM, meanwhile, remains as intriguing as ever despite taking on a more behind-the-scenes role. Check it out.