The term ‘hotly anticipated’ is often banded around in the wake of album releases. For this reason, I will attempt to avoid using it to describe the collaboration between Bishop Nehru and MF DOOM. To some, this release will pass entirely under the radar. Whilst DOOM may be a household name, if your household happen to be avid followers of the hip-hop scene, Nehru arrives as a somewhat unknown quantity. At just 18 years of age, the chance to collaborate alongside one of the industry’s most respected and acclaimed artists must have been impossible to turn down.
Despite promising to avoid labelling this album hotly anticipated, on a personal level to say I was excited would be an understatement. I’ve been a long-term fan of DOOM: I have a massive weak spot for any artist who uses extensive and thoughtful samples. Furthermore, his decision to bring Nehru under his wing would suggest that this is one youngster worth getting excited about.
Thus we arrive at the album itself. At just 10 tracks (one of these being a 1:48 intro) it’s a concise and clearly thought through piece of work. The intro bares all the hallmarks of a DOOM piece, with a melodic hook playing out behind a series of samples. At this point we’re introduced to what could be called the sub-theme of the album: meditation. More specifically, a crackled recording discusses the idea of an ‘OM’ sound, which sets the scene for the albums opening track.
OM is probably one of the album’s strongest pieces. It flows so fantastically well, the ‘OM’ that hums along in the background has somewhat of a Jesus Walks vibe to it. DOOM takes control of the chorus, and his creative mark is clear in much of the background. It’s a set-up that continues throughout the record, with DOOM setting the stage for Nehru. That is not to say that Nehru’s role is secondary; he seizes his opportunity with both hands and exhibits some brilliantly executed lyrics.
In OM Nehru comes flying out of the blocks, tackling the perhaps clichéd issue of a young artist with much to prove. It’s a style and theme that ties in well with the album’s nod to meditation and calmness. These are not the words of an uncertain boy, but of a self-assured man ready to make waves. It’s an image further re-enforced in Great Things. At one point in the track he quizzes:
Were you part of the few who knew Nehru before he blew?
Nehru is certainly unafraid to be bold.
Alongside OM, Darkness (HBU) was one of the pre-released tracks from the album, and was one of the main reasons so many, myself included, saw reason to get excited by this collaboration. It’s a crawling and repetitive track, though not at all in a negative manner. It focuses on some of the potent themes of the modern hip-hop scene; how it has prevailed, and what the artists themselves have done with it.
However, there are perhaps more surface level themes to the album. Mean The Most is a somewhat soulfully romantic tune. Once again, the hook and off-pitch samples throughout the piece have DOOM’s fingerprints all over them. Meanwhile, it gives Nehru a chance to exhibit a more tender and somewhat musical side to his lyrics and style. If this album says anything of Nehru, it’s that he’s certainly not a one-dimensional artist.
DOOM’s own rap isn’t entirely absent; he features in the album’s closing track, Disastrous, heavily, and also on Caskets. Whilst OM, Darkness (HBU), Mean The Most, and Great Things are perhaps the most ‘single-worthy’ tracks from the album, I couldn’t help but feel drawn to Caskets. The opening three-minute segment is very lyric-heavy; DOOM and Nehru probably share the weight equally. This is then followed by a near two-minute sample, accompanied by a trawling piano riff. The sample appears to be from a sort of life-coach, discussing the burden of hard times, and how we deal with them. It’s a very deliberate play by DOOM and Nehru. When the sample is taken in conjunction with the album’s themes, it becomes all the more meaningful and enjoyable.
Whilst, as the duo clearly intended, there are tracks on NehruvianDOOM that are independently strong, taken as a whole piece there is a wonderfully complete feel to the album as a piece of work. As with many of the greatest hip-hop albums of the golden age, it has that wonderfully holistic and timeless feel to it. It plays through so seamlessly, and it’s not too hard to imagine coming across it in several years time, dusting it off, and dedicating half an hour to it, start to finish.