Rising MC Bishop Nehru took over Los Angeles’ Echoplex on Tuesday night, bringing a taste of his timeless New York sound to the West Coast. The rapper did his best to excite the crowd during his hour on stage, and although he didn’t quite manage to raise the energy to his desired level, he still ultimately delivered a decent performance.
Just last month, Nehru released his new album Elevators: Act I and II, featuring solid production courtesy of KAYTRANADA on Act I and MF DOOM on Act II. The 21-year-old performed plenty of the material from the project, alternating between each act to allow for variety in the soundscape. At one point, he left it up to the audience to choose which producer they wanted to hear from, subsequently launching into “Rollercoasting” after a resounding shout in favor of MF DOOM.
The energy was at its peak when Nehru interacted with the crowd in instances such as this, connecting him with the audience and allowing his personality to shine through. He often contextualized his songs before diving into them, alerting his fans to pay special attention to the storytelling in each verse on “The Game of Life” in order to fully understand his intended message.
When he attempted to hype up the crowd with trap-influenced, 808 heavy bass lines, however, Nehru was less successful. Determined to turn the night into a party, he gave the crowd a full song’s warning before playing “AreYouKidding?! (77 Version),” although the sparsely populated crowd showed little energy as he jumped about on stage. He saw a stronger reaction from the KAYTRANADA-produced “Get Away,” however, exciting the crowd with the funky, high-energy beat.
Disorganization was another of the evening’s pitfalls, although more of an issue than during Nehru’s.
Culver City rapper Verbs was given about 30 minutes to win over the crowd, but his self-deprecating personality proved too tiring to adequately enthuse the crowd by the end of his set. Originally, his lackadaisical approach to his performance was somewhat endearing but as the act wore on, he began to blur the line between comedic relief and genuine ineptitude. Frequently, Verbs abruptly cut songs short during the first verse and retreated back to the DJ booth to choose a new song, creating awkward gaps of silence and preventing his set from flowing smoothly.
To a lesser extent, Nehru was guilty of this as well, allowing for brief gaps in the program as he consulted the DJ about what song to play next. Unlike Verbs, however, fans were often quick to chime in about what they wanted to hear next, persuading Nehru to perform “Hands Down” off his 2017 album Emperor Nehru’s New Groove near the end of his set. “Potassium” was another popular suggestion although Nehru chose not to play the song, instead closing the evening with “Highs and Lows” after a motivational message to anyone struggling through difficult situations.
At different parts of his set, Nehru’s a capella verses were well-received by the audience, proving his skill and capability as a lyricist. The show was most enjoyable during these moments as well as when Nehru performed more mellow material, allowing the crowd to nod their heads to the beat in agreement. The song “Welcome,” which saw Nehru rapping over the classic, J Dilla-produced “DFTF,” was a perfect example of this, putting a smile on the faces of many with its relaxed, earthy sound.
It was far from the best concert of Nehru’s burgeoning career, but still showcased him as a talented, renaissance MC driven by a hunger to out rap the best of them. The limited attendance likely played a role in the evening’s shortcomings, but it’s not hard to see Nehru putting on a better performance the next time he’s in Los Angeles, assuming more of the city’s hip-hop heads decide to come out and show their support for the lyricist.