Seeding the Hip Hop Clouds
Cincinnati’s Boom Bip is a Dr. Sample incarnate, a machine turned man that sucks in sound and spits out music. From the collage-clash mix and match aesthetic of his collaboration with Dose-one, the 2001 Mush records release Circle, to his sparse yet lush solo album Seed to Sun on Lex, Boom Bip’s music remains as enigmatic as it is charismatic, resisting classification while irresistibly badunkadunk classy. He’s one of the few producers out there that could remix Boards of Canada and Amon Tobin and make them both so fresh and so clean. A true musician’s DJ, many of the sounds he smears into his listeners’ ears come from strings he’s plunked himself, via the LoFi-highway, that dusky-dusty reverb that he has helped to define as the sound of Cinci. And since he samples the noise of his own existence before twisting into music, you ought to listen as closely as you read – you might learn something about him.
Dusted: What's the biggest challenge you face as a hip-hop producer working in the early 21st century, with regard to finding new expressions in a nearly 30-year-old art form?
Boom Bip: The biggest challenge is dealing with hip-hop purists who feel hip hop should never change. A lot of people seem overly concerned about the reshaping of hip hop and feel insecure about accepting anything that does not seem "familiar" to them. I guess it is like that in every genre, but for some reason people are very possessive with this art form. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that it originally was a lifestyle more than a genre of music. The purists feel we are ruining their lifestyle if we change the art form.
Dusted: Hip hop seems to becoming much more malleable, with many different influences flooding in, especially in the works of anticon, Mush, Warp/Lex, and Def Jux artists, as well as in Timbaland's productions. Are we in the midst of a new golden age of hip hop? And do you think producers are finally starting to get more respect now after so many years of MCs getting most of the hype (I mean besides Timbaland and the Neptunes)?
Boom Bip: I don't think we are in a golden age of hip hop, but I do feel progressions are being made. Artists like El-P, Beans, Aesop Rock, Dose One and Radioinactive are really pushing boundaries with vocabulary. Some of those artists are keeping their feet more planted in hip hop than others, but all of it is headed in the right direction. I think producers still don't get the credit that they deserve, but "the times they are a changing." The Neptunes and Timbaland have basically invented a sound or production technique that catches the attention of fans outside of hip hop. This is because the fans hear other influences they can relate to, such as drum & bass, rock or techno. My music is the same way in the sense that it dabbles in other genres. People who appreciate indie rock find themselves attracted to a mostly hip-hop track and the hip-hoppers find something identifiable in a mostly electronic or rock track. For an MC, it is not that easy. The producer is the one that can really cross-pollinate genres, which helps expand the listening audience. Soon we will get the credit we deserve... I hope.
Dusted: Why do you think Cincinnati has developed such a fertile hip-hop scene? What are the benefits of being based there? Disadvantages?
Boom Bip: Cincinnati is an interesting place. I think the reason so many people are creative here, is that the overall life style is very domestic. We sit around in our homes a lot and watch television. Television can cloud one's perception of life and what is obtainable. That is why so many kids set out to be rock stars in the Midwest. Some succeed and many try. The benefit of living in Cincinnati is that we can live very cheap in nice housing. People can actually afford to live in a nice apartment and buy studio equipment. The disadvantages are really what you make them. You don't really have to have any if you don't want to.
Dusted: Would you rather work with rappers or not, and why? If yes, who are your ideal collaborators?
Boom Bip: I am really not that interested in working with rappers in the future. I only like to work with those so-called “rappers” who are really pushing the boundaries. That is why I chose Buck 65 and Dose on the last album. I think both of those guys are great artist and really make great music. I have several people that I would love to work with. Most are vocalists and not rappers. A few that I can think of are: Cat Power, Bjork, Kim Gordon, Why?, David Berman, Jim O’Rourke, etc.
Dusted: One online zine’s review of Seed To Sun claimed the album isn't hip hop. What’s your response to that?
Boom Bip: I agree with that. The album is not hip hop. Several of the songs use elements that you hear in hip-hop music, but I don't really look at them as hip hop. That term is just not suitable for what I do. I don't know which term is, but not that one. Plus, there is too much baggage tied to that term. Refer to question 1.
Dusted: Where are the richest sources of samples coming from now? Prog/psych-rock records? What's in your collection that would make DJ Shadow green with envy?
Boom Bip: To be honest, I have moved away from sampling. If I do it now, it is usually a sound-effects record or something very strange. But the prog-rock records are where it’s at: Chase, Can, Faust, King Crimson, etc. I have a few 45s of old Cincinnati labels with nasty drum breaks that Shadow would love to get a hold of. I also have some very rare King records and a lot of James Brown 45s that people pay a fortune for. A lot of people don't realize Cincinnati was the funk capitol of the world in the 1970s. All of those people who were really into it here bought records. Now they want to get rid of them.
Dusted: What can people expect from your live show?
Boom Bip: A lot of ass-shaking and smiling. It is the most energetic set I have ever done and it will keep the audience moving. Some new tracks will be premiered and some old ones reworked. It should be fun.
By Dusted Magazine