The indie hip-hop underground has taken some heat lately for being the domain of white suburban kids with backpacks. When I mention that to one of the movement's leading lights, Bryan Hollon (a.k.a. Boom Bip), he seems genuinely surprised at the observation: "Wow. I do find that the majority of our audience is white males."

Nevertheless, Boom Bip claims that the alt. hip-hop scene isn't really about being a safe enclave for Caucasian collegian headz. "Our audience is an intellectual audience," he says. "They want to be challenged by the music.

"A lot of hip-hop before the current underground stuff was party music. Great stuff to listen to while hanging out and driving around, but it did not keep you up all night staring at your radio. Things are just different now with hip-hop. We are in the same state that rock music was in when it turned psychedelic in the late 60's."

If that's the case, the Cincinnati might play the unlikely role of San Francisco as the psychedelic hip-hop mecca. It's here that ex-drummer Hollon hooked up with the Mush collective, releasing several slices of vinyl for the venerated label, including a collaboration with cLOUDDEAD's Doseone, Circle, that was recently re-released by the Leaf imprint.

Boom Bip's work piqued the interest of Tom Brown, who contacted Hollon about the new Lex label he was putting together with the help of Warp records. "He talked about how he was starting a new label, and it was going to be primarily avant hip-hop stuff," Boom Bip says. "He told me right from the start that the label was 'in-house' at Warp.

"Warp is a great label with great taste. I knew Lex would be the same. They have not let me down yet. I am very happy with the way things are panning out."

The Seed to Sun full length is the most extensive "thing" to develop from Boom Bip's relationship with Lex. If hip-hop's in its "psychedelic" age, then this document suggests that we think more in terms of metaphorical mind-blowing than the paisley, hippie-dippie stuff. While the basic beats-and-samples blueprint from the early days of hip-hop remains, Boom Bip's oddball montages, full of decaying analog synths and bouncy strings, play out in an autumnal sun, dappled in red and orange hues that rarely penetrate urban concrete jungles. As a result, Seed to Sun has as much in common with Boards of Canada as does it with El-P.

So it makes sense that just prior to the Seed to Sun album's release, Boom Bip participated in the brief Warp Nesh tour across North America this summer. The trek's most notorious moment when the tour bus broke down en route to Toronto. "Being stuck at a service station in the middle of nowhere gave us all an opportunity to get to know each other and trade software," he says.

Not surprisingly, Boom Bip's software was on a laptop he uses in his performances. But he also is a fan of a far more antiquated device, the Theremin, which is a part of his show, too. Sort of. "The Theremin I use really is not a Theremin," he says. "It is just a small optical eye that [produces feedback when exposed to different light levels.

"The Theremin is an instrument I will play for the rest of my life. I plan on collecting Theremins from all over the world at some point."

In the meantime, Boom Bip remains busy, preparing the next Lex 12-inch (which he promises will feature a Boards of Canada remix) and gearing up for another tour that should hit the US at the start of 2003. "Someday I will sleep, play with my dog and take baths again," he says.


Mush Records