Thursday, August 08, 2002

Hip-hop DJ spins his way to the top

Next wave: Who's up and coming

By Larry Nager,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Bryan Hollon is ready for the next step in his DJ evolution.

        Under his nom de spin, DJ Boom Bip, he has climbed from a turntable-scratching accompanist for area rap acts to a headlining DJ at such posh Cincinnati nightspots as the Spy Club.

   What: Scribble Jam 2002
   When: Today-Sunday
   Where: Today at Top Cat's, Corryville, 281-2005; Friday and Saturday at Annie's Entertainment Center, East End, 321-2572; Sunday, noon-6 p.m. party in Bellevue Hill Park, Clifton; closing party at S.S. Nova, 2260 Central Parkway, 6 p.m.-midnight.
   Admission: Varies, go to
        Now the Lima, Ohio, native, who performs Sunday as part of the area's largest annual hip-hop music and graffiti event, Scribble Jam 2002, is spinning for higher stakes.

        “I think it's a natural progression,” he says. “You get sick of playing other people's music, so you start making it yourself, you start playing your own records. Then you start getting a little more developed — "How can I make this more interesting than just sitting up here and DJ-ing? Maybe I'll incorporate a couple keyboards, maybe I'll incorporate a guitar.' ”

        That's what Moby and other star DJs, including the Chemical Brothers and the Wiseguys, did. DJ Boom Bip's new CD, Seed to Sun, to be released Sept. 4, is his opening shot.

        He's not shooting for major pop stardom this time out. Mr. Hollon's opus features no pop hits, no catchy songs and only spoken vocals on the 12-cut disc. He plays a variety of instruments, laying down jazzy, midtempo grooves that sound like the soundtrack to a hip, indie film.

        He stays busy on the road, touring in Europe, performing on his own and in a duo with San Francisco poet Adam “Doseone” Drucker. Circle, their CD collaboration, has sold about 15,000 copies and earned them a recent spot on the BBC's prestigious live music program, The Peel Sessions.

He once played rock

        Mr. Hollon, 27, came to town in 1992 to attend the University of Cincinnati, from which he graduated with a bachelor's degree in arts & sciences.

        During his freshman year, he formed a standard rock band. “But we never really got any outside gigs, so I got kind of frustrated with it. . . . So I went out, bought a set of turntables and started DJ-ing in the coffee shops and galleries.”

        In 1993, he christened himself DJ Boom Bip, taking the name from jazz musicians' scat-singing nonsense words for drum sounds. Before long, he was ready to move beyond spinning records.

        “I said to myself, "I'm really into this music I'm playing, maybe I should start trying to make some electronic music myself.' So around '96 I bought a sampler and a few other pieces of equipment.”

        His music caught the ear of local DJ Osiris, who introduced Mr. Hollon to Mush Records owner Robert Curcio. The result was the Osiris/Boom Bip Mush EP, The Low End Sequence.

Just music

        After a few successful recordings, he's ready to take it to the next level: forming a backup band and taking his music to the stage. He'll continue doing solo shows, as well as collaborations with Doseone and others. He just returned from a 10-concert tour of Europe and a five-city American tour. Increasingly, the work is outside Cincinnati, which boasts a dedicated — but tiny — hip-hop scene.

        His efforts are starting to pay off, in that local-musician's major milestone: giving up the day job.

        “I'm just now this year not working doing side jobs to support it,” he says proudly. “I'm doing pretty well on my own with just music now.”

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