Buck Bowen Begins to Breathe | Under the Radar

(Editor's note: Buck Bowen performs at House of Loom on Thursday at 9 p.m. with Midtown Marauders, Helix Troy and Late Nite Musiq; he will also be DJing with Brent Crampton at HoL on Saturday.)

Former hip-hop artist Buck Bowen left a lot of things unsaid when he split from his hometown of Omaha in September 2007. He sold his car and possessions, turned off his phone and bought a one-way ticket to Costa Rica. He left without telling anyone.

After five years of being a fixture in the Omaha hip-hop scene, he had wanted nothing to do with the genre.

I was out to crack this music mystery case, just as Bowen ordered lunch at the infamous In-N-Out burger chain in Long Beach, Calif., where he now lives.           

“I just got the Number 2, animal style," he says, "so I’m really happy about that.”

Since settling down in California, Bowen has shifted his music artistry to DJing. He'll be showcasing both sides of his repertoire at House of Loom this week with a hip-hop show Thursday and a DJ set alongside Brent Crampton on Saturday.

Through his newfound turntable hobby, Bowen arranges his own samples among other various mixed and mashed tracks. With Bowen behind the DJ booth, you can expect everything from mainstream '80s rock to house electronica. It's a deviation from the teenage skater/MC that spouted off smart-ass rhymes (stream his hip-hop material over at his Facebook page). But an elevated production level tacked on to continued virtuous beat-crafting makes for a pleasant conversion.

"He used to be a hip-hop purist," Crampton says. "If it wasn't hip-hop, it was shit. Then he became disenchanted with hip-hop and performing/making hip-hop as a whole. And that's where things got good."  

As cheeseburger burps seem to erupt through the phone line, I quickly catch onto Bowen's wisecracking demeanor. He's quick and valiant to sidetrack this interview.

Interview interruption #1: "Did you hear that?" he asks. "Hear what?" I say. “I just blew my nose. I’m going to save it for you, so you can put it in a petri dish and grow me.”

There's also the air of mystery that he maintains. To this day, Bowen has never explicitly shared the details of his trip to Costa Rica, which led him to El Salvador, which led him to Mexico — a year spent south of the border. But he goes on to help answer why.  

"A large part of it was that I disagreed with the way my family chose to live their life," he says. "That’s probably the main part of it. By that point, I had already de-converted from the hip-hop religion. Which was great.”

Interview interruption #2: Cop sirens sound off. "Don't worry I hid behind a bush, they can't find me," he says.

He says he enjoyed his time in Mexico most, where he resided in a very small town, hours away from any gas stations, Wal-Marts or McDonalds.

“I really got into Mexican music," he says of traditional sounds like mariachi, even salsa.

Bowen also points out that music wasn't the only thing to make an impression on him. After seeing the extreme poverty in El Salvador, he says he left with a different appreciation of the United States.

"We live in a country where they actually pay you when you don’t have a job. Not only that, but we have certain protections so you can’t be discriminated against getting a job.

"Our problems in the United States seem rather trivial." 

Interview interruption #3: "Hold on," he says, "I just saw some really cute Asian girls."

As conversation winds down, Bowen is determined to head off to the beach. Either he followed the cuties, or he went solely to spruce up his tan for the Omaha performances. Chances are that he needed a little Pacific Ocean air.

"I felt that in leaving Omaha, I was able to breathe," he says.

Jordan Minnick is a contributor for Hear Nebraska. After exclusively using Myspace ("Wait does that still exist?" I was asked) Buck Bowen now has a Facebook page. Reach her at jordanminnick@hearnebraska.org.