Interview: Lil Flip


Lil Flip is a rapper from Cloverland, Houston. Anointed the “Freestyle King by none other than DJ Screw himself, Flip is best known for hits like “Game Over and “Sunshine, as well as his unbelievable seven-minute verse on the “Wanna Be A Baller Freestyle from Chapter 070: Endonesia.

How’d you fall in with S.U.C. so young? I think you were seventeen the first time you mentioned your age on a track.

It got more serious for me in middle school, I was twelve or thirteen. One of my homies by the name of 2 Low, we went to Fondren Middle School in Houston, he was doin’ shows and rapping with Scarface, Rap-A-Lot, shit like that. It was dope, seeing him at events, gettin’ out a club at like 3am in the mornin’, four in the mornin’, and then havin’ to go to school. It just made be realize I could take the shit serious and make some real money. I started doin’ rap battles, recording, talent shows, throwing my own, making flyers at Kinkos. There was a place called Kinkos where you could make copies and shit.

It depends on the type of artist you are. For me, we just grind so hard out of not having a place like Def Jam or Jive here in the city to drop off a demo. That’s a long-ass ride, but if you can’t drive twenty-four hours for your dreams then you in the wrong business. But down here, we can go to any town and survive off Texas alone. Very, very soon, I want to do an all-Texas tour, see all the parts I’ve never been. Someplace that nobody has ever been.

You were in probably the third big wave of Houston rappers - are there particular styles or influences that you think that era introduced to the city’s sounds?

I feel like I’m a bowl of gumbo, I like all kind of music. I was jammin’ a lot of East Coast shit - Jadakiss, Jay-Z, The L.O.X., Cam’ron, Fugees. Black Sheep, Digable Planets, Sade, Lauryn Hill. Rock, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd. I’m a big walking jukebox, so I liked to mix my shit up and unorthodox things.

How would you describe your mindset while you’re freestyling?

Man, my brother will call me the music machine. Sometimes it’s no feelin’; sometimes it’s like I’ll be on autopilot. I absorbed so much game from legends and life; from movies, and books, and experiences and art that my subconscious will just put bars and rhymes togethers. We just have a ball.

How do you approach making new music at this point without feeling like you’re rehashing something?

I take breaks. I put out the King Life album, my first double album in eight years. That was my favorite album, my best album to date; we had the most fun makin’ that album. I went through the most shit makin’ that album. When we was makin’ that album, when we was in LA - man, time of my life.

And then Big T passed, rest in peace Big T! It got hard for me to even listen to the album because he’s on eight records. Everytime I would hear that shit it was just like fuck, you know what I mean? It put me in a place where I didn’t even want to record, only time I would go to the studio is if a person was buyin’ a verse. Other than that, I was just like “fuck it. So I started focusing back more on my painting and my art. I paint tennis shoes, jackets, canvases, all that.

What motivates me is going away and then coming back. I was puttin’ out mixtapes rapidly back when I was getting super super serious, people weren’t ready for it but they did appreciate it. Being the first S.U.C. rapper to rap on Swishahouse tapes, did a lot of stuff with SPM. I did a movie with him called H-Town M.O.B., I played a rapper called Rapper X and had a record on the soundtrack. I got so much music that I can play something wherever I go - if I go to Virginia I can do the song “Rock & Roll that I did with Fam-Lay, if I go to St. Louis I can do the “Balla Baby Remix I got with Chingy.

Did painting come as naturally to you as rapping?

I started as a boy, then stopped, took a break, because I got focused on money. Then when money started makin’ me bored I started back painting. I like bein’ able to take blank ideas, blank pieces of paper, blank bank accounts, and turn ‘em. I just like creatin’, shit’s a habit. I’ll find myself sometimes just chillin’ out, freestylin’ in my mind subconsciously. It’s not really a job to me, but I treat it like a hundred jobs.

What was it like being at Screw’s place at sixteen, seventeen?

Man, I had been there for years, years. I believe you gotta wait your turn, play your position, and when your number called you gotta be ready, you know? That taught me not to expect nothin’ - somebody might say “oh yeah, we goin’ to Screw house tonight and the first thing you think is that you finna go make a tape. He might not even be there.

It was similar to this. Havin’ fun, jokin’ around as you can see. We got interesting weirdos, you know what I mean? Most geniuses, we’re weirdos. I really think that the people that think we’re weird, they’re the weird ones. But that’s another interview. But Screw house man, he had the pool table, some people in one room shootin’ pool for money. Other people in the living room playin’ the PlayStation, some in the back going through the records. Listening to those tapes takes me right back, you know, this is what I was doin’. You gotta go back to certain stuff that’ll trigger your hunger. Sometimes, you know, the more money you get it can make you complacent and feel like you made it.

What was it like being twelve, thirteen when Houston really began to take on its own identity in rap?

Man, best time of my life! Sneakin’ in clubs, gettin’ to the point where I didn’t have to sneak in no more because I was always around the A-1 street cats. When you able to see shit from behind the VIP, seeing what goes on from that side of the aspect. When you’re lookin’ at a VIP or a velvet rope, a barricade, you’re thinkin’ “man, I wanna be over there. Or, like, what’s going on over there? How does it feel to be over there? Eventually you realize it’s not all it’s cracked up to be; havin’ your space is cool, but I want to be out there with the people, not alienatin’ myself. I want the people that buy my music to be able to fuck with me, that shit is like fuel.

Would you say that you’re more comfortable freestyling than putting together whole hooks, songs, albums?

Halfway, halfway is thought out and half is spontaneous. I like to record that raw, first thing into my mind, first thing into my heart. But then, shit, I like to make sure on the flipside that I do some records where I take my time and write with the beat. Write a verse a day, chill out, go live life and come back the next day.

Are there ideas that come to you fully-formed?

Yeah, I spend a lot of time in my car so I’ll be comin’ up with a lot of music. Certain cars give you motivation, depending on the type you in, like my Rolls has stars in the ceiling. It’s inspiration to ride in there. Or sometimes I just wanna ride in some regular shit and ride through my hood. Seein’ the different streets, different things that I survived, I’ll be like damn, this happened here, that happened here. I have memories in this whole city, almost every block you turn.

I love music, music is in me. I create it so fast, it doesn’t take up time of my life unless I want it to. I could easily say hey, man, I’m only spending two hours a day in the studio and then in those two hours I’ll get twenty beats made. We in the future, people just want music, music, music, so all we gotta do is keep feedin’ ‘em. Long as I get my ideas and thoughts out, whatever sticks, sticks. I don’t give a damn if I get one view. It’s remarkable, thinking how far we came from recording on reel-to-reels.

Is there an environment that you’d prefer for your fans to listen to your music?

Yeah, I think about it and then fans tell me too. Like “man, we smoke to your music or “I used to hustle to your music or “me and my girl, we made love to your music. You know? You got me through this, or my mama played this for me. I got a record called “I Shoulda Listened, and a lot of people say their mama used to play that for them when they was actin’ up. I guess you could say we make theme music.

I like to paint pictures man, I want you to visualize what the fuck I’m talkin’ about. It’s cool to have imagination, be creative sometimes, but you know, like, “I got hundred and nine extendo clip… it’s possible now with technology to make anything, but sometimes people just be sayin’ shit that’s just impossible. “I got a bazooka clip on a Dillinger / and I been killin’ ya - like, you got a bazooka?

From elsewhere in the room: Somebody did have a bazooka on Instagram though.

You said that record you were working on is for your “party album. Are you thinking of that as a sound, or an audience that you’re targeting?

I think it’s moreso like a sound, but I don’t think it’s a sound that’s stuck in a box. Back in the day, if you wanted to make party music you would think a certain tempo, that’s it. Now, music has transcended to the point that you have music where the tempo might be slow as fuck but it gets the party goin’. You’ve got all different tempos now that the people’ll sing along to. It depends on the party, some people be drunk and some people be high.

What was the process of making the Def Jam: Fight For NY game like?

That was dope as fuck. Takin’ the pictures and doin’ the voiceovers, one of my favorite experiences. Then meeting people saying they’d play with your character and kick ass.

Did they get everyone together to record, or were you there pretty much by yourself?

Nah, that’d be almost impossible, gettin’ every artist together in one building. If that every happens, you better get pictures [laughs]. But I did mine on my own, I think in LA.

What were your experiences with music before getting more serious about rap?

Singin’ in church, playin’ the drums, piano. Travellin’ with my aunts and uncles doin’ talent shows and family reunions. Being into tennis shoes, being a kick fanatic.

I don’t really know how to be involved with something and not put my all into it until somebody shows me otherwise. If a person shows me they not all in, I’ll lose interest and go back to my other ideas. I know how to keep me afloat, so I’ll just come back to what I know, and that’s hustlin’. Covering as much ground, covering as many stages and shaking as many hands as possible.

In another interview you’d mentioned using different distribution strategies to try and get through to different people.

Yeah, some people will say “alright, we’re puttin’ out an album - let’s print up a thousand posters and spend this much on radio, let’s throw a release party in this club. Eight months later, new album, “let’s do the same thing. It’s people that don’t listen to the radio, it’s people that don’t go to clubs. So my thing is let’s do this project like this, here’s the campaign, and let’s do the next project a completely different way. This mixtape’s only goin’ on this website, this next one’s exclusive over here for forty-eight hours. I just like rollin’ the dice, seein’ what happens. However it turns out, you can’t convince me that I’m not a winner because I’ve already won at life. I’m just on the bonus level. Goin’ to other countries, seeing people that can’t speak English singing all your lyrics in English, then after the show they can’t even talk to you. That’s the dopest shit ever man, goin’ to Europe changed my whole mindframe. People overseas might appreciate music more than we do, man; what we take for granted, they value it. Air Force 1s, man, they’re kinda old to us but they’re still the hottest shit over there. We didn’t even have the internet like that, screwtapes still got over there.

What draws you to fashion?

You get to express yourself, man. Even though fads change, people go through fanny packs and granny packs, ripped jeans comin’ back. Art is just… you really can’t fuck it up. Sometimes I’m trying to see what everybody else is on. The new era, they on the whole drippin’ phase and that’s cool. So I got some shoes with drippin’ blue, and then some I do just for myself. But you can’t get caught up in your ego, just do what you wanna do and think everybody’s gonna love it. That can work sometimes, but me, I learned throughout the years how to master givin’ people what they want and sprinklin’ in a little bit of what the fuck I want.

How do you think of your audience now as opposed to when you started?

Man, its expanded. The fact that I’m always collaboratin’ with people, I feel like a time jumper. Some people can’t rap with younger people, older people, and still hold they own or blend in, not sound dated. You know what I mean? Like somebody does something with an older rapper and you think “oh, shit, he still in his era. I can adapt.

I was wondering about the experience of being in a highly-visible beef; what that’s like beyond what the public sees.

It’s like a relationship, man, always somebody that you don’t see eye-to-eye with about something. But as you mature and get older, you realize that it’s really bullshit. What are we really trippin’ about? I value sanity too much at this point to go around startin’ shit. As you mature, you realize you can prevent things by just havin’ a simple conversation. Some people, they have people in they ear, puttin’ a key in they back. It’s all kinds of things that go on behind the scenes, real shady and cutthroat.