Long before Houston became a must-see destination for A&R executives and trend sniffing tastemakers eagerly scoping out the next big thing, the steamy southern fried city was HQ for a cadre of hungry, determined soldiers. Soldiers who were ready willing and damn sure more than able to hold H-town down and bring that city's syrupy slow, crunk- rich vibe to whatever heads might be fiending for the new. Lil' Flip ain't new to this. The pride of Houston, Texas, aka "the Freestyle King," has been bringing home-town, homegrown hip-hop style and sonics to appreciative audiences since the late 90's: both as an underage protégé of the late legendary mix tape visionary, DJ Screw, and on his own hugely successful CDs. Whether keeping it totally underground on classic joints like 1999's The Leprechaun or unleashing his trademark flow on chart-topping releases Undaground Legend (2002) or 2004's U Gotta Feel Me, Lil' Flip has grown from being a regional contender to a A-list heavyweight champ. "People think that when you get that crossover success you forget where you came from," Flip explains. "But now that I have more fans I'm gonna keep bringing what they came to me for in the first place. I can' t forget where I'm from and what brought me to where I am now."
That dedication is evident on Lil' Flip's third Sony Urban Music effort, I Need Mine. Filled with club bangers and street anthems and featuring production from some of the hottest names in hip-hop--i.e. Salaam Remi, Scott Storch ("Candy Shop", "Lean Back") and Sandy Lal aka The Synphony (author of Flip's "Sunshine," BMI's Urban Awards Most Performed Song in 2004)--I Need Mine is the album Flip's fans have been waiting for. It is also the eagerly anticipated follow-up to the explosive U Gotta Feel Me, which boasted the hits "Game Over" and "Sunshine"- the videos for which owned the #1 spot on BET's "106 and Park." Like Undaground Legend, U Gotta Feel Me went platinum, generating over 2 million ringtone sales and solidifying Flip's position as one of hip-hop's most versatile artists in the process. Like U Gotta Feel Me, I Need Mine is executive produced by Lil' Flip's advisor and manager, Sandy Lal for the King Pin Entertainment Group.
Versatility and an ability to fuse underground grit with mainstream accessibility fuels I Need Mine and everything Lil' Flip touches. As befitting a guy who literally built his career from the ground floor up, Flip's been keeping busy, making moves, tracks and deals. He recently sealed a joint venture deal with New Orleans's rappers Sqad Up on Flip's Clover G Records. The result of that partnership is Sqad Up's debut "Beatin Up the Block," which is taking radio by storm. Another fired up collaboration is "Turn It Up," the first single from Flip's fellow Texan, Camillionaire. The pumped up hit is rising up the charts and the Gil Green-directed video is already a staple at video outlets. Equally hot is Flip's latest street single, "You'z A Trick," which has racked up sales of 15 thousand ringtones in a mere two weeks. Along with his musical output Lil' Flip, along with Sandy Lal, recently launched his own beverage line, Lucky Nites. "I've got a lot of interests in a lot of different areas, "Flip says speaking to his multi-faceted macking. "I wanna give the fans Lil' Flip in a whole bunch of different ways and also challenge myself."
Such a desire to exceed any limitations and constantly push the envelope is at the root of Lil' Flip's astounding climb to the top.
Born Wesley Weston in Houston's Cloverland neighborhood, Flip was a teen when he grabbed the attention of the groundbreaking Houston hip-hop genius DJ Screw, architect of a unique style of mixing, cutting and scratching. Impressed with young Flip's prowess, Screw (who died of a heart attack in 2000) initiated Flip into his elite and loosely knit Screwed Up Click posse.
Before long, the kid with the nimble rhyme style became a local star, flexing his freestyle muscle on a pair of Screw's most popular mix tapes. Flip's off the dome rhyme skills earned him the nickname "The Freestyle King." That's when things really took off. In 1998 Flip released Hustlaz Stackin Ends on Sucka Free Records. Driven purely by word of mouth, the CD further established Flip in the fiercely competitive Texas, greater South market place. Flip proved lightening can strike twice with The Leprechaun which on the strength of the runaway hit "I Can Do Dat" SoundScanned an astonishing 100, 000 units. Eager to top that success, Flip laced fans with 10 consecutive volumes of underground '"chopped and screwed" mix tapes, each claiming average sales of 30,000.
Not surprisingly the big noise coming from down south caught the ears of the industry. Flip and Sucka Free became the subjects of an intense bidding war, which was won by Sony Records in 2002.
The transition from indie to major was seamless. Undaground Legend, driven by the sing-along smash "The Way We Ball" entered the Billboard 200 at #12, the Hip-hop/R&B charts at #4 and sold more than a million copies.
Along with promoting his double CD, Flip took time to throw down with friends. In 2003 Flip appeared on David Banner's "Like a Pimp," which was nominated for Best Rap Collaboration at the 2003 Source Awards and Coolest Collaboration at the Vibe Music Awards. Flip also cameoed on Three 6 Mafia's "Ridin Spinners" and Fam-Lay's "Rock and Roll" remix.
Flip again raised the bar with U Gotta Feel Me which took the hip-hop nation by storm with its mix of sexy shout outs and crunk blessed manifestos: all of which set the stage for I Need Mine.
"This CD is the best example of where I am right now," Flip declares. "I've got records for the ladies. I've got street records. Club records. I'm really proud of the album because I'm bringing everything I've got and I guarantee that the fans won't be disappointed."
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.