Standing in the Cinematic Music Group—home to Joey Bada$$ and other Pro Era affiliates—recording booth, I noticed my interview subject, Flipp Dinero. Sitting opposite of me, his poised demeanor hunched slightly forward from the chip weighing on his shoulder; his sweatshirt hood tangentially grazed the tops of his eyes. This pestering look of determination comprised his singular facial expression, stalking him like the 2009 Darrelle Revis covering any perennial wide receiver. It was a look of knowing what he’s done to get to this point, understanding what must be done to broaden his fanbase, and strategizing next steps to climb Hip Hop’s ranks. It was a look of plotting—Flipp Dinero is always plotting.
The Brooklyn upstart has established an apt musical foundation, comprised of impressive SoundCloud numbers and reputable media coverage, culminating in his summer 2016 Cinematic-signing. A musical stalwart, Flipp’s rise is a product of formulaic success coupled with unconventional experience. Sure, his resume of adolescently hugging Brooklyn’s corners and a “by any means necessary” mentality douse him in Hip Hop credibility. But it’s the unassuming, unorthodox accents that have most effectively carved out his fruitful pocket. Sharing a similar mindset to Sixers’ center Joel Embid, Flipp Dinero trusts the process.
Dissecting his breakout hit, “I Do”, exposes Flipp’s multi-layered styling. Outwardly, deducing his musical acumen is simple—the melodic hook entrances the listener to the point of forced reiteration. But, much like Flipp himself, the artistry’s beauty exists beneath the surface, reserving the majority of his musicality for in-depth exploration; it invokes contemplation. While the track is Dinero’s energetic introduction, which uses Hip Hop tropes to illuminate his surroundings—cars, guns, weed—it is anything but rap cliché. These devices don’t formulate his identity, they are passengers on his turbulent journey—they’ve anchored him throughout this wave and trough process, throughout his life. For Flipp, navigating this chaotic life relies on one absolute truth for survival and prosperity: authenticity. Everything he says, he does—this is who he is.
“I’ve been put in situations where being fake is not the key, and being real kept me alive,” Flipp recalled during our interview. The slight pain in his voice reduced him to momentary melancholy, but eyeing his surroundings and physical manifestations of success—the Cinematic studio, the A&R playing him potential beats, Cinematic’s head of marketing orchestrating meetings for him—restored positivity. Flipp’s resilient attitude has been partly culpable for his upward-trending brand; learning how to channel that pain into productivity has been essential.
Humble beginnings water any successful career. The Rock was evicted at only 14-years-old; Bill Gates spent an inordinate amount of time as a teenager at a local university to hone his computing knowledge; Jay Z’s first office was located under Brooklyn’s streetlights. And Flipp? Well, Flipp went to church and wrote poetry.
For most, church offers a semblance of salvation, and a closer connection with God. For Flipp, it was his initial music exposure. There, amongst the sermons and confessions, a youthful Dinero embarked upon his musical excursion by singing in the choir. This participation was the symphonic seedling to his harmonic aesthetic. His artistry is a contentious rivalry between raspy singing and serrated raps, juxtaposing approaches for an encompassing musical command. On Flipp’s second big single, “Running Up Bands”, he seamlessly weaves the ostensibly conflicting disciplines, suturing together another hit to further advance his name in the New York rising emcee conversation.
Much like New York’s legendary artists, Flipp’s musical heart strongly pulsates with poetry. His relationship with the written word is almost serendipitous: it’s a story of a young boy, engorged with emotional despair, desperately seeking an outlet. With age, Flipp began a cathartic union with the pen and paper, effectively depressurizing his compromised mind, and unknowingly segueing him into rap. In his words, “So I started writing poetry. I would write some shit because I felt tight, and I didn’t know it was bars. It’s crazy!” This fortuitous connection represents what Flipp wants most out of this game: to express himself, to be heard, to be remembered.
The majority of Flipp’s artistry and pursuit exist beneath the surface.
Read below for a full transcript of the Flipp Dinero interview, and be sure to stream his new EP, The Guala Way, released last week. [Note: the interview took place prior to the EP’s release.]
Yo Flipp, what’s going on? How is everything?
I’m chilling bro. How’s everything with you?
Everything’s great, man. This is a dope setup you guys have here, thanks for having me. So you’ve been getting a lot of buzz lately.
Yeah I know man, I’m growing.
For sure. You dropped three great tracks recently (“I Do”, “Running Up Bands”, “On Some”). How are you feeling about them?
Shit, I love them bro. They’re going crazy in the streets, I ain’t going to lie. I was just in my hood today, and a couple people were riding by bumping my tracks.
What’s that like to hear people listening to your music?
I don’t know man. It’s expected, but I’m still shocked in a sense. It’s expected, though. It’s definitely not surreal because I’ve worked for this. I should be here right now. Hell yeah, I’m confident as fuck.
How long have you been working towards this?
As long as I’ve been making music, man. I’ve been making music since I was about 15, and I’m 21 now. But I’ve always been involved with or around music for my entire life. I grew up in a church—my mom was in the church, my pops was in the church—and I was in the choir. So I went from the choir, and then I found the world.
I can hear that in your music—the singing.
Ha nah, it’s just the weed [laughs].
Your fans are really engaging. I was reading some of the YouTube comments—some of them are like “here at 1k,” “get this kid on the map.” Is that fun for you to read?
Yeah, I be laughing when I see that shit. For real. I laugh when I see the negative comments and the positive ones because I’m just happy that people are saying anything about me. It’s about being controversial, just being the topic—having their attention. I also like engaging with the fans by responding to their comments because I’m just happy that I have fans to engage with. It’s about keeping them, you can’t just do them dirty. Real shit, if someone says something like, “I fuck with your track,” and I see it I’m going to say “good looking” because I saw it. Some people just see shit and scroll right passed it. That’s fucked up. That’s not being humble. I’m just humble as fuck. I’m confident still, you know, I’m a beast. But I’m not cocky. I conduct myself with respect. I don’t conduct myself like I’m a hoodlum even though that’s where I came from. I know that cocky, arrogant mentality; I try to level down to be as subtle as I can possibly be, but still be as aggressive as I can possibly be. Everything you hear on wax, that’s just me.
Outside of just your fans, some big guys are enjoying your music. I saw that T-Pain tweeted out some of your lyrics the other day.
Yeah, that shit honestly caught me off guard, really caught me off guard. Shoutout to T-Pain. I was just bumping him the other day—he’s a big influence in my music.
Who else is a big influence for you?
Biggie, Bankroll, I love Pac. You know, the usual because that’s what we know, that’s what was pushed from us being young to now. Of course I adapt to the newer generation as well, but I always stay in-tune with the old shit because the old shit is what moves your soul. You’ve got to bump music outside your generation too. I don’t just listen to Hip Hop, I listen to Blues, classical shit. I actually sit there and listen to classical music. Just to elevate, and see what I can find inside of it. I like to appreciate it because it’s not appreciated enough. A lot of people just overlook shit, and I don’t get how you’re going to grow [with that mindset].
Did your mom or dad help you find that kind of music?
Ah shit, they actually listened to a lot of Haitian music, you know I am Haitian. I definitely listen to Haitian music. But yo, I love Bob Marley. I listen to a lot of Bob Marley; a lot of reggae music, Spanish music. But the classical blues, that’s what I really love. That melodic feeling is soothing. If you notice in my music, I use melodies a lot because that’s how I feel—the melodies that move you. When you hear my music, you hear the rapping, the bars. You can’t say I’m just out here saying some dumb shit because I’m actually speaking facts—and then you hear the melodies.
You definitely hear the melodies in your hooks, but you also really demonstrate legitimate rapping skills. I think you showed in the most in the second verse of “Running Up Bands”.
Rapping wise, for sure. [Starts rapping] “Lately been on it / The plug it's a Zoe if he front it I do not pick up if he callin / Dreams they be falling, I make all the shots with the pickup I guess you could call the shit ballin / Shots I be callin I do not respect none of ya judgement I know you ain't labeled as scholar / I’m drenched in designer.” You see what I’m saying—everything is a bar. [Continues rapping] “I search out for dosage of problems / That’s GG select do the honors.” GG—that’s Gorilla Glue. Everything I say makes sense.
Speaking of “Running Up Bands”, I want to talk about the music video a little bit.
Oh yeah, that was a lot of fun. I actually also direct. Well, for “Running Up Bands” it was like this: my brother P and Cisco, they were the vision behind it. They had a vision in mind to make it look gritty and grimy, so all the respect to them. But I also have my little piece here and there. I’m really trying to do my thing with directing also. That's the future, though. Right now we’re focusing on the music. I want to be big bro, I want to be extremely big—like colossal, giant.
All of this attention landed you on Cinematic Music Group’s roster. When did you sign, and how did you get affiliated with them?
It was sometime last year. But I got in touch with them because my music kind of fell in their hands. I got the hit up with them saying, “Yo, I want to meet you.” We met, kept on meeting, chopped it up, and then built a relationship, which lead to everything taking place. I felt like Cinematic really supported me; they were the best support system that I could find because of what I want to be, and how they supported me, and how they support me currently. They really understand my brand, and know how to work with artists like me. Actually, I wouldn’t say artists like me because I’m unique. They know how to work with me. They meet my standards and my expectations. I really love Cinematic, man. There were a couple of other labels here and there, but I didn’t really pay them mind because I was building a relationship here. I believe in loyalty. Loyalty is really important to me, and it will take you far.
You’ve developed some great character traits throughout your life like humility and loyalty.
It’s because I learned, bro. I’ve been put in situations where being fake is not the key, and being real kept me alive. So I know what it means to be loyal. It’s still an ongoing lesson, because everyday you learn, but what got me to this point is being real. And thank God I am who I am because I still live to see another day. That resilient mindset and attitude will take you far.
Your music sounds genuine. It doesn’t seem like you’re trying to put on an act at all.
Yeah, with music you channel your emotions, you channel your feelings. You have the ability to capture someone’s ears, someone’s soul when you make a song. So if I make a track bro—we’re here right now because I make music! So this is my reality, but this is your reality as well because you’re interviewing me. Music is really strong, bro. A lot of people don’t grasp that shit—words are strong. I can’t talk to you unless I make music! Everything is important.
You’re completely right—that connection is so strong. So with Cinematic, were you building a relationship with Jonny [Shipes] and Joey [Bada$$], or was it with everybody here?
Yeah, you could pretty much say that. I met a couple of people who work here, but the relationship was strong with Jonny despite him actually being the owner of the label. That’s my boy—I just gravitated closer towards him. And he gripped me like I was his little brother, so I was like fuck it, this is big bro! That’s how the whole shit happened. Pro Era man, they’re all my boys. I first did a track with CJ [Fly]. I actually first met Joey through D—that’s one of my homies—but then me and Joey built a relationship, and me and Shipes built a relationship. It’s mutual respect. We all fuck with each other. This whole experience has really shown me how important relationships are because I know people who have acquired great things in life, and they grip me in and show me respect. I just conduct myself differently, bro. Life is like math—everything adds up.
When you signed with Cinematic, Jonny said that you have to build your brand. How are you doing that?
Singles and videos. Just music, that’s the whole point. I need to connect, just connect in general. I don’t think I’m going to put out videos for every single I drop, but you’ll see a lot of videos that look like movies. Like with the last video [“Running Up Bands], I wouldn’t say that it was “inspired” by Grand Theft Auto necessarily, but it’s so crazy how it looks like Grand Theft Auto—it just shows madness! A group of people came together to come up with this idea, and then everyone was like, “Yo this shit looks like Grand Theft Auto.” Also, we were watching some anime while we were editing, and we said, “Nah, this shit has to be in here.” That’s my brother P, man. P’s the GOAT.
Do you think you learned a lot with directing between the “I Do” video and this one?
Oh yeah, for sure. Especially with vision, you know turning a vision into reality. I know how to go about shit differently now. You learn how to manage your time better by paying more attention to certain things. When you’re shooting a video, you’ve got to be precise. Catching the footage is one thing, but editing that shit is totally different. That’s one thing I learned too, so that’s why you see more switch-ups in “Running Up Bands” than “I Do”. But that was by boy Cisco. Shout out my boy Cisco because he made that shit happen—he’s the elite camera man. It took a lot of time to shoot that video [“Running Up Bands”], so that’s why I’m happy with the response that it got.
I was looking at your SoundCloud, and you put out “Higher” and “On My Own” a year ago, and then you dropped “I Do” in February. What was going on between the releases?
Okay, so here’s what went on. I’ve been doing music my whole life, but I’ve been put in situations where I have to stop. Like I was in Brooklyn, moved to Jersey and stayed out there for awhile because I got caught up in some shit, and then I came back. So when I put out “On My Own”, there was a little time gap because I was still gathering myself as an individual as far as what I want to do with this music, like how I was pushing the music. It was getting good reviews, but I just didn’t have the vision that I have now with it. Now, I’m on some shit. I found my lane. I found what I wanted to do. Music is really what I want to do—this isn’t some temporary shit. It’s not like I just made a hot track that took off. Nah. There’s a lot of music behind what I’ve put out. The songs on my SoundCloud, I just dropped those for the fans—like here you go, have those.
What made you release them?
Everybody kept coming back to me, asking why I don’t have more music out. Everyone was on my ass. I put out “On My Own”, and everyone was fucking with it; I was performing it too. Then I put out “Higher”, and people told me it was hard. People kept asking me for more music, so I just said fuck it, give them “I Do”. When that dropped, everyone went crazy again—telling me how hard it is—but the hood already had “I Do”, if you know what I’m saying. That track was just sitting in the stash—I’ve got a lot of songs in the stash. A lot!
“Higher” is one of your more melodic tracks, and I know that you enjoy being a varied artist. Was understanding that you wanted to be an eclectic artist part of you finding your lane?
Yeah, so you know when you’re doing something, but you don’t really know you’re doing it until you actually acknowledge the fact that you’re doing it? [I asked him to elaborate] Like “Higher” for instance. There are a lot of melodies throughout the track, but I didn’t make it with the intention of it being melodic. I wasn’t looking at it with that deep of a view, I made the song to express how I feel. In it I rap, “Most of these niggas is liars”—that’s real shit, most of these niggas are liars. I was really making a statement, and it just so happened to be so melodic and versatile; heads really gravitated towards it. People would come up to me surprised that I could actually sing. And then it hit me that I can actually sing, I’ve been singing my whole life. But I really rap, so that’s when I realized that I’m different. I always knew I was different bro, but when other people acknowledge something, it makes it real. Now when I’m making a track, when I’m writing, it’s like having a blank paper in front of me—just blank. [I tell myself] You’ve got the ability to make whatever you want to make out of this beat right now; you can do whatever you want as long as that shit goes hard and makes sense. As long as you get your point across, it’s going to be successful. I don’t go into making a track knowing if it’s going to be more melodic or more of a banger, I look at it like, “Oh right here, I’m going to say some crazy shit! And then right here, I’m going to ease them out, let them live.” It’s all about controlling your emotions.
Are you a beat first or lyrics first kind of guy?
Well, here’s one thing that a lot of people don’t know about me: I used to write poetry since I was young. I’ve always been writing, man. It was always hard for me to write because I used to just express how I feel, but as I got older, a stronger connection formed with me and the paper. So I started writing poetry. I would write some shit because I felt tight, and I didn’t know it was bars. It’s crazy! I used to write poetry not ever knowing that I was writing bars. Now just thinking back, I’ve got a book full of bars [laughs]!
So all of this is leading towards your first EP, The Guala Way. Can you explain what that means, and what kind of aesthetic the project will have?
Guala is my team from my block. When people hear “guala,” they probably just think money, so they think it’s “the money way.” But it’s Guala gang—that’s the Guala way. The EP is going to have a real moving vibe to it. Moving in the sense of that a lot of shit you’ll hear you won’t expect, but when you actually hear it, you’ll know it was expected. For instance, people will say, “Yo I didn’t expect this, but damn, I knew Flipp had something up his sleeve!” The EP is going to be really serious: I have a lot of love songs on there, and then I also have a lot of hood bangers. It’s a mix of everything, it’s a melting pot. You’ll really get the emotions of someone. You’re going see a real piece of me with this project—where I’m at mentally. I want to give people the different lanes, different views into Flipp. It’s all about perspective, bro. Life is about perspective, so everyone will have a different opinion. But if I can give you different perspectives, then I’m fitting everyone’s needs. That’s art, man. Basquiat [laughs].
Do you have a release date in mind?
I don’t want to give an exact date just yet, but it’ll be here soon. Real soon.
Alright, well thank you bro—I really appreciate the time. You guys trying to smoke?
Hell yeah! Why not?