Freaky Flow and MC Flipside
by Chanté LaGon
Anyone who attended Connected 2000 at Studio Central knows what a set DJ Freaky Flow and MC Flipside put on. In a word: Incredible! The two Toronto natives kept the crowd hyper throughout their performance. Flipside had the crowd repeating "Fuck the Backstreet Boys" to Freaky Flow's hard-hitting mix of dope beats and scratching. They sat down with Lunar after some much-deserved big ups from party-goers.
Lunar: There are a lot of younger kids in the scene now. Do you think that has an effect on the music that you spin? Are there certain vibes that you think the younger kids go for?
Freaky Flow: That's so hard to say. I don't think that age necessarily entails maturity level for music. It can, but it doesn't have to. There's young people who are just as educated as older people, and you can have older people who don't know what's going on compared to the younger people. And you can have the reverse, too. I think probably the tendency is that the younger people, being that they're so young and just starting to get into it, are not as educated when they start as they will be when they're older because they haven't stuck with it as long. But, there'd be no difference from somebody starting out when they're 22 versus somebody who's starting out when they're 14. They're starting out at that same level of education with the music, and it will grow with time.
Lunar: What about the hip-hop scene? You have people like me, who grew up with hip-hop. And there's a lot of younger party kids that did as well. But there's a certain element that didn't exist when we were coming up that really is a part of the hip-hop scene now.
Flipside: Yes, definitely. I think in terms of MCing, the kids that are growing up now, 14, 15, you're listening to Limp Bizkit, Korn...and it's cool that they try to have a respect for hip-hop, but I remember growing up and looking up to Kool Herc and Africa Bambaata and there's an emphasis there. The old-school style of MCing is not as complex as the new style, but you have the new artists like Mos Def who represent old-school, but new. New meaning the essence, which is lyricism: battling, having fun with it. Not this thuggish-type "It's all about my papers."
Freaky Flow: Someone like Mos Def, I think, his lyrics are more old-school hip-hop, and he modifies the lyrical content to meet the needs of listeners today.
Lunar: MCing is a powerful thing. When you hold that microphone, you cannot play. What do you think you bring to it that other people who just talk garbage don't?
Flipside: I bring knowledge. I've lived a difficult life in the sense that I 've always had people who tried to stand in our way. We always wanted to represent the way Freaky Flow and Flipside wanted to represent, not try to emulate or gain noteriety. Like someone saying "Oh, Freaky Flow, he kinda plays like so-and-so" or "he MCs like so-and-so." And when you're on the mic, the way I am, I try to say that I'm having a good time here, try to respect the promoter, try to respect the environment, and of course, the talent (DJ). Because I can't flow if he doesn't play records. He could be here without me. Aphrodite's spinning without an MC notice it's kind of lacking, the crowd still likes it but I'm here to help check the crowd.
Lunar: One analogy I've heard is that the DJ is God, and the MC is like an angel to promote what the DJ is doing.
Flipside: In jungle. In hip-hop it's different...In the art of the MC, you've gotta be the star because the lyrics carry the beats. It's important to have a good producer, but you can't have Gang Starr if Guru wasn't there. So we try to work more like a hip-hop team as opposed to a jungle team. We try to be interactive with the crowd.
Lunar: One of your (Freaky Flow's) favorite songs is "They Reminisce Over Your" by Pete Rock and CL Smooth. What is it about that song that you just don't hear in hip-hop nowadays?
Freaky Flow: No. 1: Pete Rock's production in that he doubles-up the snares a lot. He filters the sample, and you never hear that except maybe Premier does that once in a while. It's quick, it's a really catchy tune.
Flipside: And CL Smooth...ridiculous!
Freaky Flow: Yeah, and CL Smooth is a ridiculous lyricst. I wish they were still making hits because he was amazing. Everyone was saying that Pete Rock carried him but I totally disagree. They were such a good team.
Lunar: What's your job as an MC?
Flipside: The most important thing, to me, is to push Freaky Flow make him larger than life, to educate the crowd on using their minds being conscious about their surroundings, and show respect to the music that we call jungle. And to fucking freestyle my ass off.
Lunar: How did you hone your MC skills?
Flipside: I was a big b-boy. But then I realized it doesn't matter if you wear the baggy pants. It's about your mindstate. And I listen to the MCs who preach that. I've just always been around people who freestyle. One time, I was at a jam, this Jamaican club. And I was the only white guy invited to the contest. I was so scared! And I went up there and I started singing "Real Love" (by Mary J. Blige), but over this reggae beat, and the place just erupted! They were smacking the tables like they do in Jamaica, lighters and all. And I knew. I can't fuckin' ignore my calling.
Lunar: How often do you practice?
Flipside: Never. Everything you heard tonight from him was freestyle. Every rhyme I kicked was freestyle except for two.
Freaky Flow: Cuz we play about every week together, two or three nights a week, so the practice is actually in the performance itself.
Flipside: That's why some shows are better than others.
Freaky Flow: Nothing's rehearsed.
Lunar: How do you think tonight went?
Freaky Flow: Off the hook. This was one of our best shows in 2000, for sure. We had a really good one in New York in January, we had a really good one in Philadelphia a few weeks ago (but not as good as in New York), and then we had a really good one in Denver. I think the top three though, for 2000 are tonight, New York and Minneapolis.
Lunar: What was so special about those shows?
Freaky Flow: Similar to what was so special about tonight the crowd, for sure. When you're feeding off that energy with the crowd, things just tend to go better usually. You're more on track with you're skills, we communicate better, and it goes better that way.
Lunar: It seems like your name should be Flipside because of the records thing, and yours should be Freaky Flow because MCs often refer to the way they flow. How did you come up with your stage names?
Freaky Flow: We both aquired our names long before we knew each other. The way I got Freaky Flow was when I first started spinning anything, it was hip-hop. Then drum and bass caught my attention and I started getting into that. I heard drum and bass, but even as I heard it for the first time, I was still feeling like hip-hop could be incorporated into it.
Now this was six, seven years ago, when hip-hop and jungle blending together was just an unheard of thing. The two scenes were separate and segregated, and people didn't want to mix the two crowds. Hip-hop purists were just as bad as jungle purists. Hip-hop purists didn't want drum and bass invading their territory, and junglists had this misconception that all hip-hop jams are violent, and all hip-hop lyrics were violent.
But I like the energy of hip-hop and I started mixing that into drum and bass, and the crowd took really well to it. But other key figures didn't. They didn't like the fact that I was doing this.
So my flow was different. And I was labled a freak. Hence, Freaky Flow. Additionally, there was also that Jeru the Damaga song "Come Clean," where he happens to say those two words together, back-to-back and I thought, "Oh, that's great, I can scratch with that."
Lunar: [To Flipside] How about for you?
Flipside: It goes back to '91. I used to be in a lot of freestyle competitions in my neighborhood. In Toronto, the segregation is different from America. Blacks and whites tend to intertwine better. It's kinda shitty, because there the racism is more quiet. Everyone lives side by side...it's not as apparent as it is here.
So I was at a jam, in the projects (nothing like it gets here, "government housing"), and I just started flowing. And I just ripped everyone! And they were all like "Yo, man! That's the flipside!" And it stuck with me ever since.
Lunar: Does your family support what you guys are doing?
Flipside: 100 percent my dad was playing guitar for him today...They're very proud of our accomplishments...They're really supportive. They want us to succeed, even though it's with music. They see that we're happy and that's what they want.
Freaky Flow: My parents see me working really hard at something, and I think they know that whatever I choose to work hard at I'll be able to succeed at, be it school or music.
Lunar: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Flipside: Eat a lot of food.
Lunar: What kinda food?
Flipside: Everything. That's our way of making each city we visit home. We have a certain restaurant that we go to. Pre-show rituals...I don't know. We always pat each other on the back and shake each other's hand, like "Let's rock it tonight."
Freaky Flow: We also each take off our left sock, put it on our right ear and light a candle and put it in our left ear, and stand on one foot for about 33 seconds.
Flipside: I didn't think you were gonna tell her that.
Freaky Flow: Well she wants to know the rituals.
Flipside: Better not tell her what else I do with the candle.
Freaky Flow: That you do on your own time (laughs)...Anyway, I'm just kidding about the whole thing.
Lunar: What's more important, track selection or mixing skills? I hear so many DJs say it's important to have blending skills, but at the same time, if you don't have anything good to blend, what difference does it make?
Freaky Flow: I can't weigh either one as more important. I'll tell you what's more important to the crowd track selection, absolutely. To me, I think both are equally weighted. Because I could mix flawlessly, but play awful, awful, awful records and I couldn't feel good about my set because the crowd didn't like it. And I could play bomb after bomb after bomb after bomb after hit after hit after hit, train-wrecking, and mixing the worst in my life, and maybe the crowd would just love it, but I would feel, a) that I had no integrity because I just played hits and that's the easy way to get a crowd reaction, and b) I couldn't feel that I performed up to my standard level.
Lunar: What are some of your concerns about the scene right now? You've got people overdosing on GHB, popping way too many pills....
Flipside: It really, really disgusts me, to be honest with you. Because, I think, as an MC, I have a responsibility to try to spread a positive message. That's what makes me feel good.
Freaky Flow: I think the problem today is that kids that go to parties people in general in society don't care enough about themselves, and they don't have enough interest in themselves to recognize what is best for them. And they just do what's quick and what's easy and what gives them the most pleasure for the moment.
Flipside: They're not happy with themselves.
Freaky Flow: Some people may be happy with themselves, but they don't think. Every action I do, I try to think, "How is this going to benefit me?" If it makes me happy, then it benefits me. But if it's gonna make me miserable later, well then I'll think twice about it. And kids don't. They don't think long enough about what is best for them. That's the problem.
Lunar: Is there anything like the Atlanta Alliance in Toronto?
Flipside: There's a group called TRIP which educates people, the Toronto Raver Information Project. The educate you, they hand out pamphlets about AIDS, STDs and stuff. They're doing really, really well.
Freaky Flow: They're a strong force in Toronto. They're a nonprofit organization. They hold monthy or weekly meetings. And they try to come up with solutions. Ultimately it's difficult for them if the kids don't want to listen. But it's certainly a positive thing.
Lunar: How's your radio show going?
Flipside: It's doing really, really well. Onegroove.com, which you can hear on the Internet. The show on Energy Radio (107.9 FM, covering Toronto, Southern Ontario and western New York) is doing well, athough they changed my time slot. I was on prime time on Saturday nights but they're a mainstream station, and I don't want to play mainstream music. It's kinda like Hot 97.5 (here in Atlanta) hip-hop, R&B, pop. Myself and Mastermind, who's a hip-hop DJ, are the only two DJ-MCs/hosts that have these specialty shows. And there's over half-a-million listeners, so at any given time there could be anywhere from 20,000 or 500,000 people listening to drum n bass, techno. I've had everyone on from Aphrodite to Nikki Blackmarket, to the late MC Ruff to MC GQ, Basment Jaxx, Josh Wink, Roger Sanchez, Stickmen, Nigel Richards, DJ Icey, the list goes on and on.
Lunar: What new projects do you have coming up?
Flipside: We've got Freaky Flow's Vol. 8 tape.
Freaky Flow: I have a lot of big plans, but the first one is to finish school (only half-credit left). It's holding me back like crazy and it's really frustrating because I haven't had time to do any studio work in almost two years. I plan on getting back in the studio in September or so....
Flipside: We have a big tour coming up, actually Japan.
Freaky Flow: Yeah, we're going to Japan in May.
Flipside: We're the first ever Canadian duo to go to Tokyo...I'm also going to take singing lessons. I'm producing some tracks as well (mainly house, but also drum n bass).
Lunar: Who's your favorite jungle MC?
Flipside: Jungle MC? Not hip-hop? I hate a lot of jungle MCs to be honest with you. They make me sick. They talk such rubbish...But I've always loved GQ, MC Conrad from LTJ Bukem's crew, Dynamite Roni Size's MC very funky. And Toronto-wise, MC Bandit, and American-wise, I like Dub 2. Posi D is good, too. Great voice.
Lunar: Name three drum n bass DJs you'd love to hear play out.
Freaky Flow: That's a really tough call...I'd say Bukem, because it's so rare that I get to hear him. He's up there. Andy C because his tracks are unreal and his mixing is so tight. And I love listening to Dieselboy and Dara.
Lunar: If there's one emotion that you feel when you're MCing/spinning, what would it be?
Freaky Flow: One emotion, huh? Angst...no I'm just kidding. Happiness is a good one. It's hard to say. If he didn't say happiness, I would've. I think pride is a good one to go along, too. Proud that we're able to do this and bring other people happiness. That makes me proud.
Lunar: Is there anything else that our readers should know?
Freaky Flow: Flipside has three toes on his right foot...Just kidding.
Flipside: I love food. A lot. Send me your recipes at email@example.com.
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