Show & Prove
Words: Sowmya Krishnamurthy
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

Months before New York Giants star Odell Beckham Jr. secured his $95 million bag to become the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL, he had one message for his haters: “Leave me alone.” Those three words, coupled with a video of Beckham joyously dancing in March 2018, were a subliminal middle finger to gossip folks amid trade rumors and contentious contract negotiations. The 15-second Instagram clip circulated widely around the internet, inadvertently setting its music—Flipp Dinero’s “Leave Me Alone”—on a road to viral ubiquity. The serendipity still bugs Flipp out.

“It just happened,” he muses, thinking on how his platinum breakout record took him from budding rap ascendant to one of the most buzzing names in hip-hop. It’s a chilly February evening and Flipp is sitting in the back row of a Sprinter van that is rapidly filling with weed smoke from a blunt he’s puffing. “I didn’t know the song would catch wildfire.”

Before that, Christopher St. Victor was just another rapper on the grind. Born to Haitian immigrant parents in Brooklyn, the 23-year-old artist describes his younger self as a “good kid” who took an early liking to music and skateboarding. His parents ran a tight ship. He attended a predominantly Haitian church in Flatbush, singing and playing drums and flute there starting at age 7. That musical and spiritual foundation left an indelible mark that he’s taken into adulthood. “My religion keeps me grounded,” Flipp says. “I’m still in church to this day. I’m very spiritual.” Secular music—especially hip-hop—was something that he enjoyed privately. He snuck in quintessential New York rap like Jadakiss and Styles P, also developing an ear for reggae, country and funk legend Bootsy Collins. By the time Flipp was 13, he began recording and releasing music of his own. But, like many first-generation kids born to practically minded parents, he took a pragmatic route once he was of age, enrolling in the Borough of Manhattan Community College to study liberal arts, only to drop out in 2016, once music became a viable option. “I wanted to be in school because I didn’t want to be in the streets,” he says with a sigh. “No kid wants to be in the streets.”

Word of mouth has been crucial to Flipp’s career since day one. He caught the ear of Joey Bada$$ in 2015, impressing him with melodic-yet-streetwise tracks. The Pro Era frontman introduced the rap upstart to industry vet Jonny Shipes, leading to a record label deal with his Cinematic Music Group the following year. Continuing the game of hip-hop telephone, Shipes forwarded the music to Kendell “Sav” Freeman, who became the rapper’s manager in January 2018.

Two months later, “Leave Me Alone” dropped, crawling to commercial success over the course of the year. After Odell Beckham Jr.’s aforementioned plug, Golden State Warriors power forward Jordan Bell gave the track more gas in June, when he turned up to it after winning the NBA championship in another Instagram video. Drake credited the song as partial inspiration for his Scorpion album that same month, causing the hype to swell even more. When DJ Khaled heard the record in July, he loved it instantly. “Khaled listened like four, five times,” says Freeman, who was previously vice president of Maybach Music Group. “He couldn’t stop listening to it.” In August, Khaled announced Flipp’s signing to his We The Best label and its parent company, Epic Records.

If “Leave Me Alone” was already catching heat, Khaled doused it with lighter fluid. The DJ/producer shouted Flipp out every chance he could, most prominently introducing him at the 2018 BET Hip Hop Awards in October. By November, the song debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, eventually peaking at No. 20. The music video has more than 96 million views on YouTube and 223 million streams on Spotify.

When they’re not in the studio recording, Khaled loves to big up his boy. Tonight, Khaled unexpectedly FaceTimes in with words of motivation. “Flipp Dinero! He’s gonna get the cover [of XXL]!” he portends confidently about his protégé, who is now seated in a private room at Manhattan hot spot Philippe Chow. If you know anything about rappers’ epicurean tastes, this Chinese restaurant is a staple eatery. Flipp and his team try their best to make a dent in the spread: the famous chicken satay, neon orange and swimming in a velvety sauce. They also order calamari, shrimp fried rice, sea bass and more. It’s out of the ordinary for Flipp. “I usually eat at home,” he admits.

Despite the adrenaline of his breakout record, Flipp Dinero is actually a low-key guy. That’s the way he wants to keep it. “I’m so humble,” he says, pondering about his impact as a role model. “Music is the control of a lot of emotions. If you listen to positive music, you get a positive emotion. If you listen to negative music, you get negative emotions.” His forthcoming project—slated for a March release—skews toward the former while maintaining some variety. There are party tracks, gritty street records and slower vibes, shaped by producers like Tay Keith, Ben Billions and DJ Khaled. The first street record slated to drop is “Not Too Many,” a motivational anthem for hustlers—legal and otherwise—to stay on the grind.

After releasing the project, Flipp will shift focus to touring, hitting the stage for Rolling Loud’s Miami festival and Firefly Music Festival. In his free time, he wants to expand his interests outside of hip-hop and learn more about stocks and investing. It’s all about the long game for Flipp Dinero. “Music is opening a lot of doors,” he says. “If I’m smart, I can make the right decisions to stretch my brand and hit a home run.”

Fingers crossed.

Check out more from XXL’s Spring 2019 issue including our Dreamville cover story featuring interviews with J. ColeJ.I.DBasCozzEarthGangLuteOmen and Ari Lennox; a look into how Hot 97's Ebro Darden went from fish mascot to hip-hop gatekeeper and more.

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