By Jake Paine
Around 7:30 p.m. Monday, rapper Kevin “Flipside” White was shot dead in what is believed to be an unprovoked attack during a gang conflict at Watts' Nickerson Gardens and Jordan Downs housing projects, according to the L.A. Times.
Flipside, 44, was a founding member of Watts' first major label hip hop act, O.F.T.B. (Operation From The Bottom). The trio — Flipside, Low MB, and DJ Bus Stop — released Straight Up Watts on the Atlantic-backed Big Beat Records in 1992. Under the guidance of DJ Quik and 2nd II None's manager “Greedy” Greg, the group was soon picked up by Death Row Records. O.F.T.B. appeared on the platinum-selling, Suge Knight-produced soundtrack for Above The Rim, as well as the soundtrack for Murder Was The Case.
Throughout his 20-year career, Flipside worked to give voice to those in his neighborhood and put those messages on albums heard by the masses. White's friend and longtime Death Row labelmate Big Wy, of The Relativez and Young Soldierz, says O.F.T.B.'s accounts of South Central street life were trailblazing in the way they accurately depicted the urban reality to broad audiences.
“[O.F.T.B.] was one of the first groups out of L.A. that was on [TV channel] The Box with a hot record,” Wy says.
But White was reduced to compilation work while O.F.T.B.'s untitled sophomore album collected dust, until Death Row superstar Tupac Shakur ushered him further into the spotlight. On the 1996 hit “To Live In Die In L.A,” Tupac mentions O.F.T.B. in the third verse, saying “Got them Watts niggas with me, O.F.T.B./They got some hash, took the stash, left the rest for me.”
Shakur worked with the trio on the bootlegged track “Worldwide (Time After Time)” and “Better Dayz.” The latter song was released six years after 'Pac's own passing on the multi-platinum double-album of the same name, but Flip and Low's vocals had been replaced by Ron Isley.
“People don't know that that was originally an O.F.T.B. record, featuring Tupac,” Wy says of “Better Dayz.” Flipside and Wy also helped guide Death Row through Suge Knight's lengthy incarceration, traveling to New York and the Baja on business and enjoying the fruits of the label's success, even though they were among Death Row's lesser-known acts.
In 1997, O.F.T.B. appeared on the No. 1-debuting Gridlock'd soundtrack. (Shakur starred in the film.) He was also on the double-platinum Gang Related soundtrack later that year. Gridlock'd's “Body & Soul” became the trio's second video single, following the DJ Quik-produced “Crack 'Em.”
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Compton's Boss Hogg, another Death Row act, reflected, “Flip was a hospitable dude.” Adds Wy “[He] was always smiling; always had something good to say about everybody.”
In the fall of the Death Row dynasty, O.F.T.B. bootlegged the recordings Suge Knight never released, The Missing D.R. Files, reportedly snatching the masters from the feared executive's vaults. O.F.T.B.'s 2007 self-release, Unearthed, includes appearances by Tupac, MC Hammer and Snoop Dogg. A revised version of the LP called Damn Near Dead was formally released by Death Row's new ownership in 2011.
In the independent era, Low and Flipside continued making music while Bus Stop pursued a degree. “They would put on free concerts in the projects' gym,” says Wy, calling the group a pacifier in a conflicted neighborhood. “Even though our neighborhoods didn't get along too much, they embraced everybody in the projects.”
Within the Nickerson project, O.F.T.B. supported Jay Rock, who became the first Black Hippy/TDE collective artist signed to a major label. Jay worked on O.F.T.B.'s third album, Hostile Environment, which was digitally released just a month ago. Actively marketing his group, Flipside was recently photographed with mogul Russell Simmons and just traveled to New York with Top Dawg.
According to the L.A. Times, approximately ten minutes after White was shot, Markice “Chicken” Brider was killed, apparently in retaliation, one block away from the crime scene.
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