NEW YORK — Lil' Flip was in a zone. The self-proclaimed freestyle king was sitting in Sony Studios, mentally drowning himself in the beat that boomed through the room as he wrote rhymes on a pad.
The Houston rapper took a few seconds to look up at Swizz Beatz's protégé Cassidy, who was pacing the room, while reciting rhymes to himself and glancing up every so often at a big-screen TV where Jessica Simpson was irritating her husband, Nick Lachey, on an episode of MTV's "Newlyweds."
Putting the pen to paper is something that Flip, renowned for his off-the-top freestyles, has been doing a lot lately in his effort to record his second major-label release, U Gotta Feel Me, scheduled for early next year. (Click for photos of Lil' Flip in the studio.)
"I've been writing more," Flip said as he finished the last song for his double LP. "[On] this album, I probably freestyled five [songs]. ... It just depends on how I feel. I'd probably go in there and freestyle and listen to the [verse]. Then I'd take pieces of it. I took my time. I noticed that on this album right here, the tracks I spent the most time [on] ... they [are] my favorite."
The Southern MC is especially fond of "What's My Name?," the lead cut from his album, which should hit the air within the next few weeks.
"Basically, this year I had 'Riding Spinners' and 'Like a Pimp' all on TV. So basically it's picking up where I left off. It's like some catchy sh--. You got the kids saying, 'They call him Lil' Flip!' I'm like, 'Who was the one that had y'all leaning to the left?/ Who got the hottest rap album on the shelf?/ Who went platinum with one video?' "
Like "The Way We Ball," his first and only video off of his 2002 major-label debut, Underground Legend, Flip wants to make the clip for "What's My Name?" cinematic.
"I like taking [in] movies," he explained of the early plans for his video's concept.
"That's why I took the [plot for] 'Brewster's Millions' for 'The Way We Ball.' I haven't figured out what story ['What's My Name?'] is going to use. It probably pertains to me skipping school. I'mma end up at a Player's Ball in the end. It's going to be cool. It's going to be like some 'Ferris Bueller's [Day Off'] sh--."
Flip, who first appeared on Houston mixtapes in 1998, hasn't had too many days off since signing to Columbia Records last year. He's stayed true to his roots, dropping his own street CDs and appearing on mixtapes by the likes of the G-Unit and Snoop Dogg. He also teamed up with Three 6 Mafia and his good friend David Banner on the aforementioned "Riding Spinners" and "Like a Pimp," respectively.
For his double LP, Flip continued to branch out, recording with such luminaries as Cam'ron, Ludacris and Pharrell Williams. He said he feels comfortable collaborating now that he's established himself.
"[My] first album went platinum and I didn't have a lot of major people on it," he explained. "I wanted to show everybody I can stand on my own. You gotta feel me because I did what I did alone."
On the first disc for U Gotta Feel Me, Flip said he'll be the main MC rapping. The second disc features several rap collaborations, including a cut where he and Luda beat up a track called "Bring the Pain," which contains samples of Tupac's "No More Pain." There will also be a DVD included with the album, chronicling Flip's grind through the underground circuit.
The rapper is already at work on another solo album he plans to drop after U Gotta Feel Me, and he said he and David Banner might drop a duet LP next year as well.
"I usually wait a year. ... They gonna start coming quicker," he said. "Me and Banner got an album we're working on, too. We've got like five tracks. He's been on the road, I've been on the road. We really ain't have time [to finish].
"We're just Lil' Flip and David Banner," he added, discussing the possible names the duo might answer to. "He calls himself 'Mr. Crunk' and I call myself 'Mr. Laid-Back.' So we might become Mr. Crunk and Mr. Laid-Back.' "
However, when Flip is not in the studio, he's doing anything but lying back. His entrepreneurial pursuits also includes a liquor line he plans to put out soon.
"We ain't came up with the name [for the company yet, but] we'll have rum and something else — it's a surprise," he said. "We're still working on it right now, but it's a sure thing. We're in the testing stage."