You probably don’t know it, but O.F.T.B. is in your CD collection. Operation From The Bottom was one of the groups that through numerous soundtrack appearances (Above the Rim, Gang Related, Gridlock’d), gave Death Row its street credibility. Balanced by Snoop Dogg and Tha Dogg Pound representing Crips, Flipside, LowMB, and DJ Bus Stop joined DJ Quik as a faction of the label’s Blood roster. Their 1997 hit “Body & Soul” was an MTV favorite, mysteriously killed, leaving the group in gangsta rap obscurity for close to a decade.
As Bus Stop finishes up a pursuit of a doctor’s degree, Flipside and LowMB have ran a label – first Flat Broke, now Payroll Records into a Watts, California mainstay. The two Blood brothers recently “acquired” their Death Row masters to release The Missing D.R. Files, the unheard album featuring original recordings from Tupac, MC Hammer, and Khadafi’s final verse. Released through their OperationFromTheBottom.com website, these gang-bangers have a lot of secrets to reveal, and a plan to uplift some of America’s poorest Black youth. Read why and how.
AllHipHop.com: The Missing D.R. Files are coming out. I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that’s it’s been about 10 years from when these recordings were intended. Was that the reasoning for releasing this material now?
Flipside: It was God. God is the reason we are putting it out now. He enabled us a way to do it, and it was time. We can’t move forward without the world knowing about our past. We had to fill that hole in order to be successful in the future.
LowMB: The timing is perfect. When opportunity knocked this time, we knew it was the correct time to move forward. We’re just asking everybody to support us to some make some real brothers millionaires, so we can go back and feed the streets like we ‘posed to, instead of running with the cabbage.
AllHipHop.com: This is over a decade old. When you put on the disc, how do you both react?
Flipside: To this day, I can’t even listen to that album and drink a drink, ‘cause there’s songs on there that bring tears to a gangster’s eyes. We spent hard earned time on that project. When people hear it, they gonna hear the originality. It ain’t like we got put on a song with ‘Pac, he was there. We was there with Snoop. This is actual moments. Everything we said was something that had to be said. We had to keep up and make sure we stay on the same page as the next rapper. I done learned from Nate Dogg. He told me once that it’s life in music, man.
AllHipHop.com: Back then, there were 26 artists to signed to Death Row at one point in 1996. Was there ever a doubt that this project, as it didn’t, would not come out?
LowMB: When we was doing this album, we had every intention of puttin’ this album out immediately. We used to go through it with Suge and everybody else on the label on how we were so hot, and why we should’ve been out. It was what it was, and it did what it did. Certain stuff took place that prevented us from putting this album out. It’s a trip, but I couldn’t see the bigger picture back then. They failed to see the bigger picture. In the world we living in now, most every you see got a [watered down element] in it. We here together, now, from that era, to say that we real, and our music is real.
AllHipHop.com: You put Straight Up Watts out on Big Beat in 1992. How’d you get discovered?
Flipside: We was coming out of Nickerson Gardens Projects – surrounded by poverty, gangs, drugs, and all the things that hold Black youth down. Us being in gangs, we wanted to try something different, man, so we started rappin’. Our homeboys in the neighborhood became our street team. We started our own buzz. We did shows with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony before they were even discovered. We met Eazy. We met everybody, before Death Row. [Ruthless Records] wanted to sign us, but we were gang-oriented, a little bit. Greedy Greg had a better option for us. He knew people wanted a song [of ours], we said, “S**t, take the whole album.” We signed with Greedy Greg to Big Beat/Atlantic. He had a management deal with [DJ] Quik, 2nd II None, so what better squad can we go to, being Bloods coming from Nickerson Gardens?
AllHipHop.com: Being Bloods, being out of Watts, how do you feel about the new generation in Jay Rock?
Flipside: That’s the little homie. He’s gonna do his motherf**kin’ thing, and they better make way for him, and best not f**k with him, ‘cause his OGs are back to represent with him, doing his thing. Shouts to the whole Top Dawg Entertainment for doing they thing, period.
AllHipHop.com: On your album, fans will be able to hear the original version of “Better Days.” But when Interscope and Amaru released that album, without you on it, how did you both feel?
LowMB: I was really hurt about that situation, because I felt that was our song, and something we made together. People did what they had to do with it, as far as business and politics, but as far as us and ‘Pac was concerned, we had a few talks over that song, we both had strong feelings for it. It was the perfect song for us to do, and that’s how it should’ve came out. The truth always comes out. This original version that we did together gonna let you know that the truth stands out, and you gonna have to listen to the truth at some point.
Flipside: We put in hard work to actually get a song, and be in the studio with Tupac in that era. He was too busy doing what he had to do. He brought that to us ‘cause he felt like we was the new generation that was gonna reach the cats – not Afrika Bambaataa in New York; that’s Hip-Hop; we Gangsta-Hop. In our culture was the gangs and the drugs – the people we can reach. So by us being a part on a song, would reach farther. Hey, we know the politics. We’re just trying to eat too now, period.
AllHipHop.com: Did any of those labels ever reach out?
LowMB: Hell nah! We pretty much heard it like everybody else heard it.
Flipside: Hey man, it’s politics. We were busy just trying to get out of our contract around that time. But you know what? It’s a family. Death Row is a family. Even though “daddy” was bad, those are my brothers. [Laughs] We still reach out and f**k with each other. I’m in touch with The Outlawz, I’m in touch with Snoop, I’m in touch with Nate Dogg, Kurupt, everybody. Really, they was just trying to get they feet wet and get that s**t off them like we was, we just been through it a lil’ rougher.
LowMB: As far Afeni, that’s one love. Watts supports her. We’ll do anything she wants. O.F.T.B. got her back. It’s always been like that, they just kept her away from us.
AllHipHop.com: Elements of your music have gone beyond simple gangsta rap though. Tell me about the deeper movement at play…
LowMB: O.F.T.B., even to this day, we are really grounded in those [ghetto] conditions, and how those people feel because we feel the same way. It’s like they don’t got a voice. We didn’t have a voice until we created a voice. From Straight Up Watts till right now, O.F.T.B. is a movement. It ain’t just rap, Hip-Hop, being with ‘Pac, being on Death Row, this is a movement, man. We came from nothin’, and we tryin’ to reach the moon. For us, to come from where we came from, to be on this level we on now, it’s unthinkable. We’re just messengers who brought the reality.
Flipside: Like Low said, we’re the pioneers who had to fight all these motherf**kers a long time ago, lettin’ ‘em know we out here, doing business. We’re making the way for the new project babies.
AllHipHop.com: Most people know you from Murder Was the Case, Gang Related, Above the Rim, and Gridlock’d soundtracks. Was that enough to sustain a livelihood from 1994 to 1997?
Flipside: When Above the Rim soundtrack came about, we had did our song [“Crack ‘Em”], but [Dr.] Dre already had his mind made up on the album that he was gonna put out [as it was]. But he hadn’t heard the song that we had done. When Suge heard our song, he was like, “F**k that, this gotta go on.” But they had already printed up the first few thousand copies of the CD, so they put us on [the cassette release], then the CDs. Then, Gridlock’d came about. When Gridlock’d came about, ‘Pac came to us, personally, and said, “I got a movie I want y’all to do a song to. I want you to take this script, and write to it.” So if you listen to “Body & Soul” from Gridlock’d, you’ll see why it’s the way that it is. The powers that be really didn’t want that to be the first single, but ‘Pac did. It became it. People don’t even know it – we had a Number One video on MTV that was snatched from the record label. Check the books! We was held back.
AllHipHop.com: Without snitching, what was holding you back? Wouldn’t the record label want you to win?
Flipside: Look man, we come from Nickerson Gardens. You know the story behind Harry-O, you know the story behind Death Row. You put two and two together. Us just being from that neighborhood, with all the drama going on, and us being Bounty Hunter [Bloods], it made people question things. That’s real s**t, right there.
AllHipHop.com: That was 1997. Was Suge’s being locked up and not being there a part of what went wrong for your situation?
LowMB: Yeah. In those days, I used to fly down to San Luis Obispo and personally see Suge on the week-to-week basis, and talk to him about stuff going on at Death Row. Definitely, if he was out, we would’ve gotten a better push. By him being incarcerated, and whoever he had to take over Death Row, they didn’t have the power to push that stuff the way it needed it to be pushed – with that particular song and soundtrack.
Flipside: He wanted to put our album out while he was in jail. We chose not to because we felt like this n***a didn’t give a f**k about us from start. For us to keep it 100, we was gonna drop the album with Bryan Turner from Priority Records – people don’t know that. I ain’t gonna hate, but Westside Connection knows how they came about, [Priority Records] got the O.F.T.B. album. They saw Suge had put us on the shelf, they put three n***as together to represent this West. Ask them, they’d probably tell you the same thing.
AllHipHop.com: That album is pretty similar to The Missing D.R. Files…
Flipside: Put it like this, he ain’t even got a copy a no more. We got the masters, man.
Flipside: Hammer was our n***a, and still is. That song was a moment. He felt us like a lot of people never felt us. That night, we just stayed in the studio for like 24 hours. He kicked it the whole time. By the 30th hour, he was like, “Man, I gotta get on a song with y’all.” We had Hammer in the studio, cryin’ to our music – ‘cause it was so real. I’m a gangsta to the core, and when I hear “So Long, So Long”, I shed tears. It was a real story. Hammer put us up on game, and that’s why, 10 years later, why we able to do what we do. That’s between me and him, too. [Laughter]
To purchase The Missing D.R. Files visit OperationFromTheBottom.com.