Sometimes the unintentional results of unforeseen events—think penicillin, or “Hey, you got peanut butter on my chocolate!”—can be happy ones. Such is the story of Oakland, California’s Flipsyde, a culturally diverse four-man rock/hip-hop collaborative that uses turntables, melodic hooks, stinging rap lyrics, and blazing electric and sweep-picked acoustic guitars to spread a message of social awareness and self-empowerment on We The People [Interscope].
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“The whole thing was an accident,” says lead guitarist Dave Lopez about how Flipsyde came to use acoustic guitars. “I grew up on Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads, and I wanted to play electric in this band, but we were in the middle of writing a song, and I didn’t have the tone I wanted dialed in. So instead of missing the moment, I grabbed my Ramirez nylon string and added some Latin flavor over what [vocalist and co-acoustic guitarist] Steve Knight, and [rapper] Piper were jamming on. It was incredible!”

Lopez, who was raised in Chile with the forbidden protest music of Victor Jara and Quilapayún in the background, believes the use of acoustic guitars makes the band’s message more accessible.

“I think it’s more powerful to deliver a political message with a hook,” he says. “A lot of revolutionary music is so intense that it makes you recoil. You can’t be all mad, just like you can’t be all happy. Sometimes you’re pissed off, sometimes you’re happy, and sometimes you’re neither. All humans have different emotions and personalities, and our music reflects that.”

Being easily digestible is one thing, but to categorize Flipsyde as a solely acoustic band would be a mistake. The band’s set list affords Lopez plenty of opportunities to plug in his G&L ASAT and go off—much to the delight of the guitar-starved hip-hop masses.

“It’s nuts,” he says. “I’ve been in rock bands my whole life, and no one ever cared about my playing. But some of these hip-hop kids have never heard a guitar solo. We did a tour with Snoop Dogg, and I’d go out and solo, and the kids would go wild. They thought I was Jimi Hendrix!”