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4 Lesser-Known Halves of Music Duos Who Deserve Your Respect

#2. Flavor Flav (Public Enemy)

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Again, is Public Enemy really a duo? Not if you consider a DJ and several security guards to be legitimate members of a musical act. In other words, yes -- for all intents and purposes, Public Enemy is a duo consisting of rappers Chuck D and Flavor Flav. The former is widely regarded as one of the most important lyricists of his day; the latter fucked Brigitte Nielsen on VH1 in the name of nothing more than giving your girlfriend something to watch on television.

Carlo Allegri/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Your woman expects this from you now.

So it's understandable that he'd be viewed as the less essential half of his longstanding partnership with Chuck D (real name Carlton Ridenhour, in case you hadn't already guessed). There's more to Flavor Flav than gigantic clocks and questionable relationship choices, though. For one thing, he's got that Viking helmet that he's pretty well-known for these days. Don't even try to take that away from him.

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It wouldn't look this good on you anyway.

Wait, there's more! Cracked has already discussed at length that Flavor Flav is a secret genius who can play pretty much any musical instrument by ear ...

... and if segues were a thing you needed in a list article, that point would make as good of a segue as any for what I want to talk about here, which is the music of Flavor Flav.

Once again, in the annals of Public Enemy history, it's the Chuck D-fronted songs that get most of the attention. For Flavor Flav, the general public's knowledge of his musical output is mostly limited to "911 Is a Joke" from the 1990 album Fear of a Black Planet.

A lot of that has to do with the fact that, in general, Flavor Flav is limited to a song or two per album, which I imagine is just one on a list of many things he has in common with the Beatles' George Harrison.


This too.

Another characteristic the two share as a result of the limitations put on their ability to release music is an unusually strong batting average as it relates to good songs vs. terrible songs. Over the course of Public Enemy's gigantic catalog of released material, there have been enough "Flavor Flav" songs to maybe fill an album or two. That said, if you did compile those songs onto an album, it would be a pretty strong one. As far back as their first album, Flavor Flav's contributions have provided a welcome respite from the almost always otherwise serious tone of Public Enemy's work. Like this song from the House Party soundtrack ...

... which eventually ended up on the same album as "911 Is a Joke" and, as a result, has been mostly forgotten. He turned in similarly strong songs for their next album, Apocalypse '91 ...

... the album after that one ...

... and pretty much every Public Enemy album before or since. Sure, he's a borderline maniac who's probably a massive embarrassment to be around in front of friends and family, but that should be all the more evidence of his usefulness and importance to the Public Enemy legend. If he wasn't worth putting up with, they wouldn't still be putting up with him after all these years.

#1. Meg White (The White Stripes)

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Sometimes, when I'm putting together a column, I like to make little side bets with my friend (not a typo) and co-workers about which entry is going to inspire the most outrage among the commenters. This week, I've put my money on Meg White.

I'm joking, of course. No one cares what you think. Still, I can envision a lot of people furrowing their stupid brows over Meg White's inclusion here. After all, let's just say it: She's a terrible fucking drummer. Like, really bad. Famously bad. Legendarily bad. Calling her underrated probably seems like a stretch. In terms of talent, Meg White was Jack White's equal only in that they're the Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen of avoiding the sun.

YouTube
"You're Pippen."

Still, despite having a drummer who can barely play the drums, the fact remains that the White Stripes made some really great music. How did that happen? Easy -- they didn't make great music in spite of their terrible drummer; they made great music because of their terrible drummer. Listen to any White Stripes song and, please, by all means, tell me what those drums should sound like. If you're a drummer, you probably have an actual answer, which is fine provided you're fine with no one wanting to hear it. The only correct answer, of course, is that those drums sound exactly as they should, because that is a White Stripes song. If you want a White Stripes song with competent drumming, you're going to have to listen to a different band:

The White Stripes was not a unit built upon a foundation of capability. Their songs succeeded because they work on the same level as things like nursery rhymes and shiny objects. They tap into something very basic and primal that lives inside all of us, which, of course, is the need to rock with as little muss or fuss as possible.

None of this would have been possible without Meg White and her near total inability to play the drums. Couldn't a competent drummer have stepped in to play those simple patterns? No, because they'd be too ashamed to attach their name to that shit. Meg White, clearly, has no aspirations toward becoming a great musician, which made her perfectly suited to play the preschool level drum parts that make a White Stripes song so immediately distinguishable ...

... from the rest of Jack White's catalog.

Besides, how would Jack White have even known that his squeals and squeaks become so tasty when set to the sound of a noticeable lack of talent if he never decided to just up and let whoever happened to be in the room at the time have a shot at playing drums? I'm not sure how the first one worked, but these days, every chicken starts as an egg, and, as it pertains to the White Stripes, Meg White is that egg. Without her, the music of the White Stripes literally could not exist ...

... and that would be a goddamn shame.


Adam hosts a podcast called Unpopular Opinion that you should listen to on SoundCloud and a live stand-up comedy show of the same name that you should come see sometime if you're in the Los Angeles area. You should also be his friend on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

For more halves that deserve better, check out 16 Secret Pet Peeves of Famous Sidekicks.

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