We've never really pretended to be official hip hop historians here at Cracked, but even we know about Flavor Flav -- the guy running around with giant clocks around his neck, yelling his own name as the more public hype man for hip-hop duo Public Enemy. We know he's secretly a super talented musician, but he's also kind of the Art Garfunkel to Public Enemy frontman Chuck D's Paul Simon. What we didn't know is that, even though Flav is kinda the goofier of the two, he's apparently super apolitical too.
Over the weekend, Chuck D was set to perform at a Bernie Sanders rally under the name of "Public Enemy Radio," meaning that it'd be Chuck D doing a bunch of Public Enemy songs without Flavor Flav there with him. That's super cool and actually totally on-brand for Chuck D. However, as the Sanders campaign is probably very aware, the stereotypical Sanders rally attendee (we're saying stereotypical here on purpose) is full of people who might not even realize who/what Public Enemy is without Flavor Flav. So, in the advertising for the event, there was advertising material with a sort of stylized image of Flavor Flav on it.
This didn't sit well with the guy who is very proud of running around with clocks around his neck. He and his lawyer sent a cease-and-desist to the Sanders campaign, with a little handwritten note from Flavor Flav at the bottom saying, "Hey Bernie, don't do this." This honestly seems super reasonable, given that Flavor Flav knew how misleading the posters looked and, more importantly, that he has not endorsed any candidate in this cycle (although time's sorta running out for that).
Chuck D got the word out pretty quickly to let Flavor Flav know that if he pulled something like this again, he was out of the band. Sending a letter to Rolling Stone, he said, "Flavor chooses to dance for his money and not do benevolent work like this. He has a year to get his act together and get himself straight or he's out." His lawyer added, "From a legal standpoint, Chuck could perform as Public Enemy if he ever wanted to; he is the sole owner of the Public Enemy trademark. He originally drew the logo himself in the mid-80's, is also the creative visionary and the group's primary songwriter, having written Flavor's most memorable lines."
The performance went forward, livestreamed for free, and in the aftermath, it seems that Public Enemy has fired Flavor Flav. In a statement, Chuck D said, "We thank him for his years of service and wish him well," which is more something you say to a middle-aged NBA coach you're in the process of firing mid-season.
If Chuck D is to be believed, this was more the straw that broke the camel's back than just the result of a one-off incident here. Chuck D was tired of Flav's repeated resistance to being involved in these types of events. These guys have been rapping about stuff like police brutality since like, the 80s, and they literally call themselves Public Enemy. You can't make that your brand and then "not be political" to some extent.
Chuck D, for his part, has been enthusiastic about endorsing Sanders, and over on Twitter is trying to illustrate for folks why he supports Sanders' positions. It's very personal for him, so you can kinda understand why he'd want to use his position to make a difference, and why he'd want his musical partner of 35 years up there with him. Hopefully by the end of this, the two can go back to being, uh, Enemies? Friends? Ugh, whatever.