“Public Enemy and Public Enemy Radio will be moving forward without Flavor Flav,” the group said in a statement shared with Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. “We thank him for his years of service and wish him well.”
The drama began last week, when the Sanders campaign announced that Public Enemy Radio would perform at a rally at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Sunday. (Also included in the eclectic lineup: comedian Sarah Silverman and “Mary Poppins” actor Dick Van Dyke.) An offshoot of the original group, Public Enemy Radio is composed of Chuck D, DJ Lord, Jahi and the S1Ws.
Although a promotional poster made clear — albeit in small font — that Public Enemy Radio, not Public Enemy, would be performing, Flavor Flav claimed that this constituted “deceptive marketing.” The former “Flavor of Love” star, whose real name is William Jonathan Drayton Jr., said that he had not endorsed any candidate and that Chuck D, who has backed Sanders, did not speak for the group.
“There is no Public Enemy without Flavor Flav,” Flav’s attorney, Matthew H. Friedman, wrote in a letter to the Sanders campaign, which was widely shared with the media. “Sanders claims to represent ‘everyman’ not ‘the man’ yet his grossly irresponsible handling of Chuck’s endorsement threatens to divide Public Enemy and, in doing so, forever silences one of our nation’s loudest and most enduring voices for social change.”
.@BernieSanders’s advertising that Public Enemy will rally for him in LA led @FlavorFlav to hire a divorce lawyer who said he’s “whitewashing” and pushing a “fictional revolution” and compared him to the “establishment” that called them gangsters.Also, a personal note at the end: pic.twitter.com/dciVhhXSzP— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) February 29, 2020
The two longtime bandmates weren’t exactly on the best of terms before the endorsement. In 2017, Flavor Flav sued Chuck D and Public Enemy’s management firm, saying he hadn’t been receiving his share of profits from music, merchandise and concerts.
In a subsequent interview with HipHopDX, Chuck D, whose real name is Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, claimed that the management company was to blame. But he also added that Flav, known for wearing giant clocks around his neck, “brings a lot of craziness and disorganization to the f---ing table, and that causes myriad issues that costs time and money.”
For folks who just remembered who Public Enemy are or haven’t followed their news - Flava Flav & Chuck D been had beef & legal battles so this recent blow up and separation is the accumulation of years old beef - not just an over reactive response to a recent incident.— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) March 2, 2020
According to the site, Flav’s lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice last year. But the bad blood evidently didn’t go away. On Saturday, Chuck D defended his decision to put on a free concert for Sanders in a statement to Pitchfork, saying that Flav “chooses to dance for his money and not do benevolent work like this.” He also issued an ultimatum, saying that his former bandmate “has a year to get his act together and get himself straight or he’s out.”
“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,” Chuck D’s attorney told Pitchfork. “He originally drew the logo himself in the mid-’80s, is also the creative visionary and the group’s primary songwriter, having written Flavor’s most memorable lines.”
The two have expressed divergent political views before. After a March 2016 concert where Chuck D gave the finger to then-candidate Donald Trump, Billboard caught up with Flavor Flav, who admitted that he wasn’t “the politician of the group” but took a more open-minded view toward a fellow reality television star.
“There’s a lot of people talking a lot of s--- about Trump, but guess what? He’s winning,” Flavor Flav said. “The man is winning. I ain’t gonna lie, but listen, the United States has been ran a certain way for decades and decades and decades. You never know: Maybe Trump could possibly do something. Maybe he might step in office and do something. I’m not going to doubt him.”
In 2018, however, Flav accused Trump of being the “most destructive president in United States history.” And in tweets posted before the Los Angeles rally on Sunday, which drew 17,000 people, Chuck D said that the hype man hadn’t been trying to make a political statement when he attacked the Sanders campaign.
“He don’t know the difference between Barry Sanders or Bernie Sanders,” Chuck D wrote, referring to the Detroit Lions legend.
In fact, Flavor Flav told reporters on Sunday that he supported “any alternative to Trump” and had “nothing personal against Bernie.” And there were evidently larger tensions splitting the group. “My last straw was long ago,” Chuck D tweeted on Sunday, before accusing Flavor Flav of failing to show support for Sankofa, a social justice organization founded by singer and activist Harry Belafonte.
As a big Public Enemy fan, PE has been ideologically broken up for a while. Chuck stuck to the message he's been proselytizing since the 80s, and Flav fed into demeaning reality TV trash.— Anthony Fantano Updates (@theneedledrop) March 2, 2020
Of course Flav doesn't sees this "revolution" as "fake"; he's a sell-out.
Still, on Twitter, people couldn’t help speculating about what the breakup might mean for the Democratic primaries. “Imagining a devastating bloomberg attack ad about bernie splitting up public enemy,” tweeted BuzzFeed News’s Josh Billinson.