Public Enemy Fire Flavor Flav Following Bernie Sanders Dispute

Jack Mitchell/Getty Images

Public Enemy Fire Flavor Flav Following Bernie Sanders Dispute

Jack Mitchell/Getty Images

We knew that the 2020 election would be divisive. We did not know that it would lead to a division within one of America’s most iconic rap groups, but that has happened. Last week, Bernie Sanders announced a Los Angeles rally that would include a performance from Public Enemy. But it wasn’t really a Public Enemy performance — it was Public Enemy Radio, an offshoot of the group that rapper and group leader Chuck D recently established. Flavor Flav, Public Enemy’s longtime court-jester hypeman, publicly and legally objected to the perceived implication that he’d be involved in the Sanders campaign. And now, as a result of that whole flap, Flavor Flav is out of Public Enemy.

The Sanders rally went down yesterday at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and it went down without Flavor Flav. As Billboard reported shortly after the rally’s announcement, Flavor Flav’s attorney Matthew H. Friedman wrote an open letter accusing Chuck D of using Flavor Flav’s image to falsely imply his involvement:

We have become aware that Flavor’s bandmate and Public Enemy co-creator, Chuck D, has endorsed Bernie Sanders’ candidacy for President and plans to perform at an upcoming Sanders Rally. While Chuck is certainly free to express his political views as he sees fit – his voice alone does not speak for Public Enemy. The planned performance will only be Chuck D of Public Enemy, it will not be a performance by Public Enemy. Those who truly know what Public Enemy stands for know what time it is, there is no Public Enemy without Flavor Flav.

The letter also accuses the Sanders campaign of using Flav’s “likeness, image and trademarked clock in promotional materials.” It says that Flavor Flav has not endorsed a candidate and that Flav wants to “ensure voters are not misled and that Public Enemy’s music does not become the soundtrack of a fake revolution,” even accusing Sanders of “whitewashing a key chapter in American History” by presenting a version of Public Enemy without Flavor Flav.

In a statement to Billboard, Chuck D responded, “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.” Chuck’s lawyer also pointed out to Billboard that Chuck is the sole owner of the Public Enemy trademark.

That deadline was soon shortened. Yesterday, before the Sanders rally, Public Enemy released this statement:

Public Enemy and Public Enemy Radio will be moving forward without Flavor Flav. We thank him for his years of service and wish him well.

Public Enemy Radio, made up of Chuck D, DJ Lord, Jahi and the S1Ws taking it back to hip hop’s original DJ-and-turntablist foundation, will be performing today at the Bernie Sanders rally in Los Angeles.

That statement also claims that there’s a new Public Enemy album called Loud Is Not Enough coming in April.

The dynamic within Public Enemy — Chuck D as the voice of booming authority, Flavor Flav as the anarchic Bugs Bunny sidekick — was always key to the power of Public Enemy. If you’ve ever seen Public Enemy live, then you’ve seen how well that combination works. But if you’ve seen PE live, then there’s also a chance you’ve seen Flav show up halfway through the show. Flav’s had an uneasy relationship with Chuck for many years, and in 2017, he sued Chuck D over Public Enemy royalties. (According to Rolling Stone, a judge dismissed the case last year after Flav missed a filing deadline; it’s now in the Court Of Appeals.) On Twitter yesterday, Chuck accused Flav of outright refusing to perform at benefit shows:

So, uh, get out and vote, everybody!

UPDATE: Flavor Flav responded to Chuck D on Monday afternoon, expressing his disappointment at being ousted from Public Enemy. He writes, “You wanna destroy something we’ve built over 35 years OVER POLITICS???” Read his tweets below.

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