Public Enemy announced Sunday they are permanently “moving forward” without Flavor Flav, firing one of hip-hop’s most memorable hypemen after 37 years. The abrupt dismissal comes just two days after the rapper sent a cease-and-desist letter to Bernie Sanders over Chuck D’s concert at the campaign’s Los Angeles rally Sunday.
“Public Enemy and Public Enemy Radio will be moving forward without Flavor Flav,” the hip-hop legends said in a brief statement Sunday. “We thank him for his years of service and wish him well.”
The group reiterated that Public Enemy Radio — a Chuck D-led offshoot featuring DJ Lord, Jahi and the S1Ws — would still perform at the free, livestreamed Sanders rally gig at 6 p.m. PST at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Prior to Flavor Flav’s firing — and after the hypeman accused the Sanders of using his “unauthorized likeness, image and trademarked clock” to promote the rally — Chuck D said of his bandmate of 37 years in a statement, “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.”
A lawyer for Chuck D 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.”
Legal issues had been simmering between Flavor Flav and his fellow Public Enemy bandmates for years, when Flavor Flav sued Chuck D and the group’s business management firm in 2017 over unpaid profits. “This action involves the usurpation of money and property rights from Plaintiff William J. Drayton, known as ‘Flavor Flav,’” the suit stated. “Despite Drayton’s position in Public Enemy, the group’s management and related companies have for years attempted to minimize his role in the Public Enemy business, while continuing to rely upon Drayton’s fame and persona to market the brand.”
In the lawsuit, Flavor Flav claimed that he and Chuck D had a long-established agreement that profits from their music, merchandise and concerts would be split between them. Despite that alleged arrangement, Flavor Flav claimed that Public Enemy’s business management firm Eastlink had not been sending the earnings he is owed, which have “diminished to almost nothing, and Drayton has been refused accountings, even on the items bearing his likeness,” according to the lawsuit.
“Flav will be OK. TMZ Drama is beneath me considering our age,” Chuck D tweeted at the time, blaming Flavor Flav’s “new management” for the lawsuit. “It’s low entertainment, but I definitely like to find those 50 songs he wrote.”
In a tweet earlier Sunday, Chuck D clarified that the Sanders issue was not the only reason the group fired the hypeman. “My last straw was long ago,” he wrote. “It’s not about BERNIE with Flav… he don’t know the difference between [former NFL running back] Barry Sanders or Bernie Sanders. He don’t know either. FLAV refused to support Sankofa after Harry Belafonte inducted us. He don’t do that.” Sankofa, a grassroots organization founded by Belafonte, aims to, as they note on their site, “focus on issues of injustice that disproportionately affect the disenfranchised, the oppressed, and the underserved, which left unaddressed will continue to impact the lives of too many individuals and remain a scar on our nation’s moral character.”
Public Enemy’s statement added that Public Enemy Radio would release a new album in April; in December, Chuck D’s previous project Prophets of Rage dissolved following news of Rage Against the Machine’s reunion.