To understand the origins of New York’s iconic political hip-hop posse, Public Enemy, one has to take themself back five decades to a cramped 1985 college dormitory in Long Island. This was when Chuck D met Flavor Flav, and the stars began to align. However, by 2020 those stars were shining (if at all) very faintly.
For Public Enemy fans, it is most likely embarrassing to admit how low Flavor Flav stooped in the 2000s. From trashy reality TV shows such as The Surreal Life and Flavor of Love to his ever-so-public substance abuse, the rapper had a heavy fall from grace. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning.
In 2017, even after Flavor Flav had sued Public Enemy for claims of unpaid royalties, Chuck D was still happy to have Flav as an official Public Enemy member who could tour with the group and continue to thrive. The legendary crew, formed in the 1980s, was always a political force, so it is ironic that Flavor Flav was ousted from the group in 2020 following a dispute over a free concert in support of Bernie Sanders.
Public Enemy performed at many political rallies during their heyday, so it was puzzling to many why the rapper (real name William Drayton) was so opposed to putting on a show in support of Bernie Sanders. In 2017, while the rapper was engrossed in his lawsuit. Chuck D said the outfit had performed at eight benefit concerts a year prior and would not stop.
As a result, in 2020, the group performed another for a Bernie Sanders rally in Los Angeles. Hearing word of the group’s LA performance, Flavor Flav’s lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Sanders campaign, requesting they change the marketing materials to specify Chuck D was the sole group member in support of the politician.
The letter read, “While Chuck is certainly free to express his political view as he sees fit — his voice alone does not speak for Public Enemy.” Chuck D did not beat around the bush in his reply. Talking to RollingStone magazine, the rapper (real name Carl Ridenhour) made a series of scathing remarks about Drayton and effectively proclaimed he was no longer a part of Public Enemy.
“Flavor chooses to dance for his money and not do benevolent work like this,” he said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “He has a year to get his act together and get himself straight, or he’s out. Public Enemy and Public Enemy Radio will be moving forward without Flavor Flav,” he said. “We thank him for his years of service and wish him well.”
Since the article, Chuck D has taken to Twitter on many occasions to address fans who take up for Flavor Flav. In one tweet directed at fans, he wrote, “Y’all trying to fill his persona with some political aplomb is absolutely stupid. Obviously, I understand his craziness.”
As of 2023, Public Enemy still trucks on, but only with original members Professor Griff, Jahi and Chuck D. However, Flavor Flav is and will most likely remain absent. You can see some of Chuck d’s tweets below.