Public Enemy announced Sunday they are permanently “moving forward” without Flavor Flav, firing one of hip-hop’s most memorable hypemen after more than 35 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.
The cease-and-desist letter, sent to Sanders Friday by Flavor Flav’s lawyer Matthew Friedman, accused the campaign of using the hypeman’s “unauthorized likeness, image and trademarked clock” to promote the rally, even though Flavor Flav “has not endorsed any political candidate.”
“While Chuck is certainly free to express his political view as he sees fit — his voice alone does not speak for Public Enemy,” the letter states. “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.
“Flav … has not endorsed any political candidate in this election cycle. … The continued publicizing of this grossly misleading narrative is, at a minimum, careless and irresponsible if not intentionally misleading,” Friedman added in the letter. “It is unfortunate that a political campaign would be so careless with the artistic integrity of such iconoclastic figures in American culture.
In a handwritten note at the bottom of the cease-and-desist, Flavor Flav wrote to Sanders, “Hey Bernie, don’t do this.”
Prior to Flavor Flav’s firing — and after the hypeman accused Sanders of using his “unauthorized likeness, image and trademarked clock” to promote the rally — Chuck D said of his bandmate of more than three decades 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.”
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.”
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.”
Per court records, the suit against Chuck D was dismissed in January 2019. A judge dismissed Flavor Flav’s case against Eastlink in April 2019 after the rapper’s legal team missed a filing deadline, though the hypeman appealed the judgment. (The case is currently working its way through the United States Court of Appeals – Ninth Circuit, per court records.)
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.