The influential rap group known for their political commentary and unapologetic tone released a statement on Sunday.
“Public Enemy and Public Enemy Radio will be moving forward without Flavor Flav,” the statement said. “We thank him for his years of service and wish him well.” Public Enemy Radio is an offshoot of the original Public Enemy, which was formed in 1985.
The announcement came after Flavor Flav sent a cease-and-desist letter to Bernie Sanders‘ camp on Friday when it was announced that Public Enemy would perform for Sanders’ rally in Los Angeles on Sunday. The Democratic presidential candidate is campaigning in California ahead of Super Tuesday when the state will have their primary elections.
Flav’s lawyer Matthew Friedman sent the letter and it accused Sanders’ campaign of using the 60-year-old hypeman’s “unauthorized likeness, image, and trademarked clock” to promote the rally, even though Flav “has not endorsed any political candidate.” In a handwritten note at the bottom of the cease-and-desist letter, Flav wrote, “Hey Bernie, don’t do this.”
Not too long after Flav’s letter was made public, the frontman to Public Enemy, Chuck D, said, “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 representing Chuck D also said, “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-80s, is also the creative visionary and the group’s primary songwriter, having written Flavor’s most memorable lines.”
Now that Flav is officially out of the group, Chuck D has been using Twitter to clarify his feeling towards the whole situation, and his comments shed light on a timeline of tensions that were already brewing between Flav and Public Enemy.
On Sunday, before the 6p.m. rally in L.A., Chuck D tweeted:
“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 @harrybelafonte inducted us. He don’t do that.” Sankofa is a grassroots organization founded by Harry Belafonte that, according to their site, works to “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.”
After the rally ended on Sunday, Chuck D, returned to tweet, “If there was a $bag, Flav would’ve been there front & center. He will NOT do free benefit shows. Sued me in court the 1st time I let him back in. His ambulance lawyer sued me again on Friday & so now he stays home & better find REHAB.”
Flavor Flav has struggled with drug addiction for a long time (at least 18 years) and even a former member of Public Enemy, Professor Griff, explained that Flav’s drug use has caused tensions within the group since the early days of their careers. In a DJ Vlad interview with Griff, he explained during a certain period “the drug was more important” to Flav, and he described instances of the group having to look for Flav while he was getting high. Griff even said Flav was using drugs during the filming of Public Enemy’s 1988 anti-drug song “Night of the Living Baseheads.”
Flav also talked about his drug use, once telling DJ Vlad in a 2019 interview, “I got to the point, Vlad, where I was spending like $2,300 to $2,500 dollars per day on coke and crack. Per day. And I did that sh*t for six years straight. Do the math.”
It’s not completely known if Flav is still using today. Although he’s mentioned being sober before, his latest arrest for being under the influence of cocaine was 2015. Even if Flav isn’t on hard drugs, it’s possible he has an alcohol problem. In a 2019 episode of “Growing Up Hip Hop”, Flav’s kids tried to host an intervention with him, demanding that he goes to rehab for drinking and it didn’t end well. They literally had to tackle him and stop him from leaving the room. With Chuck D suggesting Flav “better find rehab” in his most recent tweets, it’s possible the frontman is accusing Flav of focusing on the wrong things, instead of his health and sobriety.
As far as legal issues go, Public Enemy and Flavor Flav have also had their issues. According to Rolling Stone, Flav sued Chuck D and Public Enemy’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 explained. “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, Flav argued that he and Chuck D had a long-held agreement that profits from their music, merchandise and concerts would be split between them. Despite the alleged agreement, Flav said that Public Enemy’s business management firm Eastlink hadn’t been distributing the earning 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.
Though Flav and Chuck D didn’t necessarily bad mouth each other in interviews during the lawsuit, it was clear that tension was there.
“Flav will be OK. TMZ Drama is beneath me considering our age,” Chuck D tweeted at the time the lawsuit hit the news, blaming Flavor Flav’s “new management” for the whole situation. “It’s low entertainment, but I definitely like to find those 50 songs he wrote.”
According to court records, the suit against Chuck D was dismissed in January 2019 and the case against Eastlink was dismissed in April 2019 after Flav’s legal team missed a filing deadline, although he appealed the judgment. The case is currently working its way through the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Ironically, in an interview with DJ Vlad in 2019, Flav said of Chuck D, “That’s still my boy and I love him and everything, it’s just, it’s messed up how money, you know what I’m saying, makes you. Instead of you making the money.” He continued, “How it makes you do sh*t, how it makes you split up from your friends, how it splits you up from your family.”
Now here we are with Chuck D accusing Flavor Flav of only performing when money’s involved. Chuck D continued in his tweets, “I heard I’m trending, like I care . I built @EnemyRadioRS so it does benefits & fundraisers… He said he never gonna do them. So his refusal to do @HarryBelafonte #ManyRiversFestival in Atlanta 2016 was my last time. I built Enemy Radio to get far away from that ridiculousness.”
No matter what reiteration of the group occurs, it seems like Flav won’t be apart of it, at least for now.
It’s the end of an era.
But with rap groups breaking up and getting back together all the time, only time will tell if this is a permanent firing or just an unresolved blowout sparked by a Bernie Sanders rally.