The Hip Hop community was up in arms after Chuck D and the rest of Public Enemy announced Flavor Flav had been kicked out of the pioneering group last month. What initially began as a legitimate disagreement over a Bernie Sanders rally erupted into Flav’s immediate dismissal.
Suddenly, everyone was talking about it. #ChuckD was a trending Twitter topic. Every late night talk show host from Jimmy Fallon to Stephen Colbert was cracking jokes about it. Every major publication, including CNN, made the Public Enemy split a headline. Miraculously, the general public somehow became experts on the inner workings of the group overnight. More people were talking about Public Enemy than they had in years.
But it turns out — the public discourse between the two longtime group members was ultimately a hoax, or as Chuck calls it, “the hoax that ain’t no joke.”
In an exclusive interview with HipHopDX, Chuck explains what drove him to this point.
“Going into 2020, this is the second decade where Hip Hop has skidded away to the point where the good look is never, ever considered and the bad look keeps getting elevated to the point where it’s just disrespectful,” he tells DX. “I had to figure out, ‘What is the teachable moment for me?’
“I think Jadakiss talked about it in his Ignatius album — it’s like, we can’t have dead rappers be the news that comes out that elevates them to the top. When does the good look get a look? When I saw Common do his performance at the NBA All-Star Weekend, I thought it was the greatest performance I’d ever seen a Hip Hop artist do on TV — and no one said anything.”
He continues, “The final straw for me was the young man Pop Smoke being murdered, and all of a sudden he becomes a name. It was reminiscent of the year before with Nipsy Hussle, somebody who I played and supported on our RAPstation networks. A few people knew his name but then he gets murdered and of all a sudden it’s this ground swell. The blogs, platforms and all Hip Hop media, I felt they were heavily negligent and started to hover like buzzards waiting for the worst thing to happen.”
So when Flav’s legal team fired a cease-and-desist letter to the Sanders campaign contesting the use of “Public Enemy Radio” on promotional items, Chuck had already warned Flav he was going to “embarrass” him if he ever publicly bashed him — and this was the perfect opportunity.
“Flavor didn’t have a great 2019,” he says. “Anytime Flavor was in the news, it was on some bad look shit. He was dragged through the coals. We disagreed in 2019 until he got his shit together and we came to some kind of accord in January 2020. We said, ‘Listen, man, this is what you’ve got to do, bro. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.’ I was working on a record at the same time.
“In 2019, he didn’t like the fact — and I didn’t like the fact — that the group was called Public Enemy Radio. I called it Enemy Radio. The promoters thought they could call it Public Enemy Radio and I said, ‘You know what? It’s not Public Enemy Radio and I don’t like it and Flavor doesn’t like it either.’ But once again, they allowed it to happen. So when this popped up that Public Enemy Radio was called on stage with Bernie Sanders, of course Flav was pissed off.”
But Chuck understood and actually agreed with Flav. While watching a documentary on Orson Welles’ The War of the Worlds, a lightbulb went on.
“Flav was upset about that and understood that I was upset about that, too,” he continues. “But Enemy Radio was formed to do those benefits and political things, rally, or whatever. Flavor don’t give a damn if it was Bernie Sanders, Barry Sanders or Colonel Sanders.
“At the same time in February, I was watching the War of the Worlds documentary where Orson Welles used the apparatus of that time — radio — to flip the minds of those listening who really wasn’t fully paying attention to what he was saying. War of the Worlds was played out to be this big hoax. Now, I’m not saying our hoax was initially planned perfectly, but it kind of played itself out where Flavor’s lawyers and people would put a cease-and-desist on Public Enemy Radio, which I agreed to anyway. But I also said, ‘Listen, next time you bash me publicly, I’m going to bash you.