One of rap music’s most legendarily fractious relationships got even fractious-er this week, as long-time hype man Flavor Flav was unceremoniously dumped by Chuck D from Public Enemy, after 30-plus years of (intermittently) serving as the group’s most opulently flamboyant member. And while the inciting incident for the firing was reportedly related to Flav’s decision not to perform at a Bernie Sanders rally alongside the group, both men have gone on the record saying that the only politics at play in the decision were the famously complicated ones operating within the highly influential outfit. Which is to say: Chuck D didn’t fire Flav because of Bernie. He fired him because of Flav.
This is per The Guardian, which quotes the self-described “jester” as making it clear he has no issues with Sanders, or anybody, “Except Trump. Some people tried to say I did this because I’m a Trump supporter and that’s not true. Fuck Trump!” Rather, he was angry about being included in promotional materials for a Sanders benefit show he refused to be a part of, putting the blame fully on Chuck D: “Why try to say I’m a part of something I’m not a part of? That was all Chuck D.”
Chuck, for his part, confirms that this is essentially true, stating that he’s long been fed up with the fact that Flav won’t do any sort of benefit concert or show where he won’t get paid. Given that Public Enemy is one of the most politically engaged acts in all of rap music, that’s caused any number of conflicts over the years—although Chuck also seemed pretty pissed off on a personal level that Flav bailed on a benefit show for Harry Belafonte semi-recently, after the calypso singer was kind enough to induct the group into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.
It’s one of those weird paradoxes at the heart of Public Enemy: Flavor Flav was included in the group specifically because his indifference to anything except good times helped cut some of the group’s more serious political messaging. But it’s also led to moments like the time Flav sued Chuck, and any number of other conflicts between two men with such fundamentally different worldviews. The fact that they remained ostensibly on the same side for as long as they have is actually kind of amazing; it sounds like not even the ongoing hellscape of the 2020 election can take the credit for finally breaking them apart.