Flavor Flav is a legend in the rap game. Born William Drayton, Jr.; Flav hails from Long Island, New York and is best known as Public Enemy’s hypeman. The rap group is internationally recognized for putting out socially conscious music and taking a stance on racism, social justice, and police brutality.
Flav is best known for always rocking a full-length clock around his neck, reminding the masses that “time is the most important element we have in our lifetime.” When it comes to his mantra, his brand, and his mentality, Flav lives life to the fullest. He states, “My generation has a lot of age and experience. I wouldn’t give all of this knowledge up for nothing in the world.”
REVOLT caught up with the hip hop legend to chat about George Floyd, today’s protests, racism back in the Public Enemy days compared to now, police brutality, social justice, and more. Check out the convo below.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the world, the riots, and the protests?
I’m glad everything can start calming down right now because s**t’s definitely real chaotic. I want to say condolences out to the Floyd family, but also to the Garner family, that girl Breonna Taylor, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, my boy Amadou Diallo, Mike Brown who died up in Ferguson, a whole bunch of others. It’s messed up how these white cops are killing black people and getting away with it — been going on for years. Enough is enough, we’re tired of this s**t. You got motherf**kers retaliating right now. The ones looting, the ones burning down buildings, those people are on a whole different agenda.
When you want to go break into stores, burn down buildings, now you’re on your own personal agenda because that’s not what protesting is about. Protesting is about peace. Here, walk around with your signs, fighting for your justice. When you start fighting against the police, you’re not going to win. There’s enough police brutality going around already. You take yourself down there, put yourself into the reach of the police. If you’re in their reach, expect to get grabbed. If they grab you, expect more brutality. Only way they can’t do any more brutality is if you don’t put yourself into their arms’ reach. A lot of people right now aren’t thinking that, [that’s] why a lot of people are going to jail. Together we stand, divided we fall.
To everyone who goes to jail, that makes our society weaker. If you want a strong society, that means everybody needs to be here. Not part of us, it’s going to take everybody. We’re tired. We’ve had enough, so we’re angry. When you’re angry, it makes you do s**t first, then think about it later. That s**t costs you. We’re not thinking first, we’re acting out. I can’t blame people for wanting to burn down stores, for wanting to burn up police cars. We’re angry. We’re f**king tired. Enough is a f**king enough. This is the only way we feel we can pass the message back down to the police saying, “Hey, listen, we’re tired of this.” To the justice system because they’re letting a lot of these police off, letting them get away with this s**t they’re doing to us.
Hopefully, things can start to calm down now because all four officers [in George Floyd’s death] have been charged. Even though the last three, we’re still not happy with what they’re getting. All four of them should’ve got second degree murder. All four of them were on George Floyd at one time. You had one with his knee in his neck, another one with his knee in his back pushing is lungs against the ground, so he can’t get no air. You got another one with a knee in his lower back, then somebody down there holding his f**king knees. C’mon, man. That was a hit if you ask me. I heard they worked together in a nightclub together. I don’t know how true that is, but that’s what I’m hearing. If that’s true, then believe me I feel that’s a hit. That cop didn’t like George Floyd.
Public Enemy have been putting out music about social justice and police brutality since the beginning. How does that feel compared to now?
Honestly, it doesn’t really feel too much different. Back in the days, we made a record called “Self Destruction.” Right now today, it’s repeating itself. The same s**t’s going on now that was happening then. Until the right thing gets done, it’s always going to keep happening and keep happening for years and years. What’s the right thing to do about it?
Is there a solution?
What really is the solution? Outside of love and peace. A lot of people aren’t feeling love or feeling peaceful. A lot of people have hatred in them now. Two cops got shot in L.A: One died, one lives. I bet you any amount of money the one who died was one of the good cops. You got the f**ked up cops, the motherf**kers who did that s**t to George Floyd, making the whole f**king force look the same as them. I have family members that’s police. All cops aren’t bad. You do have cops who believe in doing the right thing out there on the streets by the people. They’ll do the right thing by you, they’ll protect you. Police who really believe in doing that from their hearts. But, you have some who want to be a**holes. They don’t give a f**k and they know for a fact they can get away with it. What do they do? Enforce their f**king power, which is real f**ked up. Look what they did to the two college kids in that car. They didn’t have to tase that poor girl up like that, and that boy.
Having been a member of Public Enemy for three-and-a-half decades, what was it’s mission then?
Our mission was to make good music. Our mission was to be the neighborhood’s CNN. On our records, we’d write about problems going on in the neighborhood. Within the same records, we’d come up with the solution… Our mission was to be the voice of the streets. We always were about peace, justice, and equality. Public Enemy has accomplished a lot of things that people in music won’t accomplish.
Is that mission still true?
The mission’s true. Look what we did for the state of Arizona, within the mission. Public Enemy was part responsible. We sparked it for the state of Arizona to have Martin Luther King’s birthday [as a holiday]. When we were out on tour with U2, Public Enemy did that.
How was that experience?
It was dope. Slammin’. I don’t know any other musical groups in history who have put a national holiday on the map.
What did it mean to be part of a political rap group so early on in hip hop?
It means a lot, but I really never got to feel that because I was never into politics. I didn’t care about politics. That’s Chuck D’s part. That’s his thing. I was into people in the streets, but it felt good feeling part of a political radical. It always feels good to still be part of one of the number one rap groups in history. Rock & Roll Hall of Famers.
What’s your relationship with Chuck D now?
That’s my partner. I love him, we’re going to always have a tight relationship. There will be times when we don’t see eye to eye, but that doesn’t mean we can’t bring it back and keep it moving. That’s my boy.
Bring us back to the studio session when you guys recorded “Fight The Power.”
First of all, your boy Flav was lit. I came in the studio litty. I was lit. Next thing you know, had this track going. Chuck and them said, “Okay, take this part. Take this part. Now say this part.” They had me doing parts. That record came out good, I liked it. Once I heard it put together, I thought, “Wow, this sounds like a hit record.” I was right. It became a hit.
Do you think it resonated with audiences?
It made a statement and did its job. Till this day, it’s still doing its job because it’s still relevant. People protesting are playing a lot of Public Enemy music during the protests.
Do you believe things have improved for people of color since its release?
It’s starting to improve. I see a lot more white people walking hand-in-hand with Black people today — a lot of white people sticking up for black people. One thing I always fought for: unity. No matter what race, no matter what creed, no matter what color we are, no matter what part of the world we come from, we’re still all sisters and brothers. We must all stick together to build that wall of unity. United we stand, divided we fall. That’s my thing. Certain people I wouldn’t let be connected to me, which is the supremacist groups. I don’t care what nationality you are, I could still say I love you and mean it.
What’s your side of the story of being fired from Public Enemy?
I was never, never ever fired. Public Enemy is owned by two people: William Drayton and Carlton Ridenhour, which is Flava Flav and Chuck D. Chuck owns one half of Public Enemy, I own the other. Now, if Chuck wants to, he can refuse to perform with me. That’s about it. Nobody can fire me from my own s**t.
Talk about the new commercial you’re shooting with Jardin, a Las Vegas dispensary. How was that experience?
I had a lot of fun shooting the commercial with Jardin. I take my hat off to the little sister, Semii, she did a good job. I remember how she’s trying to put this thing together weeks before we even did it, girl worked hard on it. The owner Adam has always been good people to me. They always took care of Flav. Times I’d go to Jardin, Snoop’s down there deejaying. We had Pep down there from Salt-N-Pepa. We were partying. Ever since, I’ve been going there.
They got commercials on the radio. You can hear Rick Ross, you hear T.I. They got everybody on these commercials except Flav (laughs). I told him, “Look, we need to shoot a commercial for your spot.” He said, “You know what, Flav? I think we need to do this.” Me and Adam spoke, he made it happen. What’s really special about it? I’m really bugging out. See this man right there? Tick is one of the ones that’s responsible for the state of Nevada to have marijuana legalized. I did the commercial with this guy.
What’s the significance behind wearing the clock?
Time being the most important element we have in our life. We can’t afford to waste none of it. Every minute this hand goes around, we have to use each second to our best value. It took time for us to be born, right? It’s going to take time for us to die.
Does that mean that you value your time? You don’t waste any of your time?
Only thing in life we have to look forward to. Every second that goes by, you’ll never ever see that second again in your life. Never. Every minute that goes by, you’ll never ever see that minute again. You can try to remember how it was, but you’ll never see the actual minute again. For all of us, everything in existence, there’s only one promise and that’s death. It’s a promise.
I’m scared of death.
When it comes around that time, who are we to tell God what to do? He could say, “Come now.” A lot of people went to sleep last night, they didn’t wake up like we did today. We’re the chosen ones, He chose us to be here. I thank him to where I can go to the store and buy something, put food up to my mouth. A lot of people aren’t fortunate to do that. A lot of homeless people, motherf**kers really struggling. I know what it feels like to be one of them because I was one of them. Before the Public Enemy s**t, I did some s**t back in my teenage days. Ran away from home, slept in garbage cans, all that dumb s**t. Slept on the roof of buildings.
In New York?
Yeah, where I’m from in Long Island. One time, I slept on the roof of this building for two weeks. Nobody knew my little crib was up there on the roof.
Back then, did you think that you would be where you are today?
Nahhhhh. Back then up on that roof, my mind was in other places. Even though I was a musician and always wanted to be famous one day. My life then was nowhere near what it is now. I was doing different things, but I was still into my music. Coming up, peer pressure, wanting to be like your friends. My mom always told me, “You know all your dos, you know all your don’ts. Do your dos, leave your don’ts alone.” I couldn’t help it, I had to f**k with the don’ts, man. C’mon, we all f**k with the don’ts. The dont’s get you in a lot of trouble, only thing you can do is get your ass out.
How was your experience on “Flavor of Love”?
I don’t even have to answer. I lived every man’s dream. Can I tell you what they called Flavor Flav? They called me the Black Hugh Hefner. I’m the Black Hugh Hef. You can ask my uncle, you can ask my nephew. Punch yo’ ass with the right and the motherf**king left.
Anything else you want to let us know?
I’m in the kitchen cooking up. I have projects on deck that I feel people will be happy with once I’m able to bring these projects to life. I’m still doing my TV s**t. No more dating s**t. Been there, done that. Musically, I’m getting ready to drop a solo album. Public Enemy will drop two albums this year. I’m producing an album we come out with in September.
Is there a name yet?
I’ll talk to Chuck about this. We should name the album Public Enemy: We Coming Through. Watch out! We coming through.