Don't Believe the Hype: Freshly Roasted Flavor Flav

While Flavor Flav may have become an object of ridicule through

cable television’s last five years of programming, we, as a Hip-Hop

journalists, can’t help but “roast” the man for his merits.

It’s arguable that no “hype-man” in Hip-Hop history has done more.

Flav, who with one late-released solo album, has always played an

integral part within iconic Public Enemy throughout their 20 glorious

years of recording, performing, and continuously educating. Perhaps

Flav was merely a foil of comic relief to Chuck D and the Bomb Squad’s

organized chaos of politics, social commentary, and hard truth. Perhaps

equally, Flav was staged to be a court jester, as Professor Griff

played shogun, and Terminator X (and today DJ Lord) played trumpeter

within King Chuck D’s conscious court. But Flav could keep his comedic

cape lined with ghetto dispatches as well. After all, for folk trying

to survive in the inner city jungle, “911 Is a Joke” hit home. This

Sunday on Comedy Central, we’ll see Flav wear these hats—presumably along with a Viking

helmet, as he will endure the kind of jeering that Martin Lawrence

opened up 15 years ago on Def Comedy Jam.

Flavor Flav has lovingly played that part. But was there something

greater at play? Firstly, we don’t discount Flav’s lyrical abilities.

On every P.E. album, the ad-lib general was given his moment in the

sun. 1998’s “Shake Your Booty” was the comic relief of the

criminally-slept-on He Got Game soundtrack/album needed. Just

as gangsters search for a heartfelt break in the machismo, Public Enemy

always instilled Flavor to let audiences come up for air, let the blood

flow back into their fists, and smile amidst the militant musical

massacres that we all know and love.

“Too Much Posse,” remains another Flav jewel within the P.E.

catalogue. This 1987 hit allowed Flavor, as a resonant voice of the

group, to proclaim just how deep the outfit mobbed, with his extensive

presence on the track. The role was always defined, and carefully

executed. Unlike Bushwick Bill’s undependable role within the Geto

Boys, Public Enemy without Flavor Flav is a force of another color. He

was never exploited within the group, added and subtracted for

commercial purposes…William Drayton, Jr. was an essential component

within Hip-Hop’s greatest group.

That name, (W. Drayton) appears in the countless times P.E. has

been sampled and interpolated. Although Flav wasn’t technically part of

The Bomb Squad, and he wasn’t penning the verses that molded our

consciousness, he was—and is—a valued member of the group. So while the

New York (the chick, not the city), Red Sonja and fried chicken gags

fly, it will be easy to get caught up in viewing Flav with celeb-reality blinders and

only seeing tragic caricature. But really, don’t believe the hype.