Reality-TV star and Long Island native Flavor Flav, a founding member of the groundbreaking rap group Public Enemy, is suing fellow founder Chuck D and others including his own manager, claiming unpaid royalties and unauthorized use of his likeness.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in a Los Angeles federal court, under his birth name, William J. Drayton, contends the Roosevelt-raised Chuck D and various business entities broke “a long-standing agreement that the profits from the Public Enemy name . . . including revenue derived from live concerts, and merchandise sales” would “be shared between them.” Flav, 58, born in Roosevelt and raised in Freeport, alleges his revenue from the group has “diminished to almost nothing” and that he “has been refused accountings.”
According to the suit, Flav “has never received any payments for downloads and streaming, even though his voice is the most distinctive element in Public Enemy and appears on dozens of recordings.” He alleges he was paid $7,500 rather than a promised $75,000 to record vocals for the group’s album “Nothing Is Quick in the Desert,” released for free on streaming media June 29 without his knowledge or input, even though his photograph appears in the liner notes and he is listed as an executive producer.
Flav also says he did not consent to his likeness being used in a set of Public Enemy action figures “designed by well-known pop artist Ed Piskor” and sculpted in Japan “by master sculptor, Tomohiro Yasui.”
He requested an accounting, any due profits, unspecified damages, attorney fees and a cessation of items bearing his unauthorized likeness.
“We brought this case only after months of asking for, but not receiving, hard information about where royalties were coming from and where they were going,” Flav’s attorney Eric Bjorgum said in a statement to Newsday. “We would like similar information about all proceeds derived from the band.” He added: “Reliable accounting data and documents would be the first thing we need to resolve this, followed by a clear agreement going forward and recognition of Flavor’s legacy in Public Enemy. The rest of the world recognizes him as half the group, but the group itself does not.”
Representatives for Chuck D, born Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, and Flav’s erstwhile manager, Clifton “Greg” Johnson, did not respond to Newsday’s requests for comment. Flav has not commented on social media.
Exclusive subscription offer
Newsday covers the stories that matter most to Long Islanders. We dig deep to uncover the facts, hold the powerful in check and keep a watchful eye on Long Island.
Your digital subscription, starting at $1, supports local journalism vital to the community.SUBSCRIBE NOW
Public Enemy, formed in the mid-1980s after Chuck D and Flavor Flav met while both attended Adelphi University in Garden City, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. Their albums “Yo! Bum Rush the Show” (1987), “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” (1988) and “Fear of a Black Planet” (1990) helped usher in politically conscious rap, garnered rapturous critical acclaim and frequently appear on hip-hop best-of lists. Public Enemy has continued to release albums into the 2010s.
Flav has since gone on to a reality-TV career, starring in shows including “The Surreal Life” (2004-06) and “Flavor of Love” (2006-08).