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Chuck D fires Flavor Flav from Public Enemy after dispute over Sen. Bernie Sanders

Flavor Flav attends the Republic Records Grammy After

Flavor Flav attends the Republic Records Grammy After Party on Jan. 26, 2020, in West Hollywood.  Credit: Getty Images for Republic Records / Tommaso Boddi

Rapper Chuck D has fired comical hypeman Flavor Flav from the iconic Long Island hip-hop group Public Enemy following long-simmering tensions and a dispute over participation in a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.

"Public Enemy and Public Enemy Radio will be moving forward without Flavor Flav," a representative for the group and its spinoff said in a statement Sunday. "We thank him for his years of service and wish him well."

Flav, 60, born in Roosevelt and raised in Freeport, had sent a cease-and-desist letter to Sanders Friday objecting to "unauthorized use of his likeness, image and trademarked clock in promotional materials circulated by the campaign." Posted by the online music magazine Pitchfork, the letter from Flav's attorney Matthew Friedman goes on to say, "While Chuck is certainly free to express his political views as he sees fit — his voice alone does not speak for Public Enemy. … [T]here is no Public Enemy without Flavor Flav."

In a statement to HipHopDX, Chuck D's attorney said, "From a legal standpoint, Chuck could perform as Public Enemy if he ever wanted to; he is the sole owner of the Public Enemy trademark. He originally drew the logo himself in the mid-80's, is also the creative visionary and the group's primary songwriter, having written Flavor's most memorable lines."

Chuck D's Public Enemy Radio, featuring DJ Lord, Jahi and the S1Ws, on Sunday performed such classics as "Fight the Power" at the livestreamed campaign rally at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where such Sanders supporters as Dick Van Dyke and Sarah Silverman also appeared.

"Spoke @BernieSanders rally with @EnemyRadio," the Roosevelt-raised Chuck D, 59 tweeted Monday. "If there was a $bag, Flav would've been there front & center. He will NOT do free benefit shows." Flav, he said, "don't know the difference between [NFL star] BarrySanders or [Vermont Sen.] BernieSanders he don't know either. … So I don't attack FLAV on what he don't know. I gotta leave him at the crib so y'all trying to fill his persona with some political aplomb is absolutely 'stupid.' "

Flav, born William Drayton Jr., tweeted Monday, "are you kidding me right now???,,,over Bernie Sanders??? You wanna destroy something we've built over 35 years OVER POLITICS???,,,all because I don't wanna endorse a candidate,,,I'm very disappointed in you and your decisions right now Chuck,,,." 

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Flav wrote in a subsequent tweet, "i didn't sue you on Friday,,,i asked the [Sen. Bernie Sanders] campaign to correct misleading marketing,,,that's all it was,,,I'm not your employee,,,i'm your partner,,,you can't fire me,,,there is no Public Enemy without Flavor Flav,,,so let's get it right Chuck,,,."

Flav's 2017 lawsuit against Chuck D, born Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, over royalties and related issues was dismissed early last year. 

Public Enemy, formed after Chuck D and Flavor Flav met while both attended Adelphi University in Garden City, was inducted into the Rock & 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 critical acclaim and frequently appear on hip-hop best-of lists.

Flav has since gone on to a reality-TV career, starring in shows including "The Surreal Life" and "Flavor of Love."

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