Flavor Flav, hip-hop’s defining “hype man” who revved up audiences at shows of rap greats Public Enemy, has sued his bandmates alleging unfair sharing of profits.
Flavor Flav, whose real name is William Drayton, sought damages to be determined by a jury trial, saying he had a longstanding agreement to share revenue with frontman Chuck D.
Always sporting a dangling clock as a necklace, Flavor Flav interacted with crowds and interjected witty asides in the tracks of Public Enemy, pioneers in the late 1980s of political hip-hop with songs that pointedly attacked racism.
He became a model of the hype man at hip-hop shows. In the lawsuit filed this week in a federal court in California, the 58-year-old described his character as “a court jester to the serious persona” of Chuck D.
The lawsuit said Flavor Flav has co-written more than 50 Public Enemy songs but “the group’s management and related companies have for years attempted to minimize his role in the Public Enemy business, while continuing to rely upon Drayton’s fame and persona to market the brand.”
Flavor Flav said the problems worsened under a new management company and that he received only $7,500 for an album Public Enemy released for free in July.
For the lead track, “Nothing Is Quick in the Desert,” Flavor Flav said he was asked to come to a studio and recite the title line several times, with his vocals mixed on the track without further input from him.
Flavor Flav said he was also not paid for a set of Public Enemy action-figures featuring his likeness made for a Japanese toy company by comic book artist Ed Piskor.
Flavor Flav has long struggled with addiction and faced legal problems, in the 1990s serving jail time after pleading guilty to assaulting his girlfriend and also being charged with shooting at a neighbor.
Chuck D, responding on Twitter, questioned Flavor Flav’s claim to writing so many songs but added the “drama is beneath me considering our age,” saying the focus should instead be on helping victims of mega-storm Harvey and combating President Donald Trump.
“People can lighten up on Flav. It’s his new management that vengefully felt that suing a third party and connecting me was a good move for him,” he tweeted.