Public Enemy are famous for fighting the power. Now it appears they'll be fighting each other in court.
On Tuesday, Aug. 29, William J. Drayton, better known to hip-hop fans as Flavor Flav, the group's clock-wearing hype man, filed a lawsuit in a California court against numerous companies and individuals associated with Public Enemy. The lawsuit apparently was sparked by the release of the group's latest album, Nothing Is Quick in the Desert, in June. Although Flavor Flav did participate in the recording of the album, the suit alleges that he was paid only 10 percent of his agreed-upon $75,000 fee and that he never approved the use of his vocals in the album's final mix or his likeness in the album's promotion and marketing.
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"On or about June 29, 2017, Drayton was shocked to see that a new 'Public Enemy' album was being released, and this his image was being used in multiple media outlets to promote the album," the lawsuit reads. "He had never heard of the album, nor heard any of the final mixes." The suit goes on to allege that Flavor Flav's lyrics and vocals had been used on previous Public Enemy recordings "without compensation," citing the group's 1988 single "Bring the Noise" as an example. "His improvised raps are some of the song’s most distinctive
moments," the suit states.
Among the defendants named in the lawsuit are Chuck D; Gary Rinaldo aka Gary G-Wiz, the group's longtime producer; and Clifton "Greg" Johnson, Flav's former personal manager.
The suit seeks an unspecified amount of unpaid royalties on all of Flavor Flav's contributions to Public Enemy, which it says include writing credits on more than 50 songs. The suit alleges that Flav has not received any songwriting royalties "for several years" and that his requests for "adequate accounting information" were not met.
If the suit goes to trial, it will take place in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, whose jurisdiction includes Ventura County, where Chuck D currently resides, and Anaheim, where Rinaldo and Public Enemy's label, SlamJamz, are based.