The rap group Public Enemy said it was “moving forward” without Flavor Flav after he raised objections that Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign had made it appear as if the group was backing his candidacy.
A lawyer representing Flavor Flav, the flamboyant, clock-wearing rapper who had his own reality series on VH1 and whose real name is William Drayton, sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Sanders campaign on Friday. The letter objected to what the lawyer said was the unauthorized use of Flavor Flav’s likeness and trademarked clock image to promote a rally on Sunday with Public Enemy in Los Angeles.
The lawyer, Matthew H. Friedman, said in the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times, that Mr. Sanders had been endorsed by Chuck D of Public Enemy, but not by the group itself and not by Flavor Flav.
“The Public Enemy Movement cannot allow its cultural identity, likeness and life’s work to be misappropriated by political operatives in support of a fictional revolution — Don’t Believe The Hype!” Mr. Friedman wrote. “It is unfortunate that a political campaign would be so careless with the artistic integrity of such iconoclastic figures in American culture.”
The Sanders campaign declined to comment on Monday. A spokeswoman for Public Enemy and Public Enemy Radio issued a statement that said: “Public Enemy and Public Enemy Radio will be moving forward without Flavor Flav. We thank him for his years of service and wish him well.”
Flavor Flav and Chuck D formed Public Enemy in 1982. Public Enemy Radio is an offshoot of the original group led by Chuck D.
On Sunday, Chuck D, whose real name is Carlton Ridenhour, addressed the episode by saying on Twitter, “it’s not about Bernie with Flav … he don’t know the difference between Barry Sanders or Bernie Sanders.”
In a separate post early Monday morning, Chuck D said that he had appeared at the Sanders rally on Sunday night. He added that if a “$bag,” or payment, had been involved, “Flav would’ve been there front & center.” His former partner, he added, “will NOT do free benefit shows.”
The rally drew thousands to the Los Angeles Convention Center on Sunday and featured Chuck D and his crew performing a set of Public Enemy material that included “Bring the Noise,” “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” and “Fight the Power,” according to The Los Angeles Times. Also appearing at the event held ahead of Super Tuesday were the comedian Sarah Silverman and the actor Dick Van Dyke.
On Twitter, Chuck D said that he had built the group Public Enemy Radio to perform Public Enemy’s material at “benefits & fundraisers.” Flavor Flav’s “refusal to do” Many Rivers to Cross, a music and arts festival organized by Harry Belafonte, in 2016 “was my last time,” he said. “I built Enemy Radio to get far away from that ridiculousness.”
Chuck D also said that Flavor Flav had sued him on Friday. It was not clear whether Chuck D was referring to the cease-and-desist letter, or whether a lawsuit had been filed.
This is not the first legal feud between the two artists. In 2017, Flavor Flav sued Chuck D, alleging that he had not been paid all the royalties he was owed. Flavor Flav also accused Chuck D of using Flavor Flav’s voice on an album that was released that year and included his image on its cover, both without authorization.