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Because Adland is a global publication with viewers from all ends of the earth and back, I hope you'll indulge a short history lesson to give context to this story.
This coming March 3rd is Super Tuesday. For those outside of America, during presidential election years people on one side or the other put up their candidates to run against an incumbent. In this case, the Democrats are looking to oust Donald Trump on the Republican side. At last count, I think there are still about twenty-five thousand candidates running, although a few thousand might have dropped out last night.
In what is known as state primary elections, voters are asked to choose out of the sea of candidates, who they feel best represents them and best has the chance of beating the other side. That way they can narrow down the field to just one person.
This process begins in Iowa, a state with a population slightly less than Ireland. Iowa has always been seen as a bellwether of sorts. After Iowa, a few other states trickle in like New Hampshire, South Carolina. Then three curious things happen.
1. The other remaining states realize they are losing their chance to look cool by being the state to have chosen the nominee.
2. A bunch of regular people get so bored they want to gouge their eyes out.
3. Politicians realize that they only thing they hate more than visiting states outside the confines of their elitist bubbles is pretending to take an interest in the lives of voters.
And so, Super Tuesday comes flying in and says, hey , what if like, we have multiple state primaries (fourteen) on the same day so that way voters don't revolt, and politicians can mingle in the state of their choosing.
Now I have no idea at this point where current frontrunner Bernie Sanders will be on Super Tuesday but I know where Flava Flav won't be today and that is at a Bernie Sanders + Public Enemy rally here in Los Angeles. In a letter sent from his laywer, Flav accused the Sanders campaign of using his name, likeness and trademarked clocks without his permission, and called out the rest of the group while he was at it. Here's the note in full, which originally appeared in Billboard. (Bold emphasis, mine)
Re: Creating Division within Public Enemy through Appropriation of Likeness
We have been retained to represent the interests of William Drayton p.k.a. Flavor Flav concering recent false reporting of Public Enemy’s endorsement of the Bernie Sanders campaign as well as the unauthorized use of his likeness, image and trademarked clock in promotional materials circulated by the campaign and its network of online operatives in support of Bernie’s upcoming rally.
We have become aware that Flavor’s bandmate and Public Enemy co-creator, Chuck D, has endorsed Bernie Sanders’ candidacy for President and plans to perform at an upcoming Sanders Rally. While Chuck is certainly free to express his political views as he sees fit – his voice alone does not speak for Public Enemy. The planned performance will only be Chuck D of Public Enemy, it will not be a performance by Public Enemy. Those who truly know what Public Enemy stands for know what time it is, there is no Public Enemy without Flavor Flav.
It appears the Sanders campaign has been content to sit back and allow the media to promote a false narrative to the American people. Sanders has promised to “Fight the Power” with hip hop icons Public Enemy – but this Rap Icon will not be performing at the Sanders Rally. To be clear Flav and, by extension, the Hall of Fame hip hop act Public Enemy with which is likeness and name have become synonymous has not endorsed any political candidate in this election cycle and any suggestion to the contrary is plainly untrue. The continued publicizing of this grossly misleading narrative is, at a minimum, careless and irresponsible if not intentionally misleading.
Flav is reaching out, not in the spirit of division, but for the sake of unity in the hope of preserving the integrity of the Public Enemy Movement and the faith and trust his millions of fans around the world have placed in him. Over more than 30 years in the public spotlight – whether on television or radio – Flav has always delivered his authentic self. That authenticity compels him to speak out to ensure voters are not misled and that Public Enemy’s music does not become the soundtrack of a fake revolution.
This is hardly the first time the establishment has tried to define Flav and Public Enemy. They claimed he and his bandmates were drug dealing gang members – they weren’t. They were artists using their music and platform to fight injustice, advocate for their community and strive for truth and transparency against an establishment which wanted to keep people in the dark. With songs like 911 is a Joke; Fight The Power; Harder Than You Think; and Don’t Believe The Hype Flavor Flav and Public Enemy didn’t just talk about revolution – they started one that brought about real lasting systemic change. 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!
It is unfortunate that a political campaign would be so careless with the artistic integrity of such iconoclastic figures in American culture. Sanders claims to represent everyman not the man yet his grossly irresponsible handling of Chuck’s endorsement threatens to divide Public Enemy and, in so doing, forever silence one of our nation’s loudest and most enduring voices for social change. Perhaps Sanders didn’t intend to sow these irreconcilable differences but, by and through his disregard for the truth, he has nonetheless. If Bernie allows this deceptive marketing to continue without clearly correcting the messaging to reflect the true nature of this endorsement which should accurately read: “Chuck D of Public Enemy” – Senator Sanders will himself have played a part in whitewashing a key chapter in American History.
Bernie, his name is Flavor Flav and he does NOT approve your message!
Chuck D sent a quick, scathing response saying "Flavor chooses to dance for his money and not do benevolent work like this. He has a year to get his act together and get himself straight or he’s out."
Meanwhile D's lawyer quickly dismissed the notion that Public Enemy-sans Flav is somehow infringing on trademark, or for that matter copyright (again emphasis mine): "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.”
It's temping to opine that the divisive rhetoric between both sides is a mirror to our current state of elections, but if you know anything about the group, they've been feuding for a few years now.
See you at the rally.