A Dialog With Chuck D and Taste Flav: ‘It Ain’t Over’

Rappers Choose the Best Rap Albums of All Time
Rappers Choose the Best Rap Albums of All Time

You can hear the pride in Chuck D’s voice when he speaks about longtime friend and bandmate Flavor Flav – and, frankly, that hasn’t always been the case. Though their brotherhood has never waned, there’ve been a few tough moments where Public Enemy’s future was uncertain, riddled by lawsuits and Flav’s struggles with substance abuse. 

More from Spin:

But now, at 64, Flavor Flav has managed to reinvent himself. The signature clock necklace, baseball cap, and sunglasses are still there, but he’s sober, infectiously charismatic and, seemingly everywhere. From attending Taylor Swift concerts and performing during the Grammys’ Hip Hop 50 celebration to singing the National Anthem at a Milwaukee Bucks game and showing up at Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, Flavor Flav keeps appearing, sometimes in the most unexpected places. 

His newfound omnipresence sparked an idea with Chuck D, who started referring to him as “Everywhere Man,” now the title of Flav’s new single. The track, which also features Chuck, uses artificial intelligence to generate the lyrics in 27 different languages, including French, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish. Before Flav joined the interview, Chuck D had a few moments to express how proud he is of Flav (who he calls “the Willie Nelson of hip-hop”) for bringing the concept to fruition. 

“What I’ve always wanted to see from Flavor is him getting the most out of himself as Public Enemy and as a recording artist,” Chuck says. “I used to always joke with him, ‘Dude, you did more recordings at WBAU than you did in your professional career.’ The biggest dream I always had for Flavor was for him to have a solo career, which would actually free me up. It only took, what, 40 years?” he laughs.

After eight albums with Public Enemy—including the groundbreaking trifecta It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back (1988), Fear of a Black Planet (1990) and Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black (1991)—Flavor Flav’s path eventually led him to the West Coast, where he landed his own reality television show, VH1’s Flavor of Love. The show lasted for three seasons, and, in 2006, the finale became the second highest-rated non-sports basic cable show of that year. 

Despite its success, Chuck D warned Flav not to “sleep on his musical side,” something Flav didn’t forget. The show ended in 2008 and Flav was more famous than ever, but his trouble with the law and addiction began to spiral. In 2020, Flav finally began his journey to sobriety and he’s maintained it for the past four years. Encouraged, Chuck decided he’d write a few songs for him, including “Everywhere Man.” 

(Credit: Izak Rappaport)

“I feel that I know him and his musical side more than anybody in the world,” Chuck explained. “When I wrote the songs, I really hoped he would challenge himself—and he went way beyond that. He killed those songs. When he came into the studio with [co-writer, producer] Sam Hollander and manager Rhiannon [Ellis] and was well prepared, he knocked these songs out. I was blown away by his work ethic. ‘Everywhere Man’ was one of those ideas where it was like, ‘It’s time the world hears from you.’”

Considering both of the most prominent voices from Public Enemy are on the single, it’s easy to label it a Public Enemy song. Their fans are clamoring for another album, but Chuck sprinkled an air of doubt on the possibility. 

“Although we might not make a conventional Public Enemy album, we’ll just make a whole bunch of songs,” he said. “Public Enemy in the past would put together concept albums that I would sketch out and architect, and we would fill in the blanks. Now, I feel like the world is song by song anyway, while an album is just a collection of songs. We will always be able to make songs, and this is the beginning of that. Is there a Public Enemy album? I don’t know if there ever will be another conceptual Public Enemy album again.” 

It took some time to get to a place where they were in harmony again, which Chuck credited to Flavor’s “sobriety, management, and Team Flav.” Still, they are slowly figuring out what Public Enemy will look like in 2024 and beyond. 

(Credit: Sanjay Suchak)

“I’m not open to tour like we did in the past and he’s not open to recording like we did in the past, so we had to come up with a new a new formula,” Chuck said. “We’re The Rolling Stones of the rap game. He’s Keith and I’m Mick. There is no older combination than myself and Flav.” 

At this point, Flav finally entered the conversation. He’d just woken up from a cat nap following an early morning appearance on Sherri Shepherd’s talk show, Sherri. Chuck, telling him he sounded “ugly” was met with, “Well you sound pretty…pretty ugly.” Again, Chuck brought up the possibility of never doing another proper Public Enemy record again and Flavor Flav immediately shut that down with, “Only three words Chuck: It ain’t over.”

Chuck replied, “The whole concept thing and this got to be this and this gotta be that—nah, we just make songs. When we got enough, maybe it will be a P.E. album. It’s more free this way.” 

Whatever lies ahead for Public Enemy, Flav and Chuck are simply grateful to be back in the studio together. After all, it’s been nearly four years since Public Enemy released What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down? But like riding a bicycle, it felt effortless to jump back in the saddle. 

“It’s always an immaculate, creative feeling, the whole nine,” Flav said of being in the studio with Chuck. “When we are in our zones like that, that’s when we create best. That’s how we started out, with Yo! Bum Rush the Show [1987]. The reason why I say it was immaculate is because the friendship that we have, the brotherhood that we have is so genuine, and it brings you that much closer, and it makes your creations that much better.” 

To see our running list of the top 100 greatest rock stars of all time, click here.