Chuck D Fires Flavor Flav from Public Enemy and Fires Up the Bernie Campaign

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    Kevin WinterLOS ANGELES—From a distance, if you ignored the cardboard cutouts of Bernie Sanders’ face, the crowds outside the Los Angeles Convention Center Sunday evening might have looked like a music festival. Thousands packed the venue sporting familiar tees––Black Flag, Rage Against the Machine, Misfits, and, uh, Mary Poppins. The Vermont senator, though intentionally detached from pop culture himself, has well-known musical ties. He’s toured with The Strokes, Vampire Weekend, and Bon Iver; received public support from Cardi B to Kim Gordon to Ariana Grande; and inspired more than one series of music-related merch. But in the final push before Super Tuesday, the standing Democratic frontrunner billed his Los Angeles rally with an especially apt musical guest: hip-hop pioneer Chuck D and his Public Enemy offshoot, Public Enemy Radio. Inside the Convention Center, the parallels between Sanders and Chuck D, born Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, hardly needed spelling out. As attendees filed into the makeshift concert hall, most flocked toward the merch stand. The campaign staff had unveiled a new shirt: Sanders’ silhouette on a black background, fist held in the air. The caption, honoring Public Enemy’s famous 1989 single, read: “Fight the Power.” Like Sanders, the lyricist behind the seminal album, Fear of a Black Planet, spent years honing a consistent critique of the wealthy, white elite. Both made constant calls for revolution through activism and engagement. Both dropped albums in the ‘80s. When Sanders introduced Chuck D, he described him as someone who “has spoken truth to power for decades.” Before the concert-slash-rally Sunday evening, the pairing had drawn widespread attention, not only for the fitting partnership, but for the absence Chuck D’s other partner, William Drayton, or Flavor Flav. On Saturday, Drayton’s lawyer, Matthew Friedman, sent a cease-and-desist to the Sanders campaign, accusing them of using his “unauthorized likeness, image and trademarked clock” in their event promotion even though the hype man had not endorsed any candidate. In response, Chuck D cautioned against reading too much politics into the letter. “It’s not about BERNIE with Flav… he don’t know the difference between BarrySanders or BernieSanders,” the rapper wrote on Twitter, adding that “trying to fill his persona with some political aplomb is absolutely ‘stupid.’” Later, an attorney for Public Enemy pointed out that Chuck D had drawn the group’s logo himself and remained its sole owner. “From a legal standpoint,” the attorney told Rolling Stone, “Chuck could perform as Public Enemy if he ever wanted to.” Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast here

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