Charting Hits

A year on the Public Enemy roller coaster

Flavor Flav and Chuck D of Public Enemy are the original Ying Yang Twins, the spoonful of sugar and the medicine that goes down in one potent package. They're the most delicious duality that hip hop has seen, the personification of edutainment. Amid the group's 56th tour and on the cusp of the 20th anniversary of the 1987 debut album Yo! Bum Rush the Show, the contrast between Chuck and Flav is all the more distinct, and makes the group all the more fascinating. This was a particularly fruitful year for extremes in the saga of Public Enemy's contradictory core duo, so what follows are a couple of high- and lowlights.

Actual high: After appearing on The Surreal Life and Strange Love in 2005, Flavor Flav finds a productive and seemingly stable job as a reality television star in 2006. The first episode of his dating show Flavor of Love 2brought in 3.3 million viewers, making it VH1's highest rated debut ever. The season finale boasted 7.5 million viewers, another record for the cable network.

Media low: "Reality TV's 'Flavor' Leaves Bad Taste," reports NPR, echoing sentiments expressed by pundits and bloggers alike that the program reinforces several unfortunate stereotypes. Some of Flav's older children appear on popular New York radio show The Wendy Williams Experience to air a poor track record of child support from the blingin' babydaddy of 10 (with one on the way). It's a dose of reality radio that doesn't help the world's greatest hype man and his newly cultivated image as a fun and frivolous guy.

Public Enemy (L-R): Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, SW1 Pop Diesel, Chuck D, SW1 James Bomb, DJ Lord.
Walter Leaphart
Public Enemy (L-R): Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, SW1 Pop Diesel, Chuck D, SW1 James Bomb, DJ Lord.

Actual high: Chuck D continues his weekly radio broadcast on Air America ("On the Real" with co-host Gia'na Garel, Sundays from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. EST), still one of few prominent urban voices in progressive talk radio.

Media low: Widespread reportage of Air America's filing of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection misleads potential listeners into thinking the radio network has already disappeared, rather than taking the time to restructure.

Actual high: The Library of Congress names PE's album Fear of a Black Planet as one of 50 annual recordings selected to be preserved for the future.

Media low: Incessant Flavor of Love reruns ensure that a scant two weeks of silly antics will have several years of televised life. Bad news for Flav, as well as the chick who accidentally defecated in the first episode.

Actual high: Public Enemy launches a comic book series and will soon release a new album and DVD. Chuck D preps the launch of his OFFDA book imprint with his second written work, Lyrics of a Rap Revolutionary. He's also preparing to film the pilot episode of The Chuck D Musician's Studio — his answer to James Lipton and Inside the Actor's Studio — for the Sundance Channel, with first guest Quincy Jones.

Media low: Despite an unfailing work ethic that has seen an incredibly prolific output in the years since Public Enemy left Def Jam to go independent, people ask Chuck D on a daily basis what he's been doing. It's a subject of recurring irritation on his "terrordomes" (viewable at www.publicenemy.com), a monthly blog-type entry that he's done for almost nine years, since before blogs were even around. To stop the questioning, and up the reality TV showmanship, perhaps he and Flav should just go for it and enter The Amazing Race.

 
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