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UPDATE: After the lawsuit made news, Flavor Flav took to Instagram to assure fans this legal argument isn't too ugly. "#ATTENTION EVERYONE!! this is Flavor Flav speaking himself," he wrote to his followers. "I love my partner Chuck D everyone so don't get it twisted,,we will fix it,!!"
Flavor Flav is suing Chuck D and members of their group Public Enemy's production and management team over alleged unpaid royalties.
In his lawsuit, filed Tuesday, the rapper, whose real name is William Drayton, claims that for several years, despite being identified as a writer on over 50 Public Enemy songs, he has not received regular songwriting royalty statements. He also claims his payments from Public Enemy ticket sales and merchandising deals have "diminished to almost nothing."
"Despite Drayton's position in Public Enemy, the group's management and related companies have for years attempted to minimize his role in the Public Enemy business, while continuing to rely upon Drayton's fame and persona to market the brand," the papers state. "[He] brings this case only after months of investigation and attempts to obtain underlying accounting figures, contracts and merchandising information."
The lawsuit states one of Public Enemy's business managers "entered into merchandising deals" for products such as Public Enemy branded watches and Flavor Flav dolls without the rapper's consent and that he received no compensation for them.
In June, Public Enemy released a new album, Nothing Is Quick in the Desert, and made it available for free. Flavor Flav says in his lawsuit that the his voice and image were used on the album without his consent.
The rapper claims that in spring 2017, he was asked to fly to California to record a new Public Enemy record and hoped it "would be done in the style of the classic Public Enemy records, where he had major writing contributions." He says he "was in need of money to support his family" and that the defendants were aware of that fact.
The suit states Flavor Flav "was upset to learn that he would have no input into the creative direction of the record" and had "requested a fee of $75,000 to record the album." He recorded some phrases for the album but "did not believe these were final takes." The suit states the rapper received an initial payment of $7,500 and was promised more but did not receive it. He states he never agreed for his vocals from the recording session to be used and never believed they would, as they were not up to his standards of quality.
"On or about June 29, 2017, Drayton was shocked to see that a new Public Enemy album was being released, and this his image was being used in multiple media outlets to promote the album. He had never heard of the album, nor heard any of the final mixes," the lawsuit states. "Drayton's photograph is also used on the liner notes to Nothing Is Quick In The Desert, and he is listed as an Executive Producer. He approved of neither of these uses of his name or photograph."
Chuck D—real name Carlton Ridenhour, Eastlink Productions, producer Gary "G-Wiz" Rinaldo, manager Clifton "Greg" Johnson, SLAMjamz Records, Reach Music Publishing, Inc., Sounddome Entertainment, Inc., and Xecutive Entertainment are all named as defendants. They have not commented.