Flavor Flav Tells The Origin Story Behind Wearing Clocks (Video)

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For Slick Rick, it has been the eye-patch and truck jewelry. LL Cool J has his Kangol cap. Run-D.M.C. is forever associated with three-stripe Adidas shell-toes. Raider hats, bandanas, Clark’s Wallabees. Many rappers and groups have iconic props to go with their incredible music. For more than 30 years, Flavor Flav has been associated with wearing household clocks around his neck. While some MCs donned gold and silver plates and medallions or silhouettes of the African continent, the Public Enemy co-founder wore a timepiece at his chest. From an era where great Rap artists “knew the time,” Flav symbolically demonstrated this the loudest.

Last week, the New Yorker spoke candidly about his eighteen-year drug addiction. Now sober for more than eight years, the rapper, hype-man, and reality television star described nearly losing his life to powder and crack cocaine. In a much lighter segment of his interview with Vlad TV, Flav tells the origin story to one of Hip-Hop’s ultimate props.

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“Back in the days, Vlad, we used to wear stopwatches as [a] fad,” begins Flav at the 2:40 mark of the interview. “That was the fad; it was the style. One day this crackhead came through our projects, and we were playing the dozens. Me and my boy, Son Of Bazerk [aka] Tony Allen [were making fun of each other’s mothers].” The addict adjusted Flav’s look while passing through the snapping session between Flav and the P.E. affiliate who also made music. “[The crackhead] took the stopwatch off of my neck and put the clock around my neck. Everybody started laughing [at me]. Okay, it was funny,” admits Flav more than 30 years later. “They dared me to wear this clock during a show. Now back in them days, if you dared Flavor Flav to do something, I would do it!”

The artist remembers the big debut event. “So when we went and opened up for the Beastie Boys in Passaic, New Jersey, I wore the clock during the show. When we got the newspaper clippings back the next day, we were on the front page of Daily News and Newsday. The look of the clock was dope! So I decided—we decided to keep this look.”

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He continues with some history. “Also, if you go to the early Public Enemy pictures, Vlad, you will see [that] Chuck D wore a clock too.” Both artists were sporting the household timepieces on the cover to 1988’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. “We used to always wear clocks for the show; this was part of our wardrobe for the show. Then, one day, Chuck D, he took his clock off. [Bomb Squad producer] Hank Shocklee was like, ‘Flavor Flav, you need to take that clock off [too], man. It’s gettin’ old; it’s out of date.'” However, Flav refused. “[It was] one of the best decisions that I could’ve made, Vlad. Because this clock became part of my identity. Not only that, but this clock has gotten me into a lot of trouble, but it has also gotten me out of a lot of trouble.”

He elaborates, recalling a high-speed incident in his Chevrolet Corvette. Troopers let the artist off due to his recognizable prop.

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In 2017, P.E. released Nothing Is Quick In The Desert (Except Death).