Flavor Flav Explains Why Rap Music Is Much More Dangerous Now

Thirty-five years ago, Public Enemy released a classic album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. The Def Jam Records LP contained the video single “Night Of The Living Baseheads,” which was a stylish and clever indictment on drug use, particularly crack cocaine—which was an epidemic during that decade.

Chuck D’s 1988 lyrics took issue with using and selling drugs. He raised awareness with passages like: “The problem is this, we gotta’ fix it / Check out the justice, and how they run it / Selling, smelling, sniffing, riffing / And brothers try to get swift and / Sell their own, rob a home / While some shrivel to bone / Like comatose walking around / Please don’t confuse this with the sound / I’m talking about.” However, Public Enemy battled addiction at home. 

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In 2019, P.E.’s Flavor Flav admitted that even during the making of “Night Of The Living Baseheads,” he was gripped by addiction. “Around that time, I was going like 180 miles per hour with that drug sh*t, with that coke and crack sh*t. That was one of the worst mistakes that I could’ve really ever made with my life, experimenting with drugs,” he told Vlad TV over three years ago. “I got to the point where I was spending like $2,300 to $2,500 per day on coke and crack. And I did that sh*t for six years straight. Do the math. That’s a lot of money, bro.” In that interview, Flav alluded to other band-mates battling similar vices.

This month, Flavor Flav appeared on DJ Akademiks’ Off The Record podcast. There, the radio DJ-turned-renowned Hip-Hop hype-man shares that same monetary figure regarding cocaine usage. “I was my best customer,” Flav says, admitting that he also sold drugs while immersed in addiction. “I guess God wanted me to live. He knows I’m a mouthpiece to the world. So I feel like God let me live through that so that I could teach people about the mistakes that I made. And hopefully, [they] won’t get on them. Drugs are easy to get on and hard as hell to get off of.”

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The conversation, which extends past the video clip, expands to commentary about Rap’s changing narrative. “Back in the days, when we used to make drug records, we used to talk about sellin’ drugs, and talkin’ about who can make the most money off of drugs, you know—who was ballin’,” he says after the 12:30 mark in the full podcast, as well as the video clip embedded. “It was a competition thing to all of the hustlers. But now, [in] today’s music, we’re talking about doin’ drugs. There’s a big change within the music or within the lyrics of our music. It’s giving younger kids the wrong idea. The reason why is younger kids emulate [things] we do. Everything we do, a younger kid is looking up to us, and they’re gonna wanna be like us.”

Flav says that while some things have changed, other perils remain. “A lot of kids today is getting on Xanax, is getting on Molly’s, and Percocets, and still got the coke thing goin’ on; we still got the hard rock crack thing goin’ on now today, and the whole nine.” Akademiks expresses surprise to learn that smoking crack is still happening. Flavor Flav doubles down though. “What? Come on. Crack has been in existence since 1974, and it’s gonna always be in existence until we die.” Flav’s 1974 date aligns with research held by the U.S. Department of Justice.

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During the interview, Flavor Flav condemns the trend of glamorizing narcotic use. “Today’s society ain’t shaming drugs; [they are] claiming drugs. And I want to try and reverse the process, because I know what [addiction] did to me and my life, and it didn’t do my life good,” he says. The Grammy-winning artist adds, “Through drugs, I lost a lot. I didn’t gain a lot; I lost a lot. You don’t really gain too much by doin’ it. You can gain a whole lot by sellin’ it—if you’re not using it and if you don’t get caught sellin’ it—but you’ll lose a lot if you’re sellin’ it and using it. Because at the end of the day, God don’t like ugly. He don’t like ugly, and he don’t want us teaching the younger kids about what we do today with drugs, and alcohol, and sh*t like that.”

For years ago, MC-turned-podcaster Joe Budden called out one of Rap’s biggest stars for allegedly glorifying drug use, despite no longer using. “I didn’t wanna tell nobody I stopped drinking lean because I felt then they’re gonna be like, ‘Oh, his music changed ’cause he ain’t drinking lean no more. Oh, I can hear it when he changed’…But it just be hard when your fan [are] so used to you being a certain kinda way, a certain persona. You be afraid to change,” the platinum artist told Genius‘ Rob Markman in early 2019. In an interview with Rolling Stone‘s Charles Holmes that same month, Future reacted to Juice WRLD crediting Future with why he used lean. At the end of that very year, Juice WRLD died from a drug overdose. “The way that my brain interprets the man that inspires an entire generation to do something, and then isn’t man enough to tell that same generation that he no longer does it…The way that I interpret that kind of man; that’s not a man,” Joe Budden shared. The Slaughterhouse MC has previously been open about his own addictions.

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Last year, Public Enemy’s Chuck D joined KRS-One, Kurtis Blow, and others to launch the union, Hip-Hop Alliance. This month, Flavor Flav self-released a new single, “Hands Up In The Air.” The song blends EDM production with Flav doing crowd work.