Today is the birthday of Public Enemy vocalist Flava Flav
(given name: William Drayton), who was born in 1959 in New York. Public Enemy
is known for its influential and politically controversial raps, as well as for
introducing hard-edged rap and hip-hop notions to the general public. The group
formed in 1982 at Adelphi University where Carlton Ridenhour, aka Chuck D., was
studying graphic design. D met up with future-Bomb Squad member Hank Shocklee
and future Def Jam executive Bill Stephney, chatting about philosophy and
politics as well as spinning some songs. D invented the "Public Enemy #1" idea
at that stage, appearing on Stephney's radio show as "Chuckie D."
putting together a stage show, recruiting Nation of Islam cohort Richard
Griffin (DJ Professor Griff) as one of the backup dancers to be called the
Security of the First World --they carried fake Uzis and mocked martial-arts
routines -- and his friend Flav as a co-vocalist. The lineup also included
Norman Lee Rogers, aka Terminator X. The group's debut, Yo! Bum Rush The
Stage! was filled with anger, but its second effort, 1988's It Takes a
Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, was more mature in its message. The
record was deemed a hip-hop masterpiece and went to #42 on the charts, scoring
a minor hit with "Bring the Noise."
Public Enemy showed support for black
radicals like Louis Farrakhan, and Professor Griff stirred controversy in 1989
for anti-Semitic statements just after the release of "Fight The Power." D
fanned the flames by recording the inflammatory "Welcome to the Terrordome." In
1990 the group went to #10 with Fear of a Black Planet, which included
"911 Is a Joke," and to #4 in 1991 with Apocalypse 91... The Enemy Strikes
Back. In 1992 the group did a remake of Bring the Noise with
thrash-rockers Anthrax, marking the first time metal and rap had joined forces.
Meanwhile, Flav began to have run-ins with the law, including several assault
charges and a stint in drug rehab. The Enemy's most recent album was 1994's
Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age, but the group is expected to release
something new later this year.
Other birthdays: Betty Johnson, Michael
Bruce (Alice Cooper), Nancy Wilson (Heart), Stewart Kerr (Texas) and Byron
Stinglily (Ten City). -- Beth Winegarner