Public Enemy's Flavor Flav Records First Solo Disc

It's About Time, due in September, to include cover of Chicago's "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?"

Flavor Flav, the comedic sidekick to Chuck D in the political hip-hop band Public Enemy, will release his first solo album, It's About Time, Sept. 7, his business manager said Thursday (July 1).

"He's more into being the jokester on this album," Clifton Johnson said. "[The songs are] not going to be as serious as if they were on a PE album."

As if to underscore that point, Johnson said the 40-year-old rapper — rarely seen without one of his trademark giant clock necklaces — will record a cover of "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?," the 1970 top-10 hit for brass and rock band Chicago, who will appear on the new track.

Chuck D (born Carlton Ridenhour) and Flavor Flav (born William Drayton) formed the groundbreaking, politically charged Public Enemy in Long Island, N.Y., in 1982. Flavor Flav immediately established himself as the rubber mallet to Chuck D's sledgehammer, in the words of Chuck D's manager, Walter Leaphart.

He solidified his role as the band's trickster foil with It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988). Songs such as "Flavor Flav Cold Lampin' " introduced Dr. Seuss-worthy phrases such as "brainknowledgeably wizzy." In 1990 Fear of a Black Planet unveiled his socially conscious side with "911 Is a Joke," a rap about poor emergency medical care in the black community.

About half of It's About Time — which will be released by New York label Mystic Music Entertainment — already has been recorded, Johnson said. The second half will be completed with familiar collaborators from the hip-hop world, though those artists have yet to be confirmed, he said.

"Hot One," It's About Time's first single, will be released to radio later this month. It also will be featured as a free, downloadable track on Flavor Flav's new website (www.flavorflav.com), which is scheduled to launch in the second half of July. In addition to that track, the site also will feature a song available only on the Internet that is tentatively titled "Flav 2K," Johnson said.

"There are some different feels to the album," he said. "One track, 'No Loot,' is laid-back R&B. It's about not being able to hang with this one woman because he doesn't have enough money. 'Original Flavor Flav' is on that funky funk side."

In the past two years, Flavor Flav has maintained a prominent role in Public Enemy. His police-brutality rap "41:19" (RealAudio excerpt) contains some of the most pointed social criticism on the band's latest album, There's a Poison Goin' On. He lightens things considerably with party boasting on "What What" from the same album and "Shake Your Booty" from last year's He Got Game soundtrack.

But for a while, some fans wondered whether the MC might drop out of the Public Enemy fold altogether.

During the early 1990s, Flavor Flav racked up arrests for assault and nonpayment of child support, and he was charged with attempted murder for a domestic dispute that involved gunfire. That charge was dropped after he agreed to get treatment for a drug habit. The rapper has since said he's formed a relationship with God.

Chuck D recently quashed the notion of a Flavor-less Public Enemy.

"Public Enemy is me and Flavor, vocally," Chuck D said (RealAudio excerpt of interview). "That has to go as the first and foremost rule. If he feels like it might be too much of this or too much of that, vocally, then he's not gonna want to participate. And then I say, 'Is it this or Flavor?' Without Flavor there's a big chance there could not be Public Enemy."

Though Chuck D released the solo Autobiography of Mistachuck in 1996, Flavor Flav rarely has appeared on cuts outside of Public Enemy. Over the years, however, he has recorded some unissued solo tracks for Public Enemy's former label, Def Jam. Johnson said those tracks could turn up on future Flavor Flav releases.

He also recently recorded a track called "From New York to Germany" with German rappers Afrob, Rene and DJ Tomekk. That cut will appear on a German compilation called Rhymes Galore, Johnson said.