- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Public Enemy fans found themselves on the receiving end of an April Fool’s Day ruse Wednesday upon being told that a recent rift among the legendary hip-hop group was all a “hoax.”

Carlton Ridenhour, the Public Enemy frontman better known as Chuck D, revealed he did not actually cut ties weeks earlier with fellow rapper and longtime collaborator Flavor Flav, whose real name is William Drayton Jr.

He also released new music featuring contributions from both vocalists and touted a recent interview in which he described their relationship as better than ever.

The unexpected developments came exactly a month after a supposed dispute involving both rappers and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernard Sanders culminated in Public Enemy announcing the firing of Mr. Drayton from the group.

Mr. Ridenhour had been scheduled to perform at a Sanders campaign rally last month in Los Angeles with other members of Public Enemy, but not Mr. Drayton, under the name Public Enemy Radio. Mr. Drayton issued a letter through his lawyer distancing himself from the endorsement, and Mr. Ridenhour responded by threatening to boot him from the group before eventually announcing he had done so.

Public Enemy and Public Enemy Radio will be moving forward without Flavor Flav,” the group said in a statement March 1. “We thank him for his years of service and wish him well.”

In a statement published late Tuesday, Mr. Ridenhour called the fallout a “hoax” and compared it to “The War of the Worlds,” the 1938 radio drama in which Orson Welles managed to convince listeners that Earth was being invaded.

“Hearing the confused mush of political talk while under the bowels of Trumpotus made me use a presidential stage as my platform,” Mr. Ridenhour said in the statement. “Out of this storm came a plan between Flav and me to remind people that what’s important should have as much, if not more, value than just what’s popular. Thus came the HOAX.

“So it’s April 1, 2020 and as we hoard food and empty store shelves, Chuck D and Flavor Flav hijack it as April ‘FlavChuck’ Day to end the HOAX with Enemy Radio’s new song,” he said in the statement.

The new song, “Food as a Machine Gun,” is credited as featuring Public Enemy and features vocals from both Mr. Ridenhour, 59, and Mr. Drayton, 61.

“Does it take doing crazy s-t or catastrophe to wake people up? Obviously so, even when paying attention is the cheapest price to pay,” Mr. Ridenhour said in the statement.

Mr. Ridenhour made similar comments in an interview that was recorded on March 10 but not released until late Tuesday. Speaking to fellow rapper Talib Kweli, Mr. Ridenhour said during that discussion his relationship with Mr. Drayton was “better than ever” and that they would be “taking [April Fools Day] over.”

Mr. Drayton had a different take when he weighed in on the developments from his Twitter account later Wednesday, however.

“I am not a part of your hoax,” Mr. Drayton said in a tweet addressed to his fellow Public Enemy co-founder. He added that “there are more serious things” than April Fool’s jokes and releasing records, and he encouraged donating to a relief fund established to help members of the music community affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Ridenhour did not immediately respond on Twitter to the tweet.

Established in 1985, Public Enemy has been nominated for five Grammy awards and is among only a handful of rap acts to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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