As much fun as it can be to watch Flavor Flav in action, it’s hard not to wonder sometimes why exactly he’s famous. Sure, he was a member of Public Enemy, one of the most seminal and ground-breaking acts in hip-hop. But his main contribution to that group involved repeating his own name a bunch of times and shouting, “Yeeeah, boyeee!” Other than that, what else is there? Is he famous because he’s starred in a string of VH1 reality shows, where he’s had affairs with women with names like Hoopz, Deelishis and Brigitte Nielsen? Is he famous for wearing an oversized clock around his neck even long after people stopped paying attention, or for having a ridiculous number of children (seven and counting), or for opening an eponymous fried chicken joint in Iowa that closed after just three months? To paraphrase Aristotle (who must’e known a Flavor Flav in his day), the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts, especially if one of those parts is getting roasted on Comedy Central by Snoop Dogg and Carrot Top. In his literary debut, The Icon The Memoir (available from Farrah Gray Books next Wednesday, June 1st), he doesn’t make a convincing case for why the world should still remember his name. But he manages to be infectiously charming nonetheless, particularly when he slips in daffy lines like “I always wanted to know what it would be like if I had a baby with a Spanish girl” and “When I was in my mother’s womb, God knew that you’d be reading this book.” I called Flav to talk about his memoir, and by the end of our conversation, I would’ve invited him to crash on my couch for as long as he needed. That’s how goddamn likable he is.
Eric Spitznagel: I don’t know if you realize this, but today is Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday.
Flavor Flav: Really? Wooooow. That’s hot. Happy birthday to my man Bob Dylan.
Are you a fan? What’s your favorite Dylan song?
I can’t think of one off the top of my head, but I like Bob Dylan alright.
As the uncontested best hype man in music, could you hype a Bob Dylan song?
You mean like if we recorded something together? Yeah, I could probably do that.
Let’s try it. Dylan kicks it off with a fat rhyme like “You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat / Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat.” How do you hype him?
Well honestly, it would take a little concentration to make the right hype for Dylan. I want to make sure it’s right, and it’s trendy. It’s not something I wanna do just off the top of my head.
For our readers who aren’t familiar with the term, what exactly is a hype man?
A hype man’s job is to hype up the crowd during a concert. When you’re part of a group and your group is performing, you want the crowd to get hyped. You know what I’m saying? You want the crowd to put their hands in the air and wave ‘em like they just don’t care. You want ‘em up on their feet and hyped. You’re also hyping the other guys in the group on stage with you. You’re pushing ‘em and getting ‘em excited about the show.
So you’re like a life coach, but for rappers? You’re Tony Robbins for the hip-hop set?
Yeah, definitely. I think I’m a life coach for real. The lessons I give are lessons you can take to the bank.
Like what, for instance?
Always remember that nothing in life is promised to us. The only thing in life that’s promised is death. So try and get the most outta life that you can, because when we die, we are nothing but memories.
Jesus, Flav. That’s depressing.
I’m just telling it like it is.
I was hoping for something a little less dark and heady, like “Rock that shit, homey!”
It’s the same thing, man. We should be the most influential that we can while we still got life. Rock that shit, homey!
How do you become a hype man? When Public Enemy was getting started, was it just a distribution of duties? “Well, Chuck is the leader, Professor Griff is the crazy anti-Semite. We only got one more slot, Flav. You gotta be the hype man.”