Interview date: 03/31/2008
Run date: 04/15/2008
He used to just be the guy in Public Enemy who wore the big-ass clock around his neck, but now he's a full-fledged media superstar. Flavor Flav is pretty much the only reason VH-1 is still in business, and now he's setting his sights on MyNetworkTV, where he's preparing to debut his new sitcom, "Under One Roof." We talked to Flav about his new show, his status in Public Enemy, what he thought about the controversy over his "Strange Love" series, and just what he thought about Duran Duran covering "911 Is A Joke."
Bullz-Eye: Whassup, Flav?
Flavor Flav: Yo, whassup, Will?
BE: How's it going?
FF: I'm doing the BULLZ-EYE! Gotcha!
BE: Awesome. You know, I saw you guys – Public Enemy – years ago at the Peppermint Beach Club, in Virginia Beach.
FF: Wowwwwww. I thought that was big, right there.
BE: It was. I talked to Chuck this summer, and he said he remembered the show because they had the best sweet tea he'd ever had in his life.
FF: Wow. Yeah, 'cause Chuck loves that sweet tea, boy. My partner loves his sweet tea and his green tea. I'm serious, I'm dead serious. You put a big case of that stuff in front of Chuck, and you got Chuck for the rest of your life.
BE: I'll keep that in mind. So how did "Under One Roof" come to you? Were you approached out of the blue, or had you been looking for a job to move from reality TV to proper acting.
FF: Well, honestly, y'know, I was always looking forward to moving from reality TV. I mean, reality TV definitely was one of the greatest starts for me, ever, and thank God that I was able to be very successful at it. And thanks to all of the people that supported me on TV, 'cause I wouldn't be as successful as I am. But, you know, I always wanted to change the page. I always wanted to get off that page and go to another page. I want to try and move off the small screen and onto the big screen, so I guess reality TV is the small screen right now, and moving over here to MyNetworkTV is a bigger screen, because you've got much more of a prime-time audience and a wider and broader audience as well. So, hopefully, after this, I can move up to doing some movies!
BE: So tell me a little bit about your character, Calvester Hill. Is there a dramatic difference between him and the Flavor Flav we already know and love?
FF: Honestly, yeah, it's a little different, 'cause the Flavor Flav we all know and love, he's not really laid back. Put it this way: he's much more outgoing. Calvester Hill, yo, he's kind of cool, he's laid back a little bit, yet he's still a street con. He's a con of the street, y'know what I'm saying? He's an ex-con, an ex-jailbird. And Flav did live that type of life at one time, but being that now my life has changed…put it this way: it's not hard to play that role. (laughs)
BE: You did a little back study on it.
FF: Yeah, yeah, I got the back study on it, y'know? But, hey, I do what I do 'cause I am a professionallllllll (laughs)
BE: So how about your co-stars? Had you known any of them before you started on the show?
FF: Well, Kelly Perine, I'm just recently meeting Kelly Perine, but I've known him from the TV sitcom "One on One," with my boy Flex Alexander. Also, Kelly did some Jimmy Dean commercials, those breakfast bowl commercials. When I met this guy, I was head over heels. I was, like, "Wowwwwwwww," y'know what I mean? And watching Kelly on set, man, I'm learning a lot, 'cause he's been in the sitcom business and I've been in the reality TV business. I watch him a lot, and I try to take tips from him, 'cause he's real good.
BE: Are you still in production now, or have you finished all 13 episodes?
FF: Naw, we're still in production right now. We just got our fifth one out of 13 done. But, hey, man, I'm looking forward to four or five good years of a relationship with TV, 'cause I've got a hit show on my hands. Definitely. This show is a hit.
BE: So far, have you filmed any very special episodes where you learn a valuable life lesson?
FF: Um…no, I haven't. (laughs) I haven't filmed none of those yet, y'know what I'm saying? But I guarantee that Brother Darryl Quarles has got one o' them in the works. Yeah, Darryl Quarles is one of the writers and producers, and he's written a lot, like "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and all that. And I think that this show right here is gonna be another "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," y'know what I mean? Not too many rappers get to make it in television and stay there for awhile, but my boy Will Smith, he was one of 'em. LL, he did it, he was one of 'em. Queen Latifah, she did it. She definitely was one of 'em. Eve had a few seasons out there. But I want my TV show to stay on, like, as long as my man Martin did. My man Martin Lawrence, y'know? I'm trying to follow in them footsteps right there, y'know what I mean? Me and Eddie Murphy, we was in the same English class in 9th grade.
FF: Oh, yeah. And, y'know, hey, I'm so proud of him right now, 'cause he's came a long way. So I feel me following his footsteps down the road.
BE: You got any high-profile guest stars lined up for the first few episodes?
FF: Oh, man, come on! Quit it! Let me tell ya, boy! First off, I just wanna say that, on my first episode, you gonna find my boy Twista!
FF: Y'got my man Twista on the first episode. The second episode got my boy Big Tiny Lister, and you better TiVo it, 'cause it's so funny. Man, wait 'til you see this! I sit back, and I be dying! I'm serious! On the third episode, we got my boy Kadeem Hardison coming in, and…I can't really tell you what he does. I can't give too much away. I gotta keep ya'll in the suspense of it all. But, yeah, this show is definitely a hit, bro. Definitely a hit.
BE: How are you and PE? Are you still copasetic? You still in the group and recording with them occasionally?
FF: Oh, definitely, man. Me and Chuck, we're still together. We're gonna be Public Enemy 'til we die, y'know what I mean? No matter how much television I do, I'm always gonna still do my music as well. We leave for Europe on May 19, we got a two and a half week run over there, and then I gotta come back here to the States 'cause I'm not done with VH-1 yet. I gotta come back and shoot my pilot for my talk show, and also I gotta shoot my reunion finale for "Flavor of Love."
BE: Yeah, I was gonna ask you: when is VH-1 just gonna become the Flavor Flav network and get it over with?
FF: Hey, hey, I told them…I told them people up in VH-1…I told Michael Hirschorn and Jeff Olde, I told Cris Abrego and Mark Cronin, I said, "I'm getting ready to take VH-1 and I'm gonna turn it into Flav-H-1!" They died laughing and thought I was joking, but little did they know that I was dead serious. Look at it already! Right now, I've still got the highest rated show on the network. Nobody's beat my records yet. "Rock of Love" is trying to hang in there with me, y'know what I'm saying? But, hey, man, you can't underestimate the power of Flavor Flav!
BE: If we can just get you on "Celebrity Rehab," you'd be set.
FF: Hey, I've seen a couple of episodes of "Celebrity Rehab," and I always watch my girl Brigitte, and, boy, she did a thing on that show, and when I seen her at the Grammys radio tour…aw, man, she looked so good. She was with her husband, Mattia (Dessi), and me and Mattia are great friends, too, and, boy, I was so delighted to see her, man. When me and Brigitte gave each other hugs, the whole room lit up.
BE: Why did it take so long for your solo album to come out?
FF: Well, that's because…y'know, right now, I'm getting ready to come at you with another one, but the reason I'm taking so long is that I want to really carefully construct it, 'cause that way it'll last for a real long time. I'm trying to give ya'll one of those…lemme see…like, a It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. I want it to stick around and last that long.
FF: I sure did, man. Boy, I wish those movies would've came to the screen, because they were funny, man. "Cain and Abel" was funny, but "Confessions of a Pit Fighter," oh, I really enjoyed acting next to my boys Armand Assante and James Russo. I mean, those are the real life heroes of movies, right there. Y'know what I'm saying? Those are the real life mentors. I look up to these guys.
BE: When I saw Chuck during the summer, he said, "I come from a black family, and the one thing black folks know, we always got that one in our family, but we take him in as family, and Flavor is one of a kind, believe that. He ain't never changed, and he ain't gonna change."
FF: (bursts into laughter)
BE: In short, he basically said you were PE's Billy Carter.
FF: (howls with laughter for several seconds) Yo, man, that's my partner, Chuck, man! Hey, but he ain't lying, man. That's what I am to Public Enemy. Everybody gotta have that one drunken uncle in the family…oh, boy!…so I guess it happens to be Flavor Flav! Oh, man!
BE: Were you surprised by all the controversy over "Strange Love," where they were calling it things like "a minstrel show" or whatever?
FF: Yeah, but I didn't care about it because all of that stuff didn't stop me from being successful. Not only that, but all of the people that had shit to say about me was still watching the damned show, anyway! (laughs) I don't care, man! Hey, look, man, my last name is Dratings (actually its Drayton), just give me the ratings!
BE: All right, I'll keep you on schedule, but I've always wanted to ask a member of PE this question: did you ever hear Duran Duran's cover of "911 Is A Joke?"
FF: I never heard it, but I heard Duran Duran made it over awhile ago, and I was so delighted to hear that, man, because I used to be a big fan of Duran Duran, y'know? From when I was a kid. So for them to re-do my record over? Oh, come on, that's the BULLZ-EYE!
BE: Who else did you listen to back in the day, as far as non-rap artists go?
FF: Oh, you know, I listened to my Motown greats, like your Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Patti Labelle and the Bluebelles. I listened to the Drifters, the Flamingos. I listened to Led Zeppelin, I listened to Rare Earth. I listened to a lot of Herbie Hancock and Billy Cobham. Oh, man, you name it. We could go on and on and on, forever.
BE: All right, man, it's been a pleasure talking to you. I'm looking forward to the show, and if you end up out at the TCA Press Tour with VH-1 this summer, I look forward to meeting you.
FF: Oh, hey, yo, you can't forget to put one more person on there for me!
BE: All right.
FF: Jaaaaaaaaames Brrrrrrrrrrownnnnnnnnnnn!
BE: (laughs) I'd say you make at least as much of an impression as he did.
FF: Hey, you know what James Brown did for me? He did what your magazine is. He hit the BULLZ-EYE!