Flavor Flav
By: Tom Nealon | Categories: HiLo Heroes

Though it would be difficult for any of us who grew up around NYC in the 1980s to find smoking crack charming, FLAVOR FLAV (William Jonathan Drayton, Jr, born 1959) has really given it a go. In Public Enemy he played absurd foil to Chuck D’s monolithic seriousness, nullifying the only argument against them — i.e., that they were too political. Post-PE, he has stumbled aimlessly through a maze of rehab, reality TV, and self-caricature that would have turned anyone else into a forgettable pile of middlebrow dust. Flav has somehow emerged unscathed, ironically the one person who is immune to the effects of television. To claim that he invented the hype man misses the point — he invented Flavor Flav, the one guy you’d want on your side if your life depended on being really, really excited. He’s Coyote wearing a giant clock, Reynard with silly glasses, Loki with a fried chicken franchise. Flav is a puzzle of contradiction — he brings fire from the gods, yet he can’t do nuttin’ for ya man.

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HIP HOP ON HILOBROW: HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM series (25 posts about old-school hip hop) | DJ Kool Herc as HiLo Hero | Gil Scott-Heron as HiLo Hero | Slick Rick as HiLo Hero | Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels as HiLo Hero | Afrika Bambaataa as HiLo Hero | Biz Markie as HiLo Hero | Eric B as HiLo Hero (forthcoming in November) | U-God as HiLo Hero | Slug as HiLo Hero | Adam Yauch as HiLo Hero | Ghostface Killah as HiLo Hero | DJ Run as HiLo Hero | Flavor Flav as HiLo Hero | Scott La Rock as HiLo Hero | GZA as HiLo Hero | Schoolly D as HiLo Hero | Aesop Rock as HiLo Hero | Notorious B.I.G. as HiLo Hero | Melle Mel as HiLo Hero | Rick Rubin as HiLo Hero | Rakim as HiLo Hero | Ol’ Dirty Bastard as HiLo Hero | Madlib as HiLo Hero | Talib Kweli as HiLo Hero | Danger Mouse as HiLo Hero | Kool Moe Dee as HiLo Hero | Chuck D as HiLo Hero | Dizzee Rascal as HiLo Hero | RZA as HiLo Hero | Cee-Lo Green as HiLo Hero | Best Ever Clean Hip Hop

On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: René Daumal.

READ MORE about members of the Original Generation X (1954-63).

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Tom Nealon owns and operates the used and rare bookstore Pazzo Books in the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Mass and runs the antiquarian food blog cruditas.