Flavor Flav Is Alive and Well and Cold Lamping in Hollywood

Finally, Public Enemy is next up to perform. They are there as part of the tribute to Jon Platt, the CEO of Sony Music Publishing, who has helped many rap and R&B artists set up publishing deals or get their publishing back. The story goes that Platt started his career as a DJ and promoter in Colorado and that Chuck D told him he could envision him doing bigger things within the music industry. A lot has changed since 1988, but there’s still something cognitively dissonant about hearing Flav—who rapped “Who gives a fuck about a goddamn Grammy” thirty-six years ago—boast from the stage about the Lifetime Achievement Award they received from the institution in 2020.

Chuck reads some words of support off of his phone, but when he tries to set off their performance with the line, “Here come the drums,” the drums do not, in fact, come. After some nervous laughter, it becomes apparent that DJ Lord is experiencing technical difficulties. Flav quickly takes over, pulling out a few reliable hip-hop call-and-response routines to keep the audience engaged. (He’s vampin’, he’s vampin’, he’s cold cold vampin’.) He eventually tells the crowd, “Everybody in the spot, I want y’all to scream this shit real loud. I want to hear y’all say, ‘Flaaaaavor Flaaaaav!’”

“His mission is to go into any room and suck the stardom out of it,” Chuck D tells me later. “You could put Flavor next to Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, and Billie Eilish, and Flavor will come away as the guy that you remember the most.”

Soon the group’s back on track as their song “Can’t Truss It” kicks in. They follow it up with “Bring the Noise” and then finish expectedly, thrillingly, and incongruously with “Fight the Power.”

After the Isley Brothers perform “Shout,” Flav is ready to leave. But as he tries to make his way out of the ballroom, he’s continuously stopped—by stars, spouses of executives, hotel staff—for selfies. All this happens as other famous people, from Paris Hilton to George Clinton, leave unbothered. While most celebrities exude a “don’t bother me” aura, Flav is more like a tractor beam. “He’s the pied piper, wherever he goes, they follow,” says the producer Sam Hollander. “He gives the love back, and a lot of artists don’t give the love back.”

Flav links up with famed Howard Stern producer Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’Abate and SiriusXM bigwig Ross Zapin, and they head out for a Billboard event at Waldorf Astoria next door. The Hilton’s ground floor is still teeming with fans, calling out to Flavor for autographs and selfies, and Zapin has to put his hands on Flav’s shoulders and physically maneuver him through the building so he won’t stop for each one of them. Once the group reaches the rooftop, where the heat lamps glow under a mild drizzle, it’s unclear if the party is wrapping up or never really got going. Flav is by far the most recognizable person there and soon people are buzzing around him, peppering him with questions that are really just foreplay before they ask him for a photo. Soon he motions to his manager, Rhiannon Rae Ellis, that he wants to go.

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