Flavor Flav: From ‘fighting the power’ to frying chicken?

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Dave Chappelle famously asked, “where are all these people who don’t like chicken and watermelon?” but it’s another black celebrities’ venture into the poultry business that’s not getting similar laughs.

Rapper turned reality star, Flavor Flav, is opening his first Flav’s Fried Chicken restaurant in Clinton, Iowa today, much to the chagrin of many in the black community, who view this as yet another example of Flav embarrassing the race.

It’s not the first time he’s infuriated African-Americans by seemingly playing up to stereotypes.

It all started with the VH1’s Surreal Life in 2004 where his inexplicable relationship with former 80s star Brigitte Nielsen turned into, Strange Love in 2005.

After Strange Love the world got three seasons of Flavor of Love from 2006-2008. Which, fueled VH1 programming for years, spawned about a dozen spinoff and, literally, a new crop of pseudo-celebrities we can’t burn from our collective lexicons fast enough.

The juxtaposition from political charged, Public Enemy hype man during the groups’ height to pop culture phenomenon is staggering, but it’s also the reason all the other options are even viable. His career second wind hasn’t been without it’s missteps but while we hold our breath for Le Flav Spirits (which he announced along with Flav’s Fried Chicken in November 2010) it’s worth noting that FFC may not be as bad as you think.

According to the New York Times, Flav has a culinary degree. The Clinton Herald reports that was in 1978. That same Clinton Herald story says Flav served as head cook at numerous places.

FFC even has it’s own secret recipe, which Flav thinks will be the key to them competing with other chains and it’s worked before.

Flav started selling his 99-cent wings in Las Vegas at Mama Climino’s with success. That business partnership with Nick Climino turned into Flav’s Fried Chicken, which, no coincidence is right next door to the Mama Climino’s in Clinton, Iowa, owned by Nick’s brother.

Packaging Flav’s larger than life persona in a small restaurant in Iowa can’t be easy but Flav insists the pictures and murals depicting his career from big clocks to horns and viking helmets will lure people into the spot where he says, “the taste will blow your taste buds.”

Flav also plans to be hands-on owner, which is entirely believable to me, as someone who’s seen Flav casually wander through random towns, like my college town in Greensboro, N.C., without cameras being around.

Having seen Public Enemy live in concert last September, with the knowledge of everything we’ve all seen him do on TV, his rapport with Chuck D and Professor Griff seemed unscathed. His political messages believable, and the crowd’s response is like 1989 all over again.

What’s more, he completely acknowledged his cartoonish behavior and crazy television scenarios but thanked those who supported his television projects, even joking that VH1 will never be able to see the ratings he produced for them. (He’s right by the way).

It’s hard to ever imagine Flav’s Fried Chicken ever being a household name like KFC or Popeye’s but when we look at people who’ve gone from careers in entertainment to dishing out chicken and waffles, who haven’t caught the same flack Flav has, it makes you wonder what the fuss is all about. He’s not lowering the bar any lower than they are. I’d argue FFC and even bubblegum flavored vodka is a better look for black people than Nate Dogg’s Blunt Wraps.

What’s ignored is Flav, maybe a few years too late, is continuing hip-hop’s entrepreneurial spirit. Something like hip-hop’s Don King, he’s the consummate capitalist, regardless of what he think about it. With liquor and a book on the way, Flav summed it up best to the Clinton Herald, “One day we will die…we don’t know when. While I’m alive, I better get it in.”

His latest revenue stream is sure the draw the ire of the most pretentious members of our culture but as long as he avoids commercials with black people with minstrel-like smiles and chicken grease covered lips, chopping down on a drumette, it’s harmless. If I were ever on the Iowa-Illinois border and craving some bird, I’d check it out, especially with Flav himself working the fryer.