(Reuters) - Rap group Public Enemy split with founder member Flavor Flav but said on Monday that the move had been a long time coming and was not because of a dispute over its performance at a rally for U.S. presidential contender Bernie Sanders.
“Public Enemy did not part ways with Flavor Flav over his political views,” co-founder Chuck D and four other members of the hip-hop group said in a statement.
The band said Flav has been suspended from Public Enemy since 2016 when he failed to show up at a benefit in Georgia for singer Harry Belafonte.
“That was the last straw for the group. He had previously missed numerous live gigs from Glastonbury to Canada, album recording sessions and photo shoots. He always chose to party over work,” the statement added.
Flav and Chuck D were founder members in 1985 of New York-based rappers Public Enemy, known for making music with a strong political message. Their 1988 album “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” is considered one of the genre’s most influential.
Public Enemy had said in a statement issued shortly before the band appeared with Sanders at a California rally on Sunday that it was “moving forward without Flavor Flav.”
Flav had earlier dissociated himself from the appearance, saying that Chuck D did not speak for the band.
On Monday, Flav hit back at Chuck D on Twitter saying, “You can’t fire me ... there is no Public Enemy without Flavor Flav.”
“Are you kidding me right now??? over Bernie Sanders???,” he added. “You wanna destroy something we’ve built over 35 years OVER POLITICS??? all because I don’t wanna endorse a candidate.”
Chuck D said on Twitter he was supporting Sanders because of his pledges to bring in universal healthcare and childcare should the Democratic senator from Vermont be elected to the White House in November.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant in Los Angeles; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien, Matthew Lewis and Sonya Hepinstall