William Jonathan Drayton Jr. once made headlines for giving his girlfriend a trouncing on a public street in Roosevelt, his birthplace and an incubator for Public Enemy, the famous rap group. Drayton, aka Flava Flav, was the symbolic keeper of time for the group.
That caricatured, giant medallion of a clock, dangling from his neck on stage and off, posed, in its way, several urgent questions during Public Enemy’s heyday. How does a government or industry or average individual invest the finite hours on a calendar? Who’s been watching the clock, and can that appointed timekeeper be trusted?
When zany Flav bellowed, “What time is it?” a concert crowd went whirling. With a war cry set to funky, festive percussions, Public Enemy was affirming a person’s right to rebel. “Fight the power,” those rappers intoned, and their lyric does not die.