Flavor Flav is a man of many hats.
This is true in both the literal sense — top hats, baseball caps, king's crown, Viking helmets — and the figurative sense.
From being a founding member of the ground-breaking, politically minded hip-hop group Public Enemy to starring in a string of hit reality shows about his seemingly eternal search for love, Flav has continued to reinvent himself in the public eye.
Flav, born William Jonathan Drayton Jr., burst onto the public consciousness more than 20 years ago with the socially-conscious rap ensemble Public Enemy.
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A classically-trained pianist, he attended Adelphi University in Long Island where he met fellow Public Enemy founding member and then graphic design student Carlton Ridenhour (Chuck D). The two began rapping together and by 1987 they — along with DJ Terminator X and Professor Griff — released the group's debut "Yo! Bum Rush The Show."
That was followed up the next year with "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back." The release made a splash on the charts thanks to hits like "Don't Believe the Hype" and "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos."
Public Enemy's melding of hardcore rap with political awareness made it a potent combination and controversial force.
Flav often acted as Chuck D's comic foil, his hyper-stylized look included oversized sunglasses and a giant clock hanging from his neck. He has said publicly that he wears the clock to remind people how precious time is. The look has become his signature over the years.
On stage he is known as an iconic hype man whose emphatic catch phrases are "Yeah boyyyyy!" and "Flavor Flavvvvv!"
The distinction between the two?
"Honestly, it depends on the situation," he told Entertainment Weekly earlier this year. "If it's a situation where I'm arguing with somebody and I prove myself right, I holler, 'FLAVOR FLAV!' And when the party is jumpin' and we are thumpin' and bumpin', 'YEAH BOYYYY!' comes into play."
He also takes credit for starting the hip-hop world's "grill" trend, the habit of wearing expensive, decorative gold or platinum false teeth. Flav wears gold teeth with his name engraved on the front.
In 1990, the group released "Fear of a Black Planet," which became its most successful release to date. The rappers didn't back down from its agenda with songs like "911 (Is a Joke)" and "Fight the Power."
The album since has been selected for preservation in the Library of Congress.
In the mid 1990s the group went on an on-and-off hiatus, while still producing albums through the next several years.
With a relatively lower profile, Flav reemerged in 2004 to star in the third season of the VH1 reality series "The Surreal Life." During the series he began an on-air relationship with actress Brigitte Nielsen. Flav and Brigitte continued their odd-couple affair on the spin-off VH1 reality series, "Strange Love."
When that relationship ended, Flav took his quest for romance to the airwaves again, this time with his VH1 dating series "Flavor of Love," which debuted in January 2006.
The show ran for three seasons, concluding in May 2008 with what the rapper has said will be his final season.
It was revealed in the third season reunion show that Flav met a woman, not from the show, after taping had concluded. He proposed to her on air during the special. The two now have a son together.
While Flav professes to be out of the reality dating business, he is still on TV and the radio. In April he starred in the MyNetwork TV sitcom "Under One Roof," a more serious acting endeavor for the man whose public persona has historically fallen into the court jester bracket.
Music has remained a part of his life as well. In 2006 he released his first solo, self-titled album. His Modesto appearance will be at the outdoor event Flavor Flav's Block Party and feature other up-and-coming artists.
Also slated to perform will be Geffen recording artist Prima J with Izacane, Chilee Powdah and Not 4 Nothin. DJs from across the area also will perform including Suga Shane, Phlim, Ghetto House Radio, Jimmy Martinez and David Savior.
The show will be on the street in front of the Fat Cat Music House and Lounge between I and J streets. Gates open at 8 p.m.
No word on which hat, or hats, Flav will bring to the Modesto performance. But, as he told Entertainment Weekly earlier this year, if it is his Viking helmet the crowd better beware.
"I wear my Viking helmet because the horns define how sharp my brains are," he said. "If you try to rub me the wrong way, I will stick you with both of my horns."
Let's hope he wears the top hat instead, then.