Flavor Flav came to prominence as a founding member of the rap group Public Enemy. In 1984, the group released a track, "Public Enemy #1", which brought them to the attention of Def Jam Records executive Rick Rubin. Rubin initially did not understand Flav's clowning and wanted to sign Chuck D as a solo act; however Chuck D insisted that Flav be signed with them and the two were signed to Def Jam in 1986. The group's first album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, was released in 1987. Flav served as the comic foil to Chuck D's serious, politically charged style. The group gained much wider fame with their following release, 1988's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, which went double platinum. By the time the political single, "Fight the Power", was issued in 1989, the group had become mainstream superstars. Along with Chuck D, the showman of the group and its promotional voice, Flav stood out among the members of Public Enemy as he often got the fans hyped, appearing on stage and in public wearing big hats and glasses and a large clock dangling from his neck.
The first released track on which Flav rapped solo was "Too Much Posse" on Yo! Bum Rush the Show, though the first hit on which he rapped solo would not come until the 1990s single "911 is a Joke". During Public Enemy's first years of existence, Flav dealt with tensions with group-mate Professor Griff, who never liked Flav's flamboyant stance in what Griff felt to be a serious, politically-challenging group. In 1990, after allegedly making anti-Semitic comments, Profressor Griff left Public Enemy.
In 2006, Flav put out his self-titled first solo album. It was released during the second season of Flavor of Love.