When Public Enemy denounces malt liquor in ''One Million Bottlebags,'' the band means business. Claiming copyright infringement and violation of his publicity rights, Chuck D filed a $5 million lawsuit Aug. 28 against San Francisco's McKenzie River Corp., maker of St. Ides malt liquor, over a radio ad that sampled his voice. The ad inserts ''St. Ides'' into a Chuck D lyric, ''the incredible (St. Ides) No. 1,'' from ''Bring the Noise.'' ''It's unconscionable,'' says the rapper's attorney, Lisa Davis. ''He has taken a very strong position against malt liquor, and these ads make him look like a hypocrite.'' According to McKenzie River chief executive Minott Wessinger, the company ''was unaware Chuck D's voice was in the ad, which was produced independently, and withdrew the spot'' before the suit was filed. The TV, radio, and poster campaign uses a number of rappers, including Rakim and EPMD, but primarily Ice Cube (the ad with Chuck D's voice features Ice Cube's rapped endorsement of St. Ides).
Although the ads play on black-radio outlets such as New York's WBLS and Los Angeles' KJLH, McKenzie River claims it doesn't target blacks in particular. Say Wessinger, ''Ice Cube's appeal is broad scale, and there's a similarly broad market for malt liquor.'' However, blacks buy 75 percent of all malt liquor, which has up to twice the alcohol of beer.