2 Live Crew

David Mr Mix Hobbs; Chris Fresh Kid-Ice Won Wong; Brother Marquis Ross; Luther Campbell

2 LIVE CREW was an unremarkable Miami-based rap team who gained international notoriety when their 1990 album As Nasty as They Wanna Be was declared obscene by a Florida judge. The group subsequently traded successfully for a while on their reputation for sexually explicit lyrics.

Formed in 1985 as a relatively unadventurous proponent of the Miami dance sound pioneered by the likes of KC and the Sunshine Band, the group released 2 Live Crew Is What We Are (1986) and Move Somethin’ (1988), which included copious rapping and sampling, before the arrival of writer and producer Campbell. In the manner of Prince Buster, and while borrowing the name Luke Skyywalker from Star Wars (1977), Campbell provided such tracks as ‘Me So Horny’, a Top Forty hit in the US, ‘We Want Some Pussy’ and ‘Dick Almighty’ for As Nasty as They Wanna Be, which ultimately met with an obscenity ruling in a Florida court. The band’s case was supported by a number of free-speech advocates, and Campbell recorded a solo album, Banned in the USA, The title track, based on Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA, was a Top Twenty hit. The band then followed up with As Clean as They Wanna Be, which drew fresh legal controversy in the shape of a lawsuit from the publishers of Roy Orbison’s ‘Pretty Woman’, to which Campbell had added predictably obscene lyrics. The case eventually reached the US Supreme Court, which ruled in 2 Live Crew’s favour.

The arrival of US west coast gangsta rap in the 1990s quickly left the band looking more obsolete than obscene. This view was reinforced by the two 1991 concert recordings, Sports Weekend (As Nasty as They Wanna Be Part II) and Sports Weekend (As Clean as They Wanna Be Part II). On these albums the audience joined in good-naturedly, completing the group’s rhymes. Campbell later released Luke in the Nude (1993).

© Phil Hardy, Dave LaingThe Faber Companion to 20th-Century Popular Music, 2001

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