The 2 Live Crew
The 2 Live Crew was a hip hop group from Miami, Florida. They caused considerable controversy with the sexual themes in their work, particularly on their 1989 album As Nasty As They Wanna Be.
The 2 Live Crew was created by DJ Mr. Mixx (David Hobbs) with fellow rappers Fresh Kid Ice (Chris Wong Won), Jimbo Ralston, and Amazing V. (Yuri Vielot). The group released its first single, "Revelation", in 1985. "Revelation" was popular in Florida, so The 2 Live Crew (sans Amazing V) relocated to Miami. Rapper Brother Marquis (Mark Ross) joined The 2 Live Crew for its next single "What I Like". Local rapper Luke (Luther Campbell) gave The 2 Live Crew a record deal and worked as the group's manager and then lead vocalist. The 2 Live Crew's debut album, The 2 Live Crew Is What We Are, was released in 1986. Alex Henderson of allmusic commented that the album "did take sexually explicit rap lyrics to a new level of nastiness", with tracks like "We Want Some Pussy" and "Throw The 'D'". With word of mouth attention, the album was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In 1987, a Florida store clerk was charged and acquitted of felony charges for selling the album to a fourteen-year-old girl.
Campbell decided to sell a separate clean version in addition to the explicit version of the next album, Move Somethin' (1988), produced by Mr. Mixx. A record store clerk in Alexander City, Alabama was cited for selling a copy to an undercover police officer in 1988. It was the first time in the United States that a record store owner was held liable for obscenity over music. The charges were dropped after a jury found the record store not guilty.
In 1989, the group released their album, As Nasty As They Wanna Be, which also became the group's most successful album. A large part of its success was due to the single "Me So Horny", which was popular despite little radio rotation. The American Family Association (AFA) did not think the presence of a "Parental Advisory" sticker was enough to adequately warn listeners of what was inside the case. Jack Thompson, a lawyer affiliated with the AFA, met with Florida Governor Bob Martinez and convinced him to look into the album to see if it met the legal classification of obscene. In 1990 action was taken at the local level and Nick Navarro, Broward County sheriff, received a ruling from County Circuit Court judge Mel Grossman that probable cause for obscenity violations existed. In response, Luther Campbell maintained that people should focus on issues relating to hunger and poverty rather than on the lyrical content of their music.
Navarro warned record store owners that selling the album may be prosecutable. The 2 Live Crew then filed a suit against Navarro. That June, U.S. district court Judge Jose Gonzalezruled the album obscene and illegal to sell. Charles Freeman, a local retailer, was arrested two days later, after selling a copy to an undercover police officer. This was followed by the arrest of three members of The 2 Live Crew after they performed some material from the album at a nightclub. They were acquitted soon after, as professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. testified at their trial in defense of their lyrics. Freeman's conviction was overturned on appeal as well.
In 1992, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit overturned the obscenity ruling from Judge Gonzalez, and the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear Broward County's appeal. As in the Freeman case, Gates testified on behalf of Navarro, arguing that the material that the county alleged was profane actually had important roots in African-American vernacular, games, and literary traditions and should be protected.
As a result of the controversy, As Nasty As They Wanna Be sold over two million copies. A few other retailers were later arrested for selling it as well, including Canadian Marc Emery who was convicted in Ontario in 1991, and would later gain fame as a marijuana activist. Later hard rock band Van Halen sued over an uncleared sample of their song "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" in The 2 Live Crew Song "The Fuck Shop". The publicity then continued when George Lucas, owner of the Star Wars universe, successfully sued Campbell for appropriating the name "Skywalker" for his record label, Luke Skyywalker Records. Campbell changed his stage name to Luke (and changed the record label's name to Luke Records) and the group released an extremely political follow up album, Banned In The U.S.A. after obtaining permission to use an interpolation of Bruce Springsteen's Born In The U.S.A. The 2 Live Crew paraphernalia with the Luke Skyywalker or Skyywalker logos are often sought-after collector's items.
In 1991, The 2 Live Crew released the very first live rap album, Live In Concert, and Sports Weekend, a full-length studio original. It did not gain the same sales level that they experienced with As Nasty As They Wanna Be. The 2 Live Crew members went their separate ways after this. Luke pursued his solo music career and other projects.
In 1992, Fresh Kid Ice released unreleased tracks from pre-Luke The 2 Live Crew, Deal with This under the name Rock On Crew, while Luke and Ice also released new solo albums, I Got Shit On My Mind and The Chinaman.
Mark "Brother Marquis" Ross co-starred alongside Fred Williamson in the film South Beach and started a new group with Aldrin "DJ Toomp" Davis, and Thomas "The Saint" Brooks of Marianna Fl, a former member of Poison Clan, which was also signed to Campbell's label. They named the group 2 Nazty, and released the album "Indecent Exposure" on Attitude Records in 1993. The single was called "Can't Say I Love You," but it did not chart, and the group never released a second album. The single was a departure from the typical 2 Live nasty rhymes, and focuses on what a deep emotion love is, and how it should not be said to anyone lightly. The rest of the album sounds like a The 2 Live Crew record, and focuses on sexual exploits of the members.
The hard feelings over the split of the The 2 Live Crew is apparent on the album, as Marquis is heard on the track "Interview" saying he was fired from the group, and that the other members had no love for him. DJ Toomp also has a line in "Be My Bitch" comparing signing a deal with Skyywalker Records to signing your life away.
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