Luther “Luke” Campbell – Promoter, Rapper, Activist
When we speak of Luther “Luke” Campbell we think of the raunchy rapper that told guys to “Throw That D” and girls to “Pop That P*ssy” but we are quick to forget what he had to go through in the late 80’s and early 90’s to bring us that booty-shaking Miami Bass music we loved so we can bump in our cars and in the clubs. Everything was fine until 1989 when they released their album”As Nasty As They Wanna Be” to the world. It was the first record album in history to be declared obscene. All of a sudden, Florida became the “hotbed” for censorship and their #1 target was Hip Hop and in this case more specifically, Luke and the 2 Live Crew.
It was not like the album “As Nasty As They Wanna Be” didn’t come with a “parental guidance sticker” (brought on by Tipper Gore and the PMRC), but it seems that America was not ready for Hip Hop and with all the “obscene” and sexual lyrics, it made it worse. Once the album was declared “obscene” by a US District Court Judge, we were told that record store owners could not sell the album or face getting arrested and going to jail. Further more, we couldn’t be in possession of the album and if 2 Live Crew performed it, they would get arrested also! No this was not 1949 but 1989. So what happened, record store owners got arrested, fans got arrested and the group also got arrested. But what did Luther Campbell do? He could of easily folded and walked away. But like NWA and the FBI letter, they gained popularity and when bad publicity equals boost in record sales, you hit the media circuits. Luther was featured on the Donhue Show and the Geraldo Rivera show talking about (you guessed it) censorship. Luke kept touring and at one venue in Florida, they were arrested and when the fans didn’t get a full show, a riot ignited. Luke even got permission from Bruce Springsteen to re-do his classic “Born in the USA” an make it a theme song for his “censorship trial” called “Banned in the USA”. Eventually in 1992, the US District Court of Appeals overturned the obscenity ruling and 2 Live Crew had “weathered the storm” but more importantly gave other rap groups the ability to say what they want on record without it being called “obscene”. Rappers like the Eminem, Snoop, Ludacris, Lil Kim and others can thank Luther Campbell for giving them a way to express themselves without the backlash.
In my views, censorship can only do harm. I don’t want to be told what I can and can’t say and at the same time I can’t tell you what to say. If you don’t like what I have to say, don’t listen. It’s as easy as that! When we can’t express ourselves, creativity is lost. And when creativity is lost, we can’t get to that next level. So for all your hard work and dedication not only as a musician but as a first amendment activist, we salute you Luther “Luke” Campbell.