Miami's favorite hip-hop uncle is getting overdue recognition. During the 2017 BET Hip Hop Awards, which will air at 8 p.m. Tuesday, October 10, 2 Live Crew founder and Miami New Times columnist Luther Campbell will receive the cable network's coveted lifetime achievement award for his influence in rap music.
At the October 6 taping, Campbell accepted the trophy in front of a hometown crowd at the Fillmore Miami Beach. He was flanked by original 2 Live Crew member Mr. Mixx and some of the city's reigning rap kings: DJ Khaled, Flo Rida, and Rick Ross. After the show, Campbell posted a photo of his I Am Hip-Hop Award on Instagram. "I've been waiting 35 years for this," Campbell wrote. "I want to thank the new bosses at BET: Connie Orlando, Jesse Collins and Debra Lee."
Of course, it wouldn't be an Uncle Luke show without a little controversy. Over the weekend, Campbell posted a video clarification about comments he made about New York-based rap producers Funkmaster Flex and DJ Red Alert while making his acceptance speech.
Here it is Ladies and Gentlemen my iamhiphop Lifetime Achievement Award from the Entertainment Industry that I love so much but have always been snubbed. I Came straight home to show my son Blake but he was sleep. I've been waiting 35 years for this I want to thank new boss at #bet Connie Orlando Jesse Collins Debra Lee for this Honor.
"Let me straighten out something before hating bloggers take over and misinterpret something," Campbell said. "Some people may misinterpret that I said something bad about Funkmaster Flex and DJ Red Alert. No. Those are my guys."
Throughout his music career, Campbell has maintained a love-hate relationship with the African-American-centric cable network and other rap music pioneers. In his 2015 memoir, Campbell recounted how 2 Live Crew largely fought a war against music censorship.
"Groups like Salt-N-Pepa and Kid 'n Play, they wanted to stay acceptable to middle America and sell records," Campbell wrote. "They went on BET and publicly slammed us. Other groups just didn't say anything. No major rappers came out in our defense. Not one. Even guys like Russell Simmons, who as an executive I thought would understand the dangers of censorship, I never heard him say a word. No comment. No commitment."
In a column written around the same time his book was released, Campbell wrote, "Because I am not from Los Angeles or New York City, you will never see BET or MTV honoring my contributions to the music business. This is true even though I fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court for free speech."
It seems the book's success and the recent news of a Hollywood biopic about Campbell and 2 Live Crew have changed the music industry's perception of Uncle Luke. In hyping Campbell's lifetime achievement award, BET produced a webpage linking his impact on hip-hop artists from back in the day to today's chart-toppers. For instance, BET notes Campbell tried to intervene in the deadly feud between the Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur, both of whom he had befriended during their visits to Miami.
A son of Liberty City, Campbell was the youngest of five brothers whose love for football began in little-league in Charles Hadley Park, which became the home base for his youth program, the Liberty City Optimist Club. He spent his teenage years riding the bus to middle and high school in Miami Beach just as desegregation was beginning.
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He got into music working as a DJ under the moniker Luke Skyywalker and played gigs at house parties and neighborhood parks. Campbell linked up with 2 Live Crew's original founding members Mr. Mixx and Fresh Kid Ice — who had their own national distribution deal through their own indie label — after the group flew down to Miami to perform at a popular roller skating rink called The Pac Jam. Together, they launched Campbell's label Luke Skyywalker Records with the distribution of the singles, "Throw the D" and Ghetto Bass," which were produced in a California studio by Mr. Mixx and Fresh Kid Ice. Brother Marquis subsequently joined the group.
As the unfiltered, raunchy frontman of 2 Live Crew and owner of Luke Records, Campbell pioneered Southern hip-hop while putting Miami booty music on the map. And when conservative forces led by First Lady Tipper Gore, Broward County Sheriff Nick Navarro, and Florida Gov. Bob Martinez tried to censor 2 Live Crew's music, Campbell took the fight to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. Along the way, he mentored a venerable stable of artists who have carried on his legacy, including Miami hip-hop queen Trina and Mr. Worldwide, Pitbull.
Campbell capped off the BET award extravaganza by showing the audience he can still raise the roof. "I can't wait for all of you to see it," says Miami publicist LaShannon Petit, who attended the taping with her elderly father. "Uncle Luke tore the house down, man."
BET Hip Hop Awards 2017. 8 p.m. Tuesday, October 10, on BET; bet.com.
Correction: The genesis of 2 Live Crew has been corrected in this article to better describe the involvement of Brother Marquis and others.