The folks over at conservative glossy The Weekly Standard think Luther Campbell's run is serious enough to warrant a 7,228-word profile. Writer Matt Labash spent a considerable amount of time shadowing Campbell early in his campaign. Kudos to his editors for allowing him the space to explore the complexities that make Uncle Luke who he is. It's a great read. If you don't feel like slogging through Labash's prose, The Atlantic breaks down the story's main points with bullets.
Our favorite passage comes early in the piece, when Labash tracks Campbell down at church:
I'm meeting Campbell at a youth summit at a church in West Perrine,
the kind of church where Jesus and John the Baptist are depicted as
black men on the stained-glass windows, in the kind of neighborhood
where the gas-station cashier scans the barcode of your soda through a
bulletproof window. But I have difficulty locating the candidate when I
arrive. Church ladies fussing over buffet trays are stumped when I ask
if they've seen him.
In the men's room, I ask a few 15-year-olds if they've seen Campbell,
thinking surely they'd be aware of a star on their premises. "I don't
know no Luther Campbell," says a kid who goes by Baby Razz, also a
rapper. "Only Luther I know is Luther Vandross, and he deeeeaaad." The march of time is cruel, even, and perhaps especially, for hip-hop legends.
I find Campbell already seated in the sanctuary, and we whisper
introductions. He looks rather anonymous in dark jeans, topsider boots,
and a short-sleeved flannel shirt. When he stands, he's an imposing
6′3″, but for now he's slumped inconspicuously in a back pew, taking in
the youth summit, which is nearly devoid of youth but choked full of the
concerned citizens, local do-goodniks, and community activists who all
favor the P-word. Not the P-word in Uncle Luke's songs but, rather,
"programs." They're not happy with the ones that exist, and they want a
lot of new ones.
They want more financial education. They want summer jobs. They want
year-round jobs. They want, they want, they want. Then they want to hog
the open-mike and talk about how the system is broken. (No fooling--at
the rate everyone wants something, Alvarez would've had to hike property
taxes on the other 60 percent of the electorate.)
This is what Luke calls part of his "listening tour," shuttling
around the community and listening to the concerns of the people, which
he often does anyway as a de facto ambassador for those he calls "the
have-nots" and as a weekly columnist for the Miami New Times.
In columns, Campbell often takes up local causes when not playing a
wildly unpredictable national troublemaker. He classifies himself as
being part of the "Hip Hop Party," which seems to entail saying whatever
the hell he wants with no particular political allegiance. So the
former First Amendment champion might, for instance, please liberals by
suggesting the government shut down the Tea Party, whom he considers a
hate group. Then he'll throw a bone to libertarians, decrying the
Transportation Security Administration, the TSA, as "T'n'A" for their
invasive frisking, while suggesting rappers be allowed to carry arms in
the workplace, since they work in some pretty dangerous places. Then he
might side with conservatives against the Ground Zero mosque as an
insult to our dead soldiers. ("Muslims don't need to explain their
religion to Americans. We can go online to find out about Islam.")
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!