Today's Rappers Owe Everything to As Nasty As They Wanna Be
Uncle Luke, the man whose booty-shaking madness made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Luke reminisces about the album that changed hip-hop.
It's hard to believe 25 years have gone by since I put out 2 Live Crew's As Nasty as They Wanna Be, the first album in history to be deemed legally obscene. Back then, I never imagined I'd be the only music artist to go to jail and take the fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court for this rap shit. I'm the reason today's biggest rappers, from Rick Ross to Lil Wayne to Drake, can make sexually explicit songs without fear of being prosecuted.
I paid millions of dollars to win the fight for free speech. The only one who went to the dogfight with me was legendary Constitutional attorney Bruce Rogow.
Then-Gov. Bob Martinez and the late Broward County Sheriff Nick Navarro, even Vice-President Dan Quayle, spearheaded a campaign to have As Nasty as They Wanna Be outlawed. In 1990, a year after the album dropped and generated a storm of controversy, a Broward County judge deemed the record obscene. That gave Navarro license to arrest local record store owners and employees for selling the album. He also arrested me and the rest of 2 Live Crew after we performed some of the songs at a Hollywood nightclub. We were eventually acquitted and the judge's ruling was overturned on appeal.
As Nasty as They Wanna Be had many groundbreaking moments beyond the legal fight. It is the first Southern rap album to go platinum and the only one from the 1980s that reached that milestone. The album's success changed the way hip-hop did business. Others in the rap game saw me selling more than a million copies without backing from a major label. I provided the blueprint for Cash Money Records, Bad Boy Entertainment, Maybach Music Group, and every other independent hip-hop entertainment company that came after Luke Records.
The album's art changed the look of hip-hop too. Back then, covers depicted New York graffiti and break dancers. As Nasty as They Wanna Be showed 2 Live Crew lying on a sandy white beach while admiring Miami's great beauties. At shows, rappers would go onstage with a crew of male break dancers. I was the first artist to feature booty-popping female go-go dancers. Today almost every rap video is set on South Beach and features gorgeous women.
And despite all my critics, I was also the first record executive to make a clean version of the explicit one. I even slapped a prominent message on the cover of As Clean as They Wanna Be telling people that the album did not contain explicit lyrics.
Guess what? No one bought that version. Hip-hop may have been born in New York City, but it got revolutionized and certified in Miami. As Nasty as They Wanna Be may not ever get in the Rock n Roll Hal of Fame or lifetime achievement award from BET and the Recording Academy, I know this album's important place in hip-hop history.
Tune into Luke on the Andy Slater Show every Tuesday from 2 to 5 p.m. on Miami's Sports Animal, 940 AM.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter