More than 25 years after the release of the group’s third album, As Nasty As They Wanna Be, former 2 Live Crew leader Luther Campbell spoke with The Daily Beast about the legal obscenity battle it brought about and the issues of free speech it sparked around the country.
“I made it possible for everybody to be horny,” a now-54-year old Campbell joked, referencing the album’s lead and attention-grabbing single “Me So Horny.”
Campbell, who was not an original member of the group, explained how he came to be involved as the eventual leader.
“I put my own money into the group and then joined them,” Campbell said. “I saw them on Sanford and Son and realized they were also hardcore adult-themed comedians. So [2 Live Crew] was going to be funny and fun.”
“Things we were doing that people were all appalled by, you know girls with big asses on the album cover. Now everyone is making money off these girls with all the hair extensions and big asses,” Campbell offered of the progression of ideas of obscenity in the music industry.
Campbell’s lawyer, Bruce Rogow, who represented the label owner and musician in a host of court battles over free speech, added, “We kind of put an end to the kind of thinking that the government could get in the way of art.”
According to The Daily Beast, a June 1990 court decision against the 2 Live Crew marked the first time that a musical recording was ever officially declared obscene.
“No matter what happens in this case, you win,” Rogow reportedly told the 2 Live Crew rapper around the time of the trial. “If the government says you can’t have something, everyone is going to want it.”
“I was thinking about Bruce’s argument, that we had proved our case so well, and when I understood my case, I felt it was an idiotic ruling,” Campbell said of the federal court judge’s decision.
After the ruling, members of 2 Live Crew were arrested for performing material that had been ruled legally obscene just days earlier.
“I told the guys to be prepared to go to jail for this,” Campbell said. “I knew the police were there.
“We had the Al Sharptons and the Jesse Jacksons coming at us saying this is wrong, against women and so on,” he continued. “And I said ‘you guys are not looking at the big picture.’ I wasn’t fighting for music or my livelihood, it was about the right to create something.”
Campbell is currently planning a memoir called The Book of Luke: My Fight For Truth, Justice, and Liberty City.
“No one has asked me to talk at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame about it, and we’ve never been recognized for it,” Campbell said near the end of the interview. “We’re the Rodney Dangerfields of the executive and music business.”