The 2 LIVE CREW, originally from Southern California but eventually of Miami, Florida, is one of the most politically influential and legally significant rap groups of all time. Their history has bearing on fair use, copyright and trademark law, and of course, decency statutes. Led by extremely vocal and visible frontman (for most albums, and manager for still more) Luther Campbell, long-known as "Luke Skywalker", the group's history spans over a decade. Their explicit lyrics (and attendant publicity) made them an instant hit with teenagers of all races, and their Miami Bass sound and quick turns of phrase made the songs catchy in their own right.

The other members of the group are Chris Wong Won (Fresh Kid Ice), David Hobbs (Treach DJ Mr. Mixx), and Mark Ross (Brother Marquis). Amazing V was the initial M.C. (in 1985); Fat Daddy and Verb (a.k.a. Larry Dobson) were also onetime members. In addition to his affiliation with the 2 Live Crew, Luther Campbell had a moderately successful solo career; Fresh Kid Ice also has a solo album ("The Chinaman") released in 1992.

Most 2 Live Crew fans would agree that the most important and representative 2 Live albums are "Move Somethin'" and "As Nasty As They Wanna Be". The former is the first album which enjoyed wide distribution, and the latter contains nearly every song considered a staple: Me So Horny, Put Her In The Buck, Dick Almighty, and The Fuck Shop. Anything else is probably on the Luke LP, "Banned in the USA".

While the group has been put down time and time again for their apparent (and probable) misogyny and seemingly needless profanity, their defenders are equally quick to point out that they follow closely in the footsteps of black comics whose humor is frequently in the same vein. They are in close company in the rap world as well, especially when compared to such contemporaries such as DJ Quik.



Long, Long Ago, In a Galaxy Far, Far Away... California in 1985, to be somewhat more precise. The "Revelation" single became greatly popular in Miami, Florida, and the group (sans Amazing V) picks up camp and moves. They release a second single, "What I Like", and are joined by Brother Marquis. The newly enlarged group works a deal with Luther Campbell, owner of Miami record label "Skywalker Records". Luther later becomes a member of the group (under the name "Luke Skywalker", a move which will later cost him considerable money) and history is made.

Two 2 Live Crew albums then came on the scene and became underground hits, though they received little above ground notice around the time of their release; "Is What We Are" and "Move Somethin'", their first album released in both "dirty" and "clean" versions. In 1989, the third album "Nasty As They Wanna Be" is released and all hell breaks loose. In June of 1990 a Florida state court declares the album legally obscene, making it the first album to ever receive this label in America.

Further expansion on this particular topic is required to help ensure that the names of the heroes (and villains) of this struggle are not lost to the ravages of time. In 1990, Broward County sheriff Nick Navarro secured a ruling from County Circuit Court Judge Mel Grossman that there was probable cause that the album was legally obscene. In June, District Court Judge Jose Gonzalez ruled that As Nasty As They Wanna Be was legally obscene, and therefore illegal to sell. Keep in mind that this could easily have been a precedent-setting case, as it was the first time any album was legally declared obscene. Retailer Charles Freeman was arrested just two days later for selling the album to an undercover cop (later overturned on appeal, and the three rapping members of the 2 Live Crew were arrested on obscenity charges for performing material from the record in a local club, though they were acquitted a few months afterward.

The legal hubbub quickly propels the group into stardom around the world. The attention is not all positive in terms of cashflow, however; in September of the same year Luke Records (Formerly Skywalker Records) pays George Lucas $300,000 for Luther's use of the name of the Star Wars character "Luke Skywalker".

The "clean" (or censored) version of the same album, "Clean As They Wanna Be", saw similar attention in 1994 in what has become a classic example of Fair Use law in effect. The album contains a song titled "Pretty Woman" which makes obvious and heavy use of the 1964 Roy Orbison and William Dees rock ballad, "Oh, Pretty Woman". Interestingly enough, this song was not referred to as simply "Pretty Woman" until the release of the movie "Pretty Woman" (Starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts) used the Orbison song but referred to it without the "Oh". The 2 Live Crew song, which was both clearly a parody and marketed to a different segment than the classic Orbison tune, was shown to be protected by Fair Use by the Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, that's about as far as the Crew made it; Subsequent solo attempts by all artists fell short as foul language and sexually explicit lyrics became the norm for bands all across America.


A certain amount of the Crew's share of controversy was over the aforementioned frequent and blatant use of samples. An attempt is made here to catalogue them. Any attempt is doomed to be incomplete as the Miami Bass sound traditionally makes heavy use of samples, but something is better than nothing. As ever, please /msg additions or corrections.


  1. Webpage: 2 Live Crew Biography. (
  2. Webpage: 2 Live Crew and Roy Orbison. Copyright Website LLC, 2002.
  3. Website: The Unofficial 2 Live Crew Webpage. (
  4. Webpage: 2 Live Crew. All-Music Guide, 2002. (