2 Live Crew’s As Nasty as They Wanna Be introduced the big butt-thong combo to hip-hop album art and turned a Full Metal Jacket line into a global mantra for horny teenagers. But it was in the courtroom where the group — who inspired lawsuits from both George Lucas and Roy Orbison and were targeted by Florida’s Governor Bob Martinez in an unprecedented clampdown on obscene lyrics — really made their mark. The Miami bass pioneers twice took their case to the Supreme Court and twice won, successfully securing the right to peddle explicit lyrics and parody other artists.
More than 23 years after outspoken hypeman Uncle Luke parted ways with rappers Fresh Kid Ice (Chris Wong Won) and Brother Marquis (Mark Ross), the trio are joining forces for a tour beginning in Jacksonville on May 9th. In their first joint interview in over two decades, the guys that first made the South dirty discuss their legal battles, military origins and groundbreaking independent hustle.
It’s been over 30 years since the first 2 Live Crew record and more than 25 years since As Nasty as They Wanna Be. What do you remember most about that period?
Uncle Luke: One of my most memorable moments was winning the Supreme Court case against Acuff-Rose. That was a hard-fought battle. There was a lot of things said about us, and we personally felt the description everybody was giving of the group was totally wrong. We were just guys doing music — having fun and saying the same things everybody else was saying but saying them on records — and we were singled out. Winning that case was the high point for me in my life, other than having my kids.
A lot of people don’t realize that 2 Live Crew wasn’t formed in Miami but on an Air Force base in Riverside, California. Of the original members, did anyone on the base know you were making music?
Fresh Kid Ice: Just a few people. We were sneaking out on weekends, going to Miami to do shows. We did it undercover. Or I did, anyhow.
What would have happened if the Air Force knew you were doing rap records?
Fresh Kid Ice: I probably could have been prosecuted because a lot of times I was out of the range of reach. In case there’s a recall in an emergency, I’m supposed to be able to get back to the base quickly.
Luke, you first got involved with 2 Live Crew as a promoter and DJ, and were responsible for bringing them to Miami. What about their music appealed to you?
Uncle Luke: It fit the type of music that my DJ group, Ghetto Style DJs, was playing. It was dance music, it was uptempo. We were bringing these acts down to Miami and eventually we evolved into opening our own teen disco, Pac-Jam. At the time, the guys were getting out of the service.
You made the unusual transition from promoter and manager to group member. How did you end up joining 2 Live Crew?
Uncle Luke: It was just, “Hey, I like these guys, these are my homies!” We had a bond, me and Chris and [founding member and long-time DJ] Mr. Mixx and Mark. I had no goals of being in no music business. I wanted to be a DJ and be a promoter. We started the record company together because we had to. We wanted to see this thing happen.
Brother Marquis: We wanted Luke to join us. He was a hell of a DJ, and the man had some awesome chants. We tried them onstage and it worked, and he fit right in with what we was doing. He’s one of the best at it.
How did the X-rated lyrics become your thing? The first 2 Live Crew records made in California weren’t explicit.
Fresh Kid Ice: We used to listen to the “laugh” records. Like Dolemite, LaWanda Page, Leroy and Skillet. Mr. Mixx brought those in to flavor the records.
Marquis: Also, when Luke was DJing, there was always some sexual words in there. DJs would shout out obscenities and make references to girls’ body parts. We got “We Want Some Pussy” from Luke. He made that up in the clubs, and we made a record out of it.
Uncle Luke: The first one was “Trow That D.” It was one of the first songs you could consider a Miami Bass song. It had the Dolemite [sample] and a dance going with it.
What exactly was the “Trow That D” dance?
Uncle Luke: It’s like a dutty wine. “Trow That D” is what they call twerking right now, basically.
The perception of 2 Live Crew shows was that they were out of hand. Like an orgy, almost. What was the reality?
Brother Marquis: Some shows got more out of hand than others. When we would go into some of the towns it would be local law enforcement that had a problem with it – there’d be protesters and right-wing organizations. For the most part, when we were all together, our shows were kind of clean. Yeah, the girls had on booty shorts and the lyrics was crazy. Me and Fresh Kid Ice, on the other hand, have had some shows that were kind of over the top.
What was the wildest thing you can remember happening at a 2 Live Crew show, where you look back and say, “Man, I can’t believe that happened”?
Brother Marquis: One of the wildest moments for me was getting off the stage and having to run because they was gonna arrest you. I remember one time in Tallahassee, I had placed a young lady onstage and I had began to hump on her or whatever, and when I got back to the hotel, her father was looking for me. I had to jump out of the back window because my manager was telling me the guy had a 12-gauge shotgun. That was back in ’87, ’88, before everything hit the fan. I had a chance to see that young lady later in Miami, and I apologized to her.
One of the best things about 2 Live Crew were the song parodies.
Brother Marquis: Man, back then, we were just taking everybody’s shit. It caught us later. We had no idea that those would become cult classics, especially the Roy Orbison stuff.
Did you get a sense that the artists themselves were really offended by your treatment of their songs?
Brother Marquis: Roy Orbison didn’t like the record. Or approve of the group and our content. And so did people like Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson filed a brief trying to support Roy Orbison in that case.
What would you consider as some of your other innovations, Luke?
Uncle Luke: I was probably considered the first hypeman, and we were probably the first rap group out of Miami. My role was more as business person. We set the trends for what you see in the music business through to today. Back then, everybody was quick to jump on a major record label. That was a sign of success. We started a whole ‘nother trend of “No, build from within” — artists running record companies and doing their own thing. People would read articles in The Source and see these dudes just sold a half million records on their own and they control their own merchandise and their own touring. The labels had to adjust to what we were doing.
What goes through your mind when you hear music on the radio today that’s more suggestive than what you were arrested for 25 years ago?
Brother Marquis: That does not really bother me. They did what they did to us but we fought and won, for rappers and singers and everybody to have the freedom to say whatever they want in their material. That makes me feel good and proud, actually. I stood up for that. I fought for that.