2 Live Crew - Biography
2 Live Crew are a pioneering hip-hop outfit whose pornographic lyrics put the booty in booty bass. Largely as a result of the controversy cotinually surrounding them, they achieved great, if brief, commercial success and inspired a host of like-minded followers.
David P. “Treach DJ Mr. Mixx” Hobbs and Chris “Fresh Kid Ice” Wong Won initially rapped together as Rock On Crew before joining forces with Yuri “Amazing Vee” Vielot whilst stationed at March Air Force Base in Moreno Valley, California in 1984. The trio named themselves The 2 Live Crew. Their initial musical inspiration was the burgeoning electro scene coming out of Florida and New York and Los Angeles at the time. Their first single, “The Revelation,” was a socially-conscious electro tune released on Fresh Beat Records – a far cry from the music with which they would later make their name. The B-side, “2 Live AKA Beat Box” became a favorite in the notorious Liberty City, Florida rap venue, Pac Jam Teen Club after The Ghetto Style DJs added it to their mix. The 2 Live Crew were subsequently invited to perform there, which they did. There they witnessed the way dirty south crowds responded to their music and one of the Ghetto Style DJs, Luther “Luke Skyywalker” Roderick, insisted the group allow him to become their manager.
In 1985, The 2 Live Crew released one more single on Fresh Beat, “What I Like” before Amazing V left the group. At the time, Miami’s mobile DJ crews such as Ghetto Style DJs, Triple M DJ Crew and Jam Pony Express favored electro and hardcore hip-hop singles with lots of sustain such as LL Cool J’s “Rock the Bells” but with the release of MC ADE’s “Bass Rock Express,” a new style of hip-hop was born in Florida - bass. The following year, Fresh Kid Ice and Mr. Mixx were joined by Mark D. “Brother Marquis” Ross, a rapper formerly with early west coast rap group, The Caution Crew (which also featured Rodney O). The trio then relocated to Florida. After they performed at WEDR’s Dade County Youth Fair without much response, they asked Skyywalker to be their hype man. With Skyywalker’s lewd Rudy Ray Moore-esque humor combined with the group’s toward bass, a new strain of bass was created – booty bass.
Their debut full length, 2 Live Crew is What We Are (1986 Luke Skyywalker Records), was not only the blueprint for booty bass but one of the greatest rap album’s off all time. It was released by Skyywalker’s newly formed label and went Gold. Although the singles, “Trow the D,” “Get It Girl” and “We Want Some Pussy!” were lewd, they and the group’s stage shows at the time were practically puritanical compared to what would next.
Encouraged by the success of their debut and finding the strongest response with their more lascivious material, Move Somethin’ (1987 Luke Skyywalker Records) followed a similar, if much more graphic, formula. It was also seemingly more influenced by children’s street culture, with singles “Do Wah Diddy” and “One on One” reworking well-known songs and substituting rakish lyrics. The title track was an electro-flavored tune, albeit with expectedly licentious lyrics. It reached #68 on the charts, possibly one spot higher than they’d actually have liked. Like its predecessor, it too went Gold.
By 1989, acts like Gucci Crew II and The Dogs had scored similarly profligate hits inspired by 2 Live Crew. That year, several members of 2 Live Crew branched out to cultivate a youth-friendly version of bass with a teen protégé, LeJuan Love. His album, I Still Feel Good, was written by Brother Marquis, produced by Mr. Mixx and released on Luke Skyywalker. It ably proved that the Crew’s members didn’t have to “do blue;” however, blue is what the public wanted and blue is what they got with 2 Live Crew’s next release, the epic double-album, As Nasty as the Wanna Be (1989 Luke Records). It went double Platinum. The lead track, “Me So Horny,” quickly became the biggest booty song of all time and made, in the process, The 2 Live Crew a household name. As a result to their ubiquity, they got the attention of The American Family Association, who attempted to legally classify the album as obscene.
The following year, Broward County sheriff, Nick Navarro, warned record store owners that selling the album could lead to prosecution. The 2 Live Crew responded by suing the sheriff. Then a US district court judge ruled that the album was in fact, obscene, and therefore illegal to sell. Taking the ruling to ridiculous lengths, two days after his decision, a local record store clerk was arrested after selling a copy to an undercover cop. Not long after, the three rapping members of the group were arrested after performing material off the album at a club. They were acquitted after spotlight-loving professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr., testified on their behalf. In the New York Times, he wrote that “exuberant use of hyperbole (phantasmagoric sexual organs, for example) undermines — for anyone fluent in black cultural codes — a too literal-minded hearing of the lyrics. This is the street tradition called 'signifying' or 'playing the dozens,' which has generally been risqué … what you hear is great humor, great joy, and great boisterousness. It's a joke. It's a parody and parody is one of the most venerated forms of art.” Not everyone enjoyed the joke and the group were also hit with a string of wet blankets. First there was a suit from Van Halen for an unlicensed sample of “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” in their song, “The Fuck Shop.” This was followed by a suit from George Lucas over the use the name Luke Skyywalker. As a result, both the MC and his label were rechristened “Luke.”
Capitalizing on all the attention, Luke sought to elevate his own stature, portraying himself as the group’s driving force. Whilst still in the spotlight, he launched a solo career, casting himself as a politically-driven martyr for free speech. For Luke’s debut single, “Banned in the USA,” he legally sampled (this time legally) Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” On Banned in the USA – The Luke LP featuring The 2 Live Crew (1990 Luke Records), the other members of The 2 Live Crew received a flat fee for their contributions, rather than a share of the royalties. Although the group had effectively split in acrimony, Live in Concert (1990 Effect Records) gave the impression that all was well. The group (and label’s) producer, Mr. Mixx, initially signed at Luke’s bass rival 4-Sight Records, recording as Mr. Mixx & Da Roughneck Posse before moving to Oakland where he started T-Shirt & Khakis Productions. On a more positive note, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ultimately overturned the obscenity ruling against the group. Perhaps in part to prove that Luke was not intrinsic to 2 Live Crew, they released a compilation of Rock On Crew and unreleased 2 Live Crew, Deal With This (1990 Macola Records).
Luke then convinced the group to release one last record together, 1991’s Sports Weekend [As Nasty As They Wanna Be Part II] (Luke Records). Originally it was to be produced by the labels second-string production crew, The O.D.S. However, unhappy with the result, Luke hired Mr. Mixx to return and apply his Midas touch. After its release, The 2 Live Crew again split and Brother Marquis, after co-starring in South Beach with Fred Williamson, moved to Atlanta where he went on to form the booty bass act, 2 Nazty, with DJ Troomp from Poison Clan.
To make matters worse for Luke, he was hit with another string of lawsuits. Luke was sued by Acuff-Rose Music over The 2 Live Crew’s earlier unlicensed use of Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” (although the Supreme Court later ruled that 2 Live Crew's parody could be fair use). Former Luke Skyywalker rapper MC Shy D sued Luke for $1.2 million dollars in unpaid royalties. The three former members of The 2 Live Crew also sued Luke for unpaid back royalties although eventually, Fresh Kid Ice agreed to drop the suit and stay with Luke Records. Fresh Kid Ice and Luke then recruited another rapper, Verb, and regrouped as The New 2 Live Crew. They released one album, Back at Your Ass for the Nine-4 (1993 Luke Records) which utilized several producers, including Mike Fresh, DJ Slice, Professor Griff, DJ Spin Felix Sama & DJ Laz. It was moderately successful, reaching #52 on the charts.
By 1994, the members of The 2 Live Crew were so far from the spotlight that when the filmmakers of Friday contacted them for a song, they had no idea that the group had split years ago. However, for the film, Luke, Mr. Mixx, Brother Marquis and Fresh Kid Ice reunited one more time to record their contribution to the film’s soundtrack, “Hoochie Mama.” Plans for a longer-lasting reunion fell through and so did the The New 2 Live Crew, who broke up in 1995.
Luke Records’ former Chief Financial Officer, Lil Joe Weinstein, acquired the Luke Records catalog and launched Lil’ Joe Records. Fresh Kid Ice, Mr. Mixx, and Brother Marquis signed with Lil’ Joe Records, who released the first Luke-less 2 Live Crew album, Shake a Lil’ Somethin’ (1995 Lil’ Joe). It peaked at #145 on the charts. That same year, Blue Dolphin Entertainment released a compilation of early, rare and unreleased pre-Luke tracks, The Original 2 Live Crew. Once again, Mr. Mixx parted ways with the Crew.
In 1998, Fresh Kid Ice continued The 2 Live Crew with a new rapper known as “First Degree aka Tiki.” He didn’t last long and a solo Fresh Kid Ice returned with another collection of early, unreleased 2 Live Crew and Rock On Crew songs titled, Fresh Kid Ice is Back (1998 Street Dance). Brother Marquis next reunited with Fresh Kid Ice and released The Real One (1998 Lil’ Joe Records), utilizing several producers. After its release, Brother Marquis found Jesus which meant once again leaving the group. Even with all the collections of unreleased material the well apparently hadn’t run dry. Another Private Personal Parts (Little Joe Records) was released in 2000, a two disc collection boasting the inclusion of “a random bonus disc from the warehouse of Lil Joe Records.”
In 2004, Fresh Kid Ice changed his stage name to Chinaman (the Trinidadian-born Wong Won is half Chinese) and released Stop Playin (2004 Biggest Hits Music). By 2000, Brother Marquis had returned to his worldly ways as proven by his collaboration with 69 Boyz. In more recent years, via myspace, Wong Won (once again Fresh Kid Ice) and Brother Marquis announced that the duo are working on a new album, tentatively titled Just Wanna Be Heard. The title track suggests that their bass days are behind them and the group are now going for a less scene-specific Dirty South sound.