Still nasty after all these years
Former 2 Live Crew member keeps the dirty rhymes alive, and takes them to Oroville
The first time I heard the 2 Live Crew’s music was not on MTV, nor the radio, nor even on CD. Instead it was as a folk anthem of sorts. Dirty rhymes learned, rapped and repeated in the locker rooms and hallways of junior high school: “One and one we’re having some fun, in the bedroom, all day and all of the night.” And it got dirtier from there—much, much dirtier.
Like N.W.A. in Los Angeles and Too Short in the Bay Area, Miami’s 2 Live Crew (they started in Cali) spent the last half of the ‘80s pushing the envelope of what could be said on a rap record. The group closely followed the blueprint of fellow Florida-based rapper/comedian Blowfly, and incorporated elements of actor/comedian Dolemite’s routines.
The humorous, sexually explicit material became wildly successful as rap music was gaining better distribution throughout the country. Released independently by 2 Live Crew rapper/promoter/figurehead Luke Skyywalker (Luther Campbell), the lead single and the first two LPs went gold. The third and most successful, 1989’s As Nasty as They Wanna Be, is now multiplatinum.
Although healthy doses of X-rated comedy were incorporated into 2 Live Crew’s albums, that isn’t to say it was strictly a gimmick group. Innovative drum beats and master mixes by the under-appreciated DJ Mr. Mixx gave the group both its club appeal and respect within the hip-hop community.
It was the strong record sales, though, that made 2 Live Crew ambassadors of the still-developing Miami bass sound—a sound that began spilling out of jeeps and mini trucks, not only in the South, but throughout both inner-city and suburban America in the early ‘90s. The group incorporated down-tuned, sustained drum-machine kicks at fast tempos with minimal lyrical content—it was attention-grabbing woofer music that made amps sweat and speaker assemblies rattle like nothing before it.
But, popularity ended up doing 2 Live Crew in. Members of the religious right and concerned parents led boycotts and bans of the group’s music. Accusations of obscenity culminated with 2 Live Crew actually being arrested for performing its songs on stage in Hollywood, Fla. Obscenity trials followed, and money issues with the label kept the group on hold and in the news. The albums continued to sell, but the group eventually disbanded.
For the past few years, original 2 Live Crew rapper Fresh Kid Ice (Chris Wong Won) has toured with various others. Still establishing an identity for his own crew, the X-Rated Rydas, Ice has been on the grind playing small venues and using the 2 Live Crew moniker to generate crowds.
With his Sir Mix-a-Lot-like flow, Ice isn’t out to innovate hip-hop. Instead he keeps with his propensity toward the lewd, an attribute that has enabled him to record several songs and play concerts with the immensely popular (and often considered offensive) Insane Clown Posse, who played the Senator Theatre in early May.
It’s a mutually beneficial association that lends ICP credibility and gains Fresh Kid Ice a piece of its devoted fan base, many of whom will probably be in attendance at the most unlikely of venues, the Piggs Club—a place known more for its karaoke nights than, say, as a place where a foul-mouthed rap crew from Miami might end up. And, it’s in Oroville. Yes, Oroville.
The group performed in San Luis Obispo, at the Downtown Brewing Co., in early May. As a writer for SLO’s New Times wrote: “To call it a spectacle is an understatement. A little ways into the performance, a couple of I don’t want to say hootchie mamas, so I’ll call them dancers came out and started shakin’ their barely covered groove thangs to the music. Toward the end of the set the, I don’t want to call them strippers, so I’ll call them exotic dancers were suddenly topless.”
Fresh Kid Ice’s stage show is where the old 2 Live Crew songs come back to life. He resurrects the call-and-response choruses that make the songs so memorable and repeatable. He brings the booming bass beats that demand the rump to shake. Add to that an extremely scantily clad tutorial from some of Dade County’s finest “dancers,” and the rapping almost becomes secondary. It is merely a conduit to the party and the subsequent release of inhibitions that inspired 2 Live Crew to write all those dirty songs in the first place.