Hip-Hop, Rap Interviews : Uncle Luke
As the front man for the legendary multi-platinum rap group 2 Live Crew, Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell shattered the boundaries of free expression and set off a nationwide culture war with the release of 2 Live Crew's third album As Nasty As They Wanna Be in 1989. Engulfed in a firestorm of controversy, Luke and company would eventually be arrested under Florida obscenity laws and the battle over the group's raunchy lyrics would go all the way to the US Supreme Court where in 1994 a landmark decision was handed down in 2 Live Crew's favor. Today nearly every successful mainstream rapper follows the model put forth by Hip-Hop's original celebrity bad boy.
The architect of Miami Bass and one of rap's earliest successful entrepreneurs, Luther Campbell is one of the few American celebrities who's made a profound impact on the worlds of music, sex, business, law and politics. Dabbling in adult entertainment for years, Luke chronicles two decades of freaky parties and celebrity exploits in his new tell all audio book titled Uncle Luke – My Life & Freaky Times. The three CD box set due out in May will also include a soundtrack featuring Trick Daddy, Pitbull, Petey Pablo, Jacki-O, Dirtbag and Big Tigger, among others. Recently we got a chance to catch up with Luke and see what the hype was all about.
RIOTSOUND.COM: In your book you talk about a lot of different celebrities who have frequented your parties. You got stories with Robert De Niro, Michael Jordan, even Muhammad Ali; did anybody call you up at any point and ask to not be mentioned?
LUKE: Nah, ain't nobody call me up. I mean, the stories are a lot of fun stories, some crazy stories, some interesting stuff. The only person that will probably get mad about this book is maybe Aaron Hall and also maybe Gloria Velez. It ain't no “I'm mad at the world” book. This is much more of a book coming from an entertainer that's been in the business a long time and got a lot of things to talk about. I mean, people got stories about me even; in the book they interview people and they talk to them about their favorite Luke stories. So [the book] ain't just me telling stories, people are telling stories about me as well in there. [People talk about] their famous Luke story or party or freaky situation and also their opinion of me. So it goes back and forth.
RIOTSOUND.COM: What would you say are some of the things in the book that nobody could possibly expect no matter how much they let their imagination wander?
LUKE: One thing people are going to find out in the book is the sports aspect. People are going to want to know the stories behind that whole University of Miami scandal; they're going to want to hear about that. Also the celebrity freaky parties; they're going to hear the story where we locked down the whole hotel in Detroit and these big time basketball players and football players [were there] and we just had a big old freaky orgy, golden showers and all that.
People are also going to be interested in some of the crazy stuff with Biggie and the conversations with Tupac. Also there are stories about my time [in music] and the ups and downs of my business in the music industry. It's going to clear up a whole lot of stuff as far as people stealing my catalog and H-Town and 2 Live Crew. People wanna hear about that kind of stuff. Even [the stories] with Michael Jordan and Robert De Niro, the stories is real. The Jordan story ain't no freaky story, it's more like a crazy golf story. There's a lot of different stuff in the book.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Today nearly every commercially successful rap artist utilizes various sex related themes in order to gain popularity and sell records; it's so commonplace now it's pretty much the standard as far as videos as well as lyrics in many cases. Twenty years ago you laid the foundation for nearly everything that we see today with rappers putting girls in their videos, dabbling in adult entertainment, and so on and so forth. When you were doing these things with 2 Live Crew it was an explosive topic but now everyone else has followed suit. What prompted you to blend adult entertainment with rap music at a time when nobody else was doing it?
LUKE: Well, just like anything that I do, I'm the trailblazer, I'm the frontrunner. Run DMC was doing they thing and Jekyll & Hyde was doing they thing and T La Rock and all these cats was doing they Hip-Hop; also Egyptian Lover and all of them. So I just wanted to be different. I used to look at Leroy Skillet and Dolemite and all these things and I just wanted to do something different. I met these guys 2 Live Crew and Mister Mixx and I said – hey look, you wanna be big, let's do something different. Let's put the sex in the music, our own [type of] comedy. And before you know it, that's what it became and we built on it.
People started calling me all these different names and saying that I was this big time pimp like Hugh Hefner or Larry Flint and all kinds of misogynistic this and that. So I just said – ok, if that's what you want to say I am, then I'ma just build on that. I can't beat the press. So we just kept building on it. It started off with no girls in the video and before you know it there was girls in the videos. It started off with no girls on stage and then [all of sudden] girls was on stage and it just kept evolving.
RIOTSOUND.COM: With a lot of people, when they talk about Luther Campbell and 2 Live Crew, they tend to just focus almost exclusively on the first amendment battle and the controversy surrounding that. They seem to somehow forget about all of your other accomplishments as a pioneer in Hip-Hop as well as a prolific trendsetter in the music industry; do you have any feelings about that?
LUKE: They don't give me no credit. In the whole music industry I get no credit. The other day I was looking online at AOL Black Music History Month, or whatever they wanna call it; and it said “people who changed music”, meaning people or artists who made a difference in the music industry. There was like fifteen or twenty people [listed]; no mention of 2 Live Crew and no mention of me. I mean, if I didn't change Hip-Hop music and music in general, I don't know who the hell else you can imagine [who did].
VH1 does they TV specials where they [pay tribute] to 25 years of Hip-Hop, and do you see Luke or 2 Live Crew anywhere near it? And then at the same time nobody writes about it. People who are very familiar with this business should be jumping on these people. When VH1 did that people who respect this business and who care about this business shoulda fuckin' just laid them out, you know what I'm saying? How could you have a 25 year Hip-Hop anniversary and not have 2 Live Crew in there? To me that's bananas. I'm the Rodney Dangerfield of the music business; I get no respect and I get no credit. I guess they're waiting for me to die and then they'll give me the credit but at the same time I'll be laying in my grave saying fuck all of them.
RIOTSOUND.COM: I interviewed Masta Ace some time ago and he was talking about how all sounds in Hip-Hop have been recycled and re-invented. He said that while some people may not realize it, the Miami Bass sound is largely a rework of Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock"; would you agree or disagree with that characterization?
LUKE: [Planet Rock] played a large role in it just like T La Rock's "It's Yours" which also played a great part in it. I was a DJ at that time and "Planet Rock" was a hot record, we played that in the club just like [Herman Kelly's] "Dance To The Drummers Beat" and all the stuff that Herbie Hancock did. All of that played a major role in creating Miami Bass. Also Reggae music, [Lovindeer's] "Don't Bend Down" played a major role in it. So a combination of all that stuff together was the creation of Bass music.
Miami is like an island; it's made up of Jamaicans, Haitians, Bohemians, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, it's like an island melting pot. So the music gotta be fast, it's gotta be up tempo. You need to have the congas and stuff like that going on in it, because that's what everybody likes. So with [those elements] we created the sound. I wouldn't say one particular record, but I would say all those records had a great influence on the sound.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You played a major role in bringing Miami artists Pitbull and Trick Daddy into the rap game. What does it mean to have a lot of the Miami artists who've followed in your footsteps appear on the soundtrack that will accompany My Life & Freaky Times?
LUKE: Those cats, they keep me vibin' and they keep me living. Not necessarily like they pay me or something like that. With Pitbull and Trick Daddy, I discovered these guys and they are great artists. Pitbull, I love him to death and still to this day I communicate with both of them. I probably communicate with Pit more than [anyone] and I help him out whenever he need me. To have them on my album is a real great thing, a real honor.
We're also going to have Rick Ross, who's probably going to be the next hot thing from Miami. Also my new artist, who'll probably be the next hot thing behind Rick Ross, his name is Blaze. Then we got Dirtbag, Jackie-O, Petey Pablo; having all these guys on the album is a real good thing and that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to keep the album really really really Miami and [feature] all the artists from around here in the same way that all the Atlanta artists link up together and do stuff together like that.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You've obviously seen a lot crazy things and taken part in the type of activity that most people can only dream of or imagine. With that said, were you ever in a situation where you yourself were shocked and amazed at what was taking place?
LUKE: Man, I'm always shocked and amazed at the things that happen at these concerts and these parties and these shows. It always goes to another level. I did a party in Detroit the other night and it's always shocking and amazing the things that people do. I just tell them [to do something] and it amazes me how they go to a whole other level with it. In the book I talk about one of the crazy parties where all the athletes were giving these girls golden showers. That was amazing. I am always amazed at how much control I got of a crowd. I'm always amazed at that and also how freaky people really wanna be and how they get.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Out of all the celebrities who's been to your parties, who would you say behaved in a way that you would have never expected?
LUKE: Aaron Hall. I say – ok Aaron, lemme see you go down on one of these girls if you say you're freaky. This is one of the stories in the book. So he goes and licks the girl from behind and then licked the other girl from behind. I was like “wow”, I never expected him to get that crazy.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You've recently distanced yourself from a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against 50 Cent that alleges that 50 unlawfully incorporated 2 Live Crew lyrics into several of his songs. The lawyers who filed the lawsuit actually own the 2 Live Crew catalog and if the lawsuit were to be successful none of the members of 2 Live Crew would be compensated in any way; can you elaborate on the whole situation?
LUKE: You'll be able to read about these guys in the book. Actually what I did is I posted a little about it on my website www.LukeRecords.net. In my opinion these guys stole my catalog and got it where me and the 2 Live Crew can't even do an album [if we wanted to], right now, today. I explain a lot of it in the book. These cats, they are what they are. They were college buddies, college classmates, one sued me and [the other one] was working for me and the story goes on. And people are going to be amazed when they read the book and see what kind of people really do exist; and they exist with the help of [companies] like Sony Records and [executives like] Tommy Mottola and all them. It gets really deep.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Given the current state of things is there any possibility we may see another 2 Live Crew album sometime in the future?
LUKE: The fans want that, that's something that's beyond me and something they want. It wasn't no big thing for me to go back and work with them guys, despite any of the things that went on with us. I would go and do whatever for my fans. It's sad that these same guys who are suing 50 Cent and them control these 2 Live Crew guys to a degree where they want to do a reunion album but can't because this Weinberger guy got all these guys tied up. It would help them financially to get out of some of the problems they are in. Because of being disloyal they went and signed up with [Joe Weinberger] and now they are all screwed up. Now they know who the devil really is.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Right now you also got the Ms. Freaky Soul 2006 Contest going on, what's that all about?
LUKE: That contest is my segue into the adult entertainment industry. This is my last album and I'm just gonna go on to building the Luke Adult Entertainment Division and with Ms. Freaky Soul 2006 we're looking for the freakiest girl in the world. We're assigning $10,000 to the winner and a Rolex watch. I never looked for the freakiest girl in the world [before] and I'm pretty sure this is going to be a wild and crazy contest. I probably can write a whole book on it when it's all said and done. I'm looking forward to it and I think girls are going to try to do everything in the world that they can possibly do to be crowned miss Luke Freaky Soul.
RIOTSOUND.COM: What do you hope to accomplish in the adult entertainment industry?
LUKE: Just take it to a whole other level. I've already been dipping and dabbing in [adult entertainment]. I feel like what I did for the music industry, and also taking into consideration the whole business aspect; when I got in the music industry everybody was on everybody else's label; Warner Brothers, CBS, Atlantic. I think I inspired a lot of these guys to want to own their own record company. So as far as what I'm gonna do in the adult world, when you look at urban adult entertainment, it's so grimy. It ain't really classy and it ain't really fly.
I think what I'm gonna do is come into that whole industry and be like Hugh Hefner and Larry Flint, but be [an even] bigger and better person than them in that business. We'll class up urban adult entertainment. We'll add clubs around the country, like nice Luke clubs and also a pictorial magazine. Not downright grimy and dirty but nice, pretty and beautiful girls. And also the movies, there's going to be all different types of movie series. We'll take ‘em out of the Motel 6 and shoot it the way a classy porno should be shot.
For more Luke news and info stay tuned to www.LukeRecords.net