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As Socially Responsible As They Wanna Be

On a recent episode of Fresh Air with TERRY GROSS, Simpsons creator MATT GROENING explained his befuddlement with the Christian community over the goodie-goodie, born-again character NED FLANDERS. The Simpsons, Groening explains, is the only show on TV that regularly features a family that prays, believes in God and goes to church, and yet Groening still fields complaints from Christian organizations.

If any group can relate to Groening's dilemma of taking pre-emptive strikes to no avail in a pitch to appease potential critics, it's the 2 LIVE CREW. The Miami rap group made clean and extremely salty versions of their breakthrough album As Nasty As They Wanna Be. They slapped a "Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics" sticker on the dirty album, put huge black bars over the bikini-clad butts on the cover and that still wasn't enough to stop Broward County from declaring As Nasty As They Wanna Be obscene--making it a crime to sell the record.

2 Live beat the rap in a landmark case, but the hoopla ensured that every non-rap-listening, non-DOLEMITE-knowing Ned Flanders type along the Bible Belt knew the lyrics to "C'Mon Babe" ("Lick my ass up and down/ Lick it 'til your tongue turns doo-doo brown"). Protests from women's groups and censorship allies made 2 Live Crew the Girls Gone Wild of its time.

Before that scandal, the 2 Live Crew was just another rap group from California that quickly relocated to Miami when one of its singles ("Revelation") hit big in Florida. While basking in the sun, they struck upon their modus operandi: an epic, BAMBAATAA-sized, 808 synth-bass drum pattern coupled with ribald rhymes and MR. MIXX's superfast (yet funky) laceration scratch. They were an unlikely hit in the underground with "Throw The 'D,'" "We Want Some Pussy'" and "Move Something" before striking pay dirt with a tear-da-club-up anthem "Me So Horny." The chorus resonated from coast to coast, signaling a shift away from hip-hop's Bronx toward the South. "Me So Horny," which notoriously sampled a prostitute from Full Metal Jacket, cemented 2 Live's reputation as the kings of kink, with manager LUTHER CAMPBELL fulfilling the Larry Flynt role.

Today, the 2 Live Crew is whittled down to just two: MARK 'BROTHER MARQUIS' ROSS and CHRIS 'FRESH KID ICE' WONG WON. Campbell banked his 2 Live Crew proceeds and releases party records and naughty DVDs under the Luke Records/Films banner. DJ DAVID 'MR. MIXX' HOBBS, a criminally overlooked turntablist, spins the occasional show. The new school duo continues to record, currently with Lil' Joe Records, raising blood pressures with tracks like "Shake a Little Something" and their ode to the neighborhood hussy "Hoochie Mama."

So with all the controversy, it's easy to forget that 2 Live Crew has influenced the hip-hop world (for better or worse) far beyond what could and couldn't be said on a record. The current kings of crunk, LIL' JON and the EASTSIDE BOYZ, wouldn't exist without 2 Live Crew's wall-to-wall bass wave anthems and locker-room chant lyrics. DJ Shadow regularly lists "Throw the D" as one of his first and favorite hip-hop records he ever bought. In perhaps the wickedest turn of events, 2 Live Crew's music can be regularly heard blasting in hypermixed and tweaked form at cheerleading competitions. Yes, pure and innocent April from the suburbs is sticking her Liberty stand to a group that was actually arrested for performing said songs live. Chances are that cheerleading coaches and choreographers won't be at the Aptos Club to watch Fresh Kid Ice and Brother Marquis put on their legendary nasty show that has, in the past, included nearly-nekkid dancers, lap dances and oral sex onstage.

Alternately loved and hated, 2 Live Crew's influence on pop culture at large goes deeper than many in hip-hop's increasingly conservative guard would care to admit. Maybe in an upcoming episode of The Simpsons, ROD AND TODD FLANDERS can join the cheerleading crew at the local Christian school where they'll perform routines to "Me So Horny (To Count God's Blessings)."

2 Live Crew performs at the Aptos Club on Sunday, Oct. 24, at 7:30pm. Tickets are $35 and include a buffet dinner.

Todd Inoue

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From the October 20-27, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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