Uncle Luke: O.G. Business

When the nation was pointing the finger at heavy metal for potentially damaging the youth of America, enter Miami native Luke and 2 Live Crew who encouraged the world to be As Nasty As They Wanna Be, which in turn moved the government’s magnifying glass to the hip-hop culture. The bold and determined audacity of Luke to speak on such explicit sexual-driven subject matter, led to one of Hip-Hop’s most noted victories in society — the right of Freedom of Speech in our music. The rapper’s victory in the Supreme Court parody case gave new meaning to an artist’s First Amendment right. A right — that today — has been pushed and stretched so much that it’s given a new meaning to elasticity in the industry’s current state.

Luke, who’s never really been recognized amongst the “who’s who” in Hop-Hop, stops at nothing when it comes to trend setting and trailblazing, via his infamous parties on South Beach and his “Freakshow” DVD series. But, he has also helped pave for way for the indie artists and labels you see today. If you aren’t familiar with Luke’s resume, he’s the man behind the R&B group, H-Town, who is the first independent R&B group to go platinum. Artists as label heads and distribution deals are not some new wave in the culture; they are a result of the moves made by Luke almost twenty years ago. While imitation is considered the biggest form of flattery, no one’s been able to duplicate his efforts and same success, which leaves him an exclusive and no. 1 in a class all by himself.

Currently promoting what he calls his last musical contribution to the game, the self-proclaimed “Black Hugh Hefner/Larry Flint” is prepping a box set entitled Luke Campbell’s Soup for the Freaky Soul: The Sexploits of Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell. This package includes a tell-all account of his freakiest moments in the form of an audio book. Just in time for Valentines Day, the set also includes a tribute album featuring Trick Daddy, Petey Pablo, Lil Jon and more. In an up close and personal interview, Ballerstatus.com chopped it up with Luke about what he’s been up to, why he’s moving from music to the urban adult entertainment world and all the kinkiness in between.

Ballerstatus.com: You have a new DVD project coming about … it’s an autobiography, right?

Uncle Luke: Yes, I have a new package coming out for Valentines Day for the men and the ladies. It’s an audio book and an album with some of my friends like Trick Daddy, Jacki-O, Pitbull and Petey Pablo. There are quite a few people on the album.

Ballerstatus.com: With almost twenty-years in the game, how have you maintained your relevance?

Uncle Luke: Well, I found my niche. I know what I do and I have never tried to steer away from what I do. I try to upgrade and build on what I have already established. People already know me for the lyrics and girls in the videos, but people really don’t know me for the business aspect. I am always thinking of ways to build on my brand. That’s basically what I do, build on my brand.

Ballerstatus.com: Why do you think no one has tried or made an attempt to duplicate your efforts?

Uncle Luke: Well, it’s pretty difficult to duplicate my efforts. As you know, in this hip-hop game, there are a lot of duplications out even with music. With me being the first and a person that’s still around always building on my brand, it’s very difficult for someone else to be Uncle Luke. That’s kinda hard because Uncle Luke is revered by most as the Black Hugh Hefner or Larry Flint, and ain’t nobody else going to be Larry Flint or Hugh Hefner. That just ain’t going to happen.

Ballerstatus.com: With this new package coming out, what are some of the highlights fans can look for?

Uncle Luke: Some of the infamous parties I’ve had throughout the years and some of the scandalous things done at those parties. Man, it’s a lot of stories about where other artists tell their stories about things they’ve seen or done at these parties. Like Ed Lover telling things he’s seen, things he did and some of the wild and scandalous things the top notch video girl Gloria Velez did and other syndicated radio disc jockeys. The beef between Suge Knight/Death Row and Luke records … it’s talking about some of the conversations I had with Biggie, Tupac and putting Puff Daddy in a separate limo when he first got started. There are stories throughout my career and my trial with the Supreme Court defending the right of Hip-Hop. There’s all kinds of different things.

Ballerstatus.com: As you reflect on the government pouncing on you for your music, how does it make you feel?

Uncle Luke: Well, it makes me feel real good. It’s like this here … if you never set a new precedence in this world here, what will you be remembered for? I have always been a trailblazer … you know starting and operating my own company and now you have all kinds of artists starting their own businesses. Being a trailblazer in that, bringing explicit lyrics to music and videos, letting people say what they want to say. I feel real good about bringing that to hip-hop. I feel real good about bringing my city into hip-hop, before anyone was shooting movies and videos down here. I made my city a safe haven for artists right now to spend time here. I feel real good about my career and things I brought to the game.

Ballerstatus.com: Do you feel like some of the flack you get about the way women are portrayed in hip-hop has toned you down, or do you take the flack and keep it moving?

Uncle Luke: Well, I am used to it now. You know in this world you are going to have people who love you and who hate you. As we know, people can be real creative in their thought process. For individuals to think I am the first to start this “that is why I treat women in a bad or derogatory way” … I just let people think that. That’s their right. You know we live in a free country and at the same time, those who know me, know I love women and I love respectable women. For people who don’t know, I may want to cast stones … I’m pretty sure they live in glass houses because in some way we all do.

Ballerstatus.com: Do you have respect for the women who participate in your videos and peep shows?

Uncle Luke: Yeah, I have a lot of respect for those women. In this world we have dog men, good men and great men. At the same time, the same thing can be said about women. We all live in that world a large part of the time and I don’t know why when you talk about or you write about a woman who have slept with my friends and other people’s friends and she is supposed to be my woman … when we call her the name that is so graciously given to her, then that becomes a problem. To this day, I don’t understand that. I always take things and see the negative and the positive. The negative is a woman is being called out of her name. The positive is the shoe fits and if a man or a woman is listening to that, they can take a lesson from that to make sure they don’t conduct themselves in a way that would have them called those names. I don’t know why people don’t take the educational approach with that issue. The truth is those people do exist.

Ballerstatus.com: There is a whole new generation of fans out there who have probably never heard of 2 Live Crew or what you brought to the culture. How do you plan to touch them?

Uncle Luke: I am going in a totally different direction these days. This package — I don’t like calling it an album — is probably going to be my last. I am moving into a whole new direction with the urban adult world. There really is not a Black Hugh Hefner or Larry Flint and I think my audience that grew up with me, is ready for me in that arena. The urban adult industry needs an icon. I am going to move into that world, really glorify that, uplift it in a way I feel I did for the music business and elevate something different.

Ballerstatus.com: Do you have daughters?

Uncle Luke: Yes.

Ballerstatus.com: Do you feel as though you have to shield them away from the life you lead as a businessman or are they fully aware of what you do?

Uncle Luke: My daughters and my sons are fully aware that their daddy is a rapper. They have seen the stories about me on MTV and even CourtTV, but they only see me as dad. The kids who I coach at my mentoring program see me as Coach Luke. It’s not like some adult who Googled me who has an interest in who I am. They don’t see me like that. They don’t talk to me like that nor do they expect me to be the artist I’ve been for so many people. My daughters are into the boys from B2K, Mario and Bow Wow. They don’t care about that. They are into the kid things [laughing]. My kids think it’s funny that their father is a rapper. Most of the kids are into kids stuff unless they are trying to be fast! From 16 years old on down, they don’t care about Uncle Luke. Now the ones 18n and up, who are old enough to pick up a Playboy magazine, that’s another story. People can sit on the sidelines and wonder how my children function, but the bottom line is my kids are into kid’s things.

Ballerstatus.com: Tell me a little more about your mentoring program.

Uncle Luke: I have a mentoring program I started about 16 years ago called Liberty City Optimist Club. It’s based around sports like football, basketball and baseball. We also have an academic program that tutors kids and there’s a summer program. Year around, we service about a thousand kids and we have all kinds of people in the community helping out. Right now, we are in football season. I went back to coach a few years ago and last year, I took my kids to the national championships in Disneyland. We’ve won our regional championships and now we are hoping to repeat that. We have three sets of cheerleaders that are going to the regional cheerleading competition, so hopefully they win and go on to the nationals.

Ballerstatus.com: If there was one personal thing you’d want your fans to know about you — like you really love reruns of “All in The Family” — what would it be?

Uncle Luke: It’s all about the business. I am no different than any other person and I am more caring about people than people may think.

Ballerstatus.com: When you have officially retired and you reflect back on your legacy, what is the one thing you want hip-hop to remember about you?

Uncle Luke: [repeats the question to himself] Some people would think it would be that I went to the Supreme Court, defended hip-hop and won, but I want people to remember me for bringing the business aspect into hip-hop. When I started my own label, I had to, because I wasn’t from New York or California. At the time, nobody owned or operated their own label. With me doing that, being from Miami and it being successful, it took on a life of its own. From that point on, everyone wanted to own and operate their own record label because they saw the success of Luke Records. I really want to be known for bringing that aspect because when I look at the Jay-Z, Puff Daddy, Ludacris, Lil Jon and even the Babyface(s) of the world and nobody was thinking down those roads, I was thinking down those roads and thinking about putting other artists on my label and not waiting for the label to do it. I don’t get credit for that, nor have I gotten any credit for anything in this industry. Last time I checked, I have never received any awards for my accomplishments and that’s okay too. But, what I would hope as I look back on my story, I hope people remember me for that, so people will say “This man put the business in hip-hop.”

Ballerstatus.com: With the current state of hip-hop being what it is, artists having the same longevity you’ve enjoyed is a thing of the past. Fans don’t know if a singer/rapper they like right now will be around next year. What do you think it will take to turn that around?

Uncle Luke: What I think it will take to turn that around is artists need to take a stand. The artists that were around when I came up were real political like college students were on college campuses. Artists and college students don’t rebel like they used to and they need to take a stand on how radio stations, both local and syndicated stations, put them out there. Radio stations are not breaking new music like they used to. Instead, you get the same seventeen songs all day. Artists need to take a stance on how MTV and BET operate with video circulation and the limited amount of videos that they play. Some magazines have fallen into those same ways, but they still are a safe place for new artists to be displayed. The Viacom and the Clear Channels of the world bought up every outlet that was designed for new music and they’ve toned it down. I don’t know if that was a governmental plan, but it sure looks like it. Because of this, the whole method of getting your message out there has been watered down. [laughing] I think we’ll have to find another outlet they can buy up in about five years to showcase our talents.

Ballerstatus.com: With so many independent artists out there, do you think waiting around for a major deal is worth it?

Uncle Luke: When I first came out, that is what I did. I came out as an independent, but now everybody has a studio in their bedroom and there is nothing special about presenting someone with a piece of vinyl saying “Look what I’ve done.” It ain’t special no more. The profit margins are down, which is why I am glad that I am moving into an industry that has not been infiltrated by the governmental process. It’s basically virgin territory for me.

Ballerstatus.com: Out of all the people who are out right now, who are you feeling? Uncle Luke: I am feeling Lil Wayne! Here is a kid that came from a crew who went through a lot of things — from break-up to make-ups and he was the baby of that crew from a city that was brought into the game by Master P. Those guys (Cash Money) took the torch and took it to another level and he has taken his area to another level. Hip-hop is so based on what area you represent, like I represent the 305 and he represents the 504. I am really feelin’ him because here is a kid who has a city that is basically none existent and he’s still going hard for his city. What he’s doing is just real special to me.

Ballerstatus.com: Who are you not feeling? When you hear this person you say to yourself, I can’t believe this person got a deal?

Uncle Luke: [laughing] I have someone that comes right to the top of my head, but I’m not going to say.

Ballerstatus.com: Come on now, you are outspoken Uncle Luke.

Uncle Luke: [laughing] I ain’t going to say that. I won’t say that. It’s so hard to get a deal these days for whatever you reason. I remember being a young kid at Jack the Rapper and Dave Karr — one of the first record promoters, who has passed away — told me and I will never forget it … he said, “You are not in the music business until you sell a record. I don’t care what it is; you can’t be in the business of selling music until you sell a record.” I will take that piece of advice with me to my grave. So, however you do it and it works, keep making it happen.

Ballerstatus.com: Your list of women accomplishments … is it similar to say a Wilt Chamberlain?

Uncle Luke: Not necessarily. I am probably the opposite of Wilt Chamberlain because I have a relationship with women more than I’ll have a sexual relationship with women. With me it’s different. I am not like a Wilt Chamberlain just trying to get in every woman’s draws. I think that is the misconception about me. Women are drawn to me because I am caring and they know they can talk to me. I am not trying to sleep with everybody. When a woman is around me, she knows that. Before you know it, they open up to me just like they would with one of their girls. They know how in touch with women I am and they know I love women. At the same time, they know they can have a conversation with me and not be worried about me trying to get in their pants. That is why women love being around me and can be open with me and feel comfortable when wanting to fulfill any fantasies around me.

Ballerstatus.com: You did something really phenomenal with H-Town. Do you think you will get back into the R&B game?

Uncle Luke: Yeah, I think I will. That was an incredible experience. Still to this day, a lot of people don’t know they were the first independent R&B group to go platinum. People didn’t know that because it was all about hip-hop. They were the R&B/hip-hop version of me, toned down, real sexual and sexy. Even with them being R&B artists, I didn’t want to steer to far away from what people knew me for. Their success was shocking, but what was even better was these guys could really flow. I thought at that time, I would show the world I could be versatile. I can take an R&B group from Houston right out of their bedrooms at their momma’s house, record, produce, promote and just maybe I’ll get the respect from this industry that I’ve never gotten. Yet, still to this day, no respect! If someone had pulled that off from an independent standpoint in this day, they’d be the president of Def Jam or appointed the co-president of Atlantic Records … like my friend Craig Kallman. But for Luther Campbell, naw and to this day, it is still a struggle and strain on my mind why I have never been approached to run a label. As the South runs hip-hop right now, I watch as people who are doing half of what I’ve done run labels and are getting huge budgets to do so.

Ballerstatus.com: With all that being said you are still in the game, still making it happen and for that, you should be given your just dues. When does your package drop again?

Uncle Luke: Luke Campbell’s Soup for the Freaky Soul: The Sexploits of Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell drops Valentines Day 2006.

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