Before there was a serial killer on the loose in Miami named Dexter, the most dangerous person from Dade County was a man named Luther Campbell. Luther Campbell created a monster named 2 Live Crew who began terrorizing Florida’s ghettos and suburbs. He spread out all across the country — eventually becoming “Banned in the USA.”
Uncle Luke was considered obscene and went against Congress to fight for the First Amendment. He was labeled as “explicit,” which eventually led to the birth of a mandatory cause demanding parental advisory stickers to be placed on offensive content, effecting music of all genres. He was really a public enemy #1 — no offense, Chuck D. So as Luke continued to fight the power, he became a household name whom most parents forbid their children to listen to.
So, here we are today, Luther Campbell, a parent accountable for his own children and the influential entrepreneur running his own business called The Luke Entertainment Group. He also just finished his hit VH1 TV Show, “Luke’s Parental Advisory.”
BallerStatus.com presents the one and only Luther Campbell, aka Uncle Luke, as we talk on everything from the history of the 2 Live Crew to the present day of “Luke’s Parental Advisory.” It’s an honor…
BallerStatus.com: Let’s jump right into “Parental Advisory…”
Uncle Luke: Every interview I do, people are always asking how my kids feel about me, their father, being Uncle Luke and being in the rap industry … and people have actually been able to see that on the show. The show shows you how my family deals with it and how we are as real life people. I always tell people, this is not entertainment, this is real life.
BallerStatus.com: Until the show, you never put it out there for America to know who Luther Campbell really is as a man. I think it goes back to what you guys [2 Live Crew] used to say as your message for your albums — it goes back to the parents, they are supposed to control their kids and that is not your job as an entertainer…
Uncle Luke: I agree, and like I say … that is why it is so beautiful. Now I have a reality show, you know, just so people can see how I interact with my kids, my wife and understand my real views and they can actually learn from me. I know some very successful people.
BallerStatus.com: Besides, just letting the world see this new side of you, is there a message? Or underlying point that you are trying to get across?
Uncle Luke: Yeah, there is definitely a point that I want to try to get across and that is to get people talking about Luther Campbell, the executive. People are dying to know about me being an executive, and then they can look back, do the research and see that I sold records out the trunk of my car and started a successful record company. People forget I was that dude who found Pitbull and Trick Daddy, you know? Then people will get to see me as a father and can watch me build my new company, The Luke Entertainment Group, the adult portion of the company and being online. They will get to see me build a business right before their own eyes and watch me raise my kids as teenagers and how I deal with stuff in real life situations. People will see that there is more than just Russell Simmons in the world. They will see Luther Campbell running a major business. It is beautiful right now, that southern music, the sound that I originally inspired is so magical right now … and I am so happy and blessed. I mean, to get married you know, it all just seems that it was scripted to happen this exact way.
BallerStatus.com: Honestly, you were pretty much the first mainstream hip-hop mogul per se, before it became branded in the public and celebrated like it is now. I mean, now you have people like Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Diddy, etc, but you were before all them.
Uncle Luke: When I first started, there was no such thing as what I wanted to do. I wanted to start a record label, put out my own artists. There was no such thing when I started then. When I started my record company, people were like “Man what are you doing with this Luke Records thing?” You know I was the first person to be both an executive and an artist. Now I look at Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, and the JD’s and all of them in the world, and I am proud of them dudes, ’cause I feel if I did not do what I did, then they would still be making records for big record companies. Now they have their own record companies and artists that they can put out. I think before me, nobody thought to be his or her own company like that. So I feel good about that, I am happy for them and I feel like I helped do that.
BallerStatus.com: One thing about you that I have always admired is that you do things your way, even if you have to deal with the government. You are a freedom fighter. Back in the golden days, in the heyday of 2 Live Crew, what was the reception like from your peers such as NWA and Public Enemy, two groups that I personally associate with pushing the envelope? How did your hip-hop peers receive you?
Uncle Luke: We were feared and we were disrespected. Everything that happened to a black person in the 40s and 50s, it happened to us. I sold a million records out of my mother’s spot. When I started selling records, executives should have been knocking on my door telling me we need to do a deal with you, but ain’t any of that happening. We would do shows, but never invited to go on tour because Def Jam told them that if you put them on tour, their artists would not be on the tour. We would do certain shows and they would give us five minutes, now what the hell can you do for five minutes when you have one of the hottest albums in the world? We literally almost got in a fight in Mississippi with Run DMC and Eric B & Rakim. They gave us five minutes to perform, so we went out there and told them in the five minutes why we couldn’t perform ’cause the other artists were going to the promoter and telling them not to let us go over five minutes. I remember clearly in Savannah, Georgia, I had to fight with Public Enemy’s manager, but around that time, Chuck D and I became good friends. We did a show in St. Louis with Salt-N-Pepa, and The Fat Boys boycotted the show and tried to tell the promoters to put us on last. They did not respect the fact that we were from down south from Miami. They would get on BET, people like Salt-N-Pepa and Kid ‘N Play, talking about how we are not real hip-hop and we ain’t this and we ain’t that. BET wouldn’t play our video you know? The first [network] to really play our stuff was MTV and Video Jukebox. I’m working on a book and people are going to freak out and many things are going to be exposed that people never really knew.
BallerStatus.com: You said earlier that there was an incident that you and Chuck D became friends. Was he one of the first rap artists to show you some love as a fellow artist?
Uncle Luke: Probably the first person to show love to us as rappers was Red Alert, a very influential person from New York and also one of the top DJs in radio. As far as artists, Chuck D, we had the one incident, but after that, we were embraced by rappers from New York. What was crazy about all that is … my biggest market to sell product was up in New York. We were selling more records in New York than anywhere in the world, and still right now, my biggest fan base is in New York. Yeah, it always blows people’s minds when they would pull up the SoundScan reports and see that I sell more records in New York than anywhere else. When Biggie and Busta Rhymes started to come out, that is when New York music started to change up. Man, Biggie and I were cool as hell, and we would sit down and have deep conversations. I remember him telling me, “Hey look, you inspired me to be in this music business.” That really did something for me, I mean, here is a rapper from New York that said I inspired him, ’cause he would look at the magazines and he loved the Poison Clan and he said he had every Poison Clan tape. That was deep to me, I listened to how he delivered his lyrics and what he talked about, and that just tells me that fighting for our First Amendment rights and putting out artists like 2 Live Crew and the Poison Clan was worth it. This guy Biggie could see that, and he could relate to that, and in turn it would inspire him to want to go and write lyrics. He ended up being one of the most influential people in hip-hop history. All the events that have happened in my life, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
BallerStatus.com: What is so beautiful now, that the younger kids can see this and then go back and look up and research the Poison Clan and 2 Live Crew, and see what they were all about.
Uncle Luke: Yeah, I was getting ready to say the same thing. Biggie was like, “This is what inspired me to be a rapper. I said, “Wow,” so I called them up [Poison Clan] and was like, “You know who told me that you all inspired him, he seen you all in Word Up and started buying your tapes.”
BallerStatus.com: Hey Luke, I wanted to ask you about when you said you sold a million records, basically from your house and the trunk of your car. When you first started, did you have a financial backer or were you just grinding? Was their money to start your first record label, or did you just go all out?
Uncle Luke: Well, I’ll tell you, I used to DJ in Miami. I used to DJ house parties, dances and wedding receptions and barmitzfas, well no barmitzfas. (Laughter) I would save my money and I always wanted to buy me a skating ring, or a teen disco and instead, I took all that money I saved and I put it into the 2 Live Crew. At the end of the day, we tried to get a deal with 2 Live Crew and nobody would take them. I was from Miami and I would talk to record promoters who would bring me their records to play because I was a hot DJ in Miami, but nobody wanted them. So I said, “Man listen, I’ll just do it myself.” I used some of the things that I knew as a DJ to promote the music and put it out. So we kind of revamped the group and redid it and added that comedy stuff and before you know it, people started to love it and all of the publicity started rolling.
BallerStatus.com: I always wondered what the transition was from you going from basically the manager role, to going to more of a performing front man role. Did you figure that was the best thing for the group at the time, because you were the best known guy in that local Miami area? Is that why you made that switch?
Uncle Luke: Yeah, when I used to bring them down and do shows, their shows were kind of boring. I was the DJ and people wanted me to get the crowd all amped up and stuff, so it kind of just developed into that. People don’t realize the history of the group. They don’t realize the real history of the 2 Live Crew. So I said, let’s do something different and change it up, so I put the adult comedy in the mix, and it took off. That’s what it was. It could be the same way today, but these guys got with that guy Joe Weinburger, who in my opinion stole my music and art. Mr. Mixx doesn’t want anything to do with him, and I don’t want anything to do with him, but they wanted to have something to do with him. That’s why they don’t have any hit records. They don’t have the magic and when they went with Weinburger, they ain’t made a hit record since.
BallerStatus.com: Let’s talk about your “Parental Advisory.” How did you meet your wife and how did your relationship evolve?
Uncle Luke: I met her at a deli on South Beach. I saw her for the first time come in with some friends and I gave the bus boy a note for her and it said “If any one of those guys ain’t your boyfriend, call me up. If one of them are, don’t call me up.” But it turns out, one of them was her boyfriend, but she ended up calling me anyways (laughing). We been talking ever since and I find her very interesting. We fell in love and we just went from that point on. I’ve never been married before in my life, but I always said I would do it if that special woman came along, and she came. So we did this deal with VH1 and it seems like a higher being, the man upstairs, put all this together and to present to the world in this way. People can get to see my life on a grand stage and some of the things that they have never seen before and I’m just happy about life.
BallerStatus.com: Did her family kind of like bug out at first like, “Oh my gosh, she is hooking up Luke.” Was there any like weirdness with the family from her side?
Uncle Luke: Not really. They have always accepted me. We started spending holidays and stuff with the family, Christmas with her mother. I remember at the wedding reception, her mother got on the mic and said, “Luke Christmas is always at the Thompson house.” They always accepted me in like her Dad, just like any other Dad who loves his daughter to death, but there comes a time you have to give your daughter away. It was more difficult for him than anybody, but at the same time, I feel him. It’s all in the show.