Luther Campbell (aka Uncle Luke) is hip-hop’s original bad boy. As the former frontman for the multi-platinum group 2 Live Crew, his music and videos paved the way for the lyrical freedom expressed by current artists such as Ludacris, Nelly and Lil’ Jon. A constant trendsetter Luke entered into the home video market in 2001, by creating Luke’s Freakshow, a straight to video series that has sold over 500,000 units domestically. In 2005, Luke is releasing an box set entitled Luke Campbell’s Soup for the Freaky Soul: The Sexploits of Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell including a tell-all audio book of his freakiest escapades and a tribute album featuring Lil’ Jon, Trick Daddy, Petey Pablo and more.
Luther Campbell is a pop culture icon with fans within every race and nation. (Who hasn’t pumped their palms in the air to his anthem “Raise The Roof”?) He is the originator of the most prevailing and long-standing theme in hip-hop: sex. While fads like political rap and gangsta rap come and go, sex consistently remains a major focus. MTV co-founder Les Garland says of Luke, “In the hip-hop world, Luther Campbell was the first person to combine sex and music.” Nearly every rapper selling albums today follows his model of combining sex and hip-hop. As a solo artist and the founder of the groundbreaking, multi-platinum rap group 2 Live Crew, Campbell’s music has sold millions of copies worldwide, inspired the love of countless fans, the ire of politicians, and even the advent of the “Parental Advisory” sticker. His highly publicized obscenity trials and 1994 Supreme Court parody case are First Amendment victories upon which the entertainment industry still thrives.
Campbell’s Luke Films DVDs — featuring Campbell’s uncensored romps on the road and at Spring Break and party weekends across the country — fly off retail shelves. The International Recording Media Association (IRMA) bestowed Luke’s Freakshow Volumes 1, 2, 3, and 4 with its coveted Gold Award for selling over 25,000 units each or garnering $1 million in net US sales. His entire line of DVDs has sold over 500,000 albums cumulatively. Campbell by no means only caters to a niche or underground market. Luke Films received this distinction alongside such middle-America and mainstream titles like “MTV Inside TRL,” “The Best of MTV’s The Tom Green Show,” and “Tae Bo Gold.” (See the awards listing from IRMA’s official website in “Supporting Documents”). These accomplishments are even more impressive considering Campbell sells these DVDs independently in mom-and-pop retailers and on his websites without television or print advertising. Campbell’s other DVDs have enjoyed similar sales, but have not received awards because IRMA discontinued its certification program last year.
Over 250,000 fans from all over the country and a host of celebrities from Allen Iverson and Ja Rule to Missy Elliott and Mariah Carey attended his Umoja Memorial Day Weekend Festivals in Miami each year from 2002 through 2004 (see corroborating article in “Supporting Documents”). In celebration of these successes, Miami mayor Manny Diaz awarded Campbell the key to the city in May 2003.
Campbell is sustaining and growing what he’s known for best: sex and music. Always on the hunt for new talent, Campbell is now touring the country to find new Dancers. Campbell continues to perform four times a month and sell out large venues internationally, for approximately 96,000 fans a year. He is also releasing a twentieth anniversary album in 2005 and a tell-all book entitled Luke Campbell’s Soup for the Freaky Soul and recently teamed up with rap superstars Kanye West, Lil’ Jon and Fonzworth Bentley for the remix of West’s “The New Workout Plan.”
Campbell is one of the most sought-after hip-hop personalities on TV. He was one of the celebrity guests E! recruited for its March 2004 series 101 Reasons the ’90s Ruled and in February 2004 Court TV dedicated an episode of its primetime show Hollywood Justice to him and his courtroom victories, culminating with an encomium by Jay-Z.
Simply put, Luther Campbell is more than a hit artist. He is a legend. Campbell has a distinction that neither time nor current chart status can diminish: he is a hip-hop first. Before OutKast, before Ludacris, before Jermaine Dupri, and the other Southern artists on the Billboard charts, Luther Campbell was the first Southern rap star. He was the first person to own a thriving independent record label in the South and one of the first in the country. He was the first rapper to shoot videos in Miami with scantily-clad girls on beaches and boats. That is now the number one location and format for rap videos.
In the October 14, 2003 issue of The Miami Herald (see Supporting Documents), a top executive at BET explained why The Source Awards were being held in Miami for the second year: “Miami’s history is always important because of bass [music] and [Luther Campbell], and it’s important to be anchored in the South because Southern hip-hop is so hot,” said Stephen Hill, senior vice president of music and entertainment programming and talent for BET, which is televising the awards Nov. 11. “Miami is important to the past and the future of hip-hop.” (Full article included in Supporting Documents).
This statement linking Luther Campbell, hip-hop, and one of television’s largest events (the first Source Awards gave UPN its highest ratings ever for a Friday night) speaks volumes about his historic and current importance in music and popular culture.
Whether it’s in the record business, music video, or freedom of speech, Luther Campbell is a trailblazer with far-reaching impact. His early business forays laid the entrepreneurial blueprint upon which hip-hop still stands. From Sean “P. Diddy” Combs to Master P, nearly every rap mogul counts him as an inspiration. As the architect of Florida “bass” music, Campbell is single handedly responsible for putting Florida on the hip-hop map and opening the rap music floodgates across the south.
Hip-hop’s top director, the multiple Video Music Award winner Dave Meyers, got his start by lensing Campbell’s “Raise The Roof” video, and still uses the formula in videos by artists like Jay-Z and Ja Rule. In 2000, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honored Campbell’s contribution to hip-hop by including photographs of him and items of his clothing in its “Hip-Hop Nation: Roots, Rhymes and Rage” exhibit. Unlike other artists who have simply followed movements, Campbell has started them.
Campbell’s first group 2 Live Crew was the subject of national headlines, Congressional hearings, and in the early 1990s, the Supreme Court case Campbell vs. Acuff-Rose Music. In 1999, Court TV showcased Campbell’s clashes with the law in the hour long documentary “2 Live Crew: As Lewd as They Wanna Be.” His obscenity court battles are the direct reason stores can sell profanity-laced albums by acts like Eminem and 50 Cent today. Indeed, 50 Cent’s biggest hit, “In Da Club,” borrowed its signature hook from Campbell’s classic “It’s Your Birthday.”