Deadline was the first to report that Lionsgate just unveiled its plans for Book of Luke, a biographical film about hip hop group 2 Live Crew, a band whose legacy of obscenity and lasting mark on the hip hop genre could serve as the basis for an entire series.
For those not aware, 2 Live Crew were the ones responsible for originating the trend of intensely vulgar lyrical content sometimes seen in hip hop today. They were the ones to discover that, in hip hop, more risque content often equates to more sales.Whether this is because hip hop is a genre of music heavily reliant on more animalistic themes or because controversy attracts press and press attracts free exposure is up for debate, but the method of pouring as much vulgarity and primally base musical themes into their music as possible certainly succeeded for 2 Live Crew and soon popped up in some of the most popular hip hop music of all time (e.g. Biggie Smalls’ albums).
If you’ve ever wondered why lots of popular rap music (especially from the 90s) is so full of expletives and references to sex or drugs (these principles have since exited the music world and had impacts on actual pop culture), it is probably in large part thanks to the influences of 2 Live Crew and N.W.A. The latter group has recently been examined in a biopic, so now it is the former’s turn. The groups showed that simply pouring as much swearing and mature imagery as you could into your lyrics would sell records.
2 Live Crew attempted to make the most of this concept by throwing a bunch of expletive-laced feces at the wall and seeing what stuck. The vast majority of tracks on their popular 1989 album, As Nasty As They Wanna Be, are very simple in terms of structure and their lyrics, according to The New York Times, “consist almost solely of relentlessly coarse accounts of the singer’s lusts and sexual adventures.” A typical example, “Dirty Nursery Rhymes,” is embedded below. It probably goes without saying, but the lyrics could be offensive to some listeners, so discretion is advised.
2 Live Crew’s “maximum obscenity” concept was so shocking at the time that the band was actually targeted by a number of lawsuits and taken to court in 1990 for overdoing the sexual content of their publicly released works. They would go on to win the trial in federal court, but the Times piece linked to above, a briefing of the case written when it was going on, goes into greater detail about exactly why the group’s music was found to be so provocative.
Another major hip hop trend 2 Live Crew began was the sampling of older songs in a new track. The majority of songs on As Nasty As They Wanna Be take the hooks or tunes from famous music, some of it protected by copyright, and use it in their own structure.
Like the lyrical content, this trend of “sampling” caused legal action to be taken in some cases. For instance, one of the songs on the album parodies Roy Orbison’s hit song “Oh, Pretty Woman” by using a recording of its main guitar riffs. Orbison took 2 Live Crew To Court, arguing that his intellectual property had been stolen. Again, though, the court ruled in favor of the Crew, decreeing that artists could sample tracks if the final product was considered a parody of the original. 2 Live Crew’s Pretty Woman was judged to be a parody, as are countless modern hip hop songs that use the court decision to justify sampling classic tunes.
Book of Luke will reportedly be centered around Orbison’s court case, and RJ Cyler, an actor best known for playing the Blue Ranger in the Power Rangers reboot, will play 2 Live Crew leader Luther Campbell.
It is much too early to have a release date for the 2 Live Crew biopic, but keep your eyes peeled for updates in the next few weeks now that the ball is rolling.
[Featured image by Chris O’Meara/AP Images]