By Shea Serrano
8:45 p.m.: So here's what this is: More than 20 years ago, 2 Live Crew, one of rap's most notoriously offensive acts, performed in Phoenix.
The concert was recorded and released as a live show album called The 2 Live Crew Live In Concert. It came out a few months after their Banned In The U.S.A. album (most famous for the eponymous single "Banned In The U.S.A." and "Do The Bart," a song with a video that made white guys think it was okay to wear hightop fades, which came after their double platinum Nasty As They Wanna album, which probably contributed to a sizeable portion of Florida's unplanned pregnancies at the end of the 80s. Somehow, The 2 Live Crew Live In Concert ended up being the only concert album the group ever released.
Even more somehow-y, a cassette version ended up in a large blue plastic in a thrift store in Houston for sale. It was 0.75. I bought it. And now I'm going to listen to it. And now you're all caught up.
8:45:15: BTW, some other tapes I grabbed: The soundtrack to 1986's Stand By Me, Boston's Boston, Whitney Houston's Whitney, Seal's Seal II, Cameo's Word Up!, Tupac's All Eyez On Me (it's broken, but still) and a handful of unopened Fuji 90-minute cassettes to use to make proper mixtapes. All told, it was a little more than $9.
8:45:30: BTW BTW, I'd actually planned to listen to this about an hour ago but my sons, both kindergartners, were still awake so that was a no go. I'm saying, I just can't risk them going to school asking their teachers if they want to go to the Fuck Shop after school.
8:48: Tape's rolling. Static emptiness in the beginning. If the tape doesn't work, this review is going to BLOW. Sorry.
8:49:30: This is actually more exciting than I had anticipated. The 2 Live Crew was a groundbreaking act -- that seems inarguable. So, I guess that makes this recording a bit of a historic relic? I'm like Nic Cage in National Treasure, except without the wispy hair. I wonder what the first thing they'll say will be? Maybe it'll something profound, something that historians missed because they disregarded the group en masse? Maybe it'll be something profound or life altering? MAYBE IT'LL BE THE CURE FOR CANCER OR SOMETHING ABOUT HOW TO SUCCESFULLY GROW CORN IN THE DESERT THUS SUCCESSFULLY ENDING WORLD HUNGER? WERE UNCLE LUKE AND FRESH KID ICE AG SCIENTISTS?!!! MAYBE IT'LL BE---
8:50: Oh. Never mind. It was a call and response with the crowd about how my mother and sister want some "head, booty, and cock" (an assertion that I'd instinctively argue against, even though I'm certain at some level he's right).
8:51: One of the immediate questions here is "Why would these guys bother to record a concert album in Phoenix?" Their popularity grew most resolutely in Florida, and they've always been fiercely defensive of Miami. Fortunately, this is not lost on the group. They answer it before they get into the actual show, and it is no great complexity: "Because Phoenix is too motherfucking live!," Luke shouts to the crowd.
8:54: "C'mon, Babe." This song is a bit of a rollercoaster. They'll say something sweet ("Love is the key to end all your woes"), then immediately yank the carpet out ("You'll be my bitch not a dirty hoe"). Is that a promotion, going from someone's dirty hoe to their bitch? Aces.
8:56: "Lick my ass up and down, lick it 'till your tongue turns doo-doo brown." Oh my.
8:57: Luke is referencing the Move Something girls, the women 2 Live Crew has on stage during their performances. Women's Suffrage worked, I guess?
8:58: "Pussy ain't nothin' but meat on the bones." How did The 2 Live Crew not have a line of greeting cards?
9:00: "Throw The Dick," from their first album. They're crude, for sure, but it sounds like everyone is having a grand time. I wish I was there for real, instead of sitting in my living room while Scrubs plays in the background. I'm not so sure Dr. Cox would approve of this tomfoolery.
9:01: "One and One"! This was the very first 2 Live Crew song that I ever listened to/loved. My friend and I would listen to it super quiet at his mom's apartment while she was in the other room. We'd listen to it and force ourselves to laugh super hard when he'd rhyme "six" with "dick" or when he said "GET YOUR FACE OUT MY ASS, MOTHERFUCKER" at the end. I think we were maybe eight around the time.
9:01:15: This seems like a good time to mention that Uncle Luke recently won the right to be a youth football coach in Florida, something that will never not be funny to think about.
9:06: They're trying to goad the crowd into a frenzy by saying that other towns (L.A, New Orleans, St. Louis, etc) have been saying that "Phoenix ain't shit." Luke continues, "We missed one state and they think y'all ain't shit, for real. You know what state that is? ...NEW YORK CITY!" Ah yes, the great state of New York City? I guess that's why they weren't called 2 Geography Crew.
9:11: Uncle Luke is talking to the ladies (he does the most talking, obvs). He's asking them if they have sex in the desert. Question: Has anyone ever really had sex on the beach? I don't even like to eat at the beach. The sand always gets all in my sandwich and shit.
9:11:15: That's not a euphemism, BTW. I mean a literal sandwich. Though, I guess if I had a vagina, I'd probably call it "my sandwich" from time to time.
9:15: The guys meander a bit, bookending each song with interactions with the crowd. I read a review of this album at the Entertainment Weekly site. (It was copied from a review that ran in print in 1991.) They gave the tape an F, saying it was little more than "lazy run-throughs of 'Me So Horny,' 'The Fuck Shop,' and their other bawdy romps." Disagree. I don't think there's ever been a time someone could've classified The 2 Live Crew as "lazy." Their rhymes are basic, certainly, but never lazy. Whatevs. End of Side A. Tape flip.
9:18: Mr. Mixx (the group's DJ) is stretching his legs a bit here, cutting up this or that for the crowd. Enjoyable stuff. DJs were way cooler back then. Who's the most popular rap DJ on the planet right now? Is it Khaled? God, I hope not. That guy is the worst.
9:23: Luke is engaging the crowd in a call and response again, this time about oral sex. Naturally, it ends up turning into a hat-tip to Miller Lite's "Less filling, tastes great" ad campaign. That's a surprisingly insightful comparison, probably. Or, I guess it is if you don't hate the taste of genitals? I don't know. This got weird quick.
9:27: Alright, we're nearing the end, I'd guess. Luke is calling girls on stage. If I have a daughter, I'm going to pray every night that she feels it necessary to get on stage when rappers yell at her to do so.
9:28: "We don't want no fat ass women up here. ...If y'all don't like them [the girls on stage], I want you all to boo the shit out of them." Dang. Uncle Luke is not that considerate.
9:29: Oh shit. They actually booed. Luke was going from girl to girl asking the crowd how they felt, and when he got to one girl they actually booed. Dang. Has anything worse ever happened in human history? No, right? I mean, dude. How do you have that conversation the next day.
Girl A: Hey, how was the show last night. Girl B: Oh my goodness, it was SOOOOO much fun. 2 Live Crew is crazy! Girl A: Anything amazing happen? Girl B: Well, I got up onstage with them, Girl A: WHAT? HOLY CHRIST! THEN WHAT? Girl B: Uh... Girl A: C'MON! Girl B: The crowd booed me off. Girl A: ...What? You got up there to dance and get naked... Girl B: Yep. Girl A: ...and they booed you until you kept your clothes on and left? Girl B: Yep. Girl A: ... Girl B: ... Girl A: ...So I guess you'll just kill yourself then. Girl A: Yep.
9:31: ahahahaha. Luke stopped the girls from dancing, then noticed that one of them was wearing a safety pin to hold her underwear up. Is this even real life.
9:31:15: OH NO. What about the Booed Off The Stage Girl? She was less desirable than a girl that was holding her undergarments together with a safety pin. Poor thing. Rough night.
9:33: Luke is warning the girls not to take their clothes off. Ha. If you'll remember, 2 Live Crew had all sorts of legal problems in the 90s, most famously when people were getting arrested for selling their albums. And it seems like I remember seeing one of their concerts on one of those Banned From Television videos (some girl shaking her buttocks onstage towards the crowd and one of the guys kept pulling her g-string to the side to reveal her sandwich). This probably has to do with that.
9:38: Bam. Definitely about to be over. They're doing "Me So Horny." That's the song from Nasty As They Wanna Be that led to them getting prosecuted (obscenity) and their album getting banned, rulings that were eventually overturned. It's all actually pretty impressively important when you measure it objectively. That's landmark stuff, bro. What if that had never happened? What if those charges had stuck? It'd have impacted music all through the 90s, for certain. Crazy.
9:41: Luke is heavy into a Censorship Sucks campaign right now. The hummings of "Banned In The USA" are crawling forward. Luke is talking about how America is America and people in it are Americans and Americans should be allowed to live freely in America's America. He ends by saying they just want to be heard, that The 2 Live Crew is a vessel for righteousness and a fine example of meritocracy (paraphrasing). Proper ending, really. Good stuff.
Critic's Bias: I have had sex before so The 2 Live Crew understands me.
The Crowd: Are you being serious?
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Overheard in the Crowd: Nothing.
Random Notebook Dump: This was the second time I spent the entirety of a concert sitting down. The first: Trey Songz in 2010. That guy, geez.