“Thirty-five years in this business, and ain’t nobody ever honor me for sh–.”
That’s a poignant condemnation to deliver at an awards show that set out to honor his hip-hop legacy. But that was Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell’s opening statement in an acceptance speech at the 2017 BET Hip-Hop Awards when he was given the I Am Hip Hop Icon Award, a prize given to artists to recognize their body of work.
The awards show was filmed at the Fillmore Miami Beach and featured a number of South Florida guests, including DJ Khaled who played host for the evening.
In an emotional speech, Campbell said critics of the bass-heavy music he pioneered with group 2 Live Crew tried to reduce it to “booty music,” saying it wasn’t hip-hop.
They weren’t simply rebuking Campbell and the Miami-based 2 Live Crew – there was an utter disregard for any aspiring artists from the South, or the “Souf,” as Uncle Luke pronounces it.
“I told ’em f— y’all,” Uncle Luke said.
It is that screw-everything attitude landed Campbell all the way to the Supreme Court in a case that broadened the definition of fair use as it related to parody in music back in 1994. But that’s not all Uncle Luke did for hip-hop – and by extension – free speech. In 1990 he was arrested for performing songs from “As Nasty As They Wanna Be” at a South Florida club. The songs from the album had been deemed obscene by a local judge. Campbell was later acquitted, and subsequent 2 Live Crew albums were the first to don the infamous parental advisory sticker.
But for everything he’d done for the musical genre, Campbell got little to nothing in return. No nominations, no awards. And people still telling him he was wasn’t worth anything.
That changed at Tuesday night when Campbell was handed the same award that has been bestowed upon legends like Grandmaster Flash, KRS-One, Rakim and MC Lyte. Those artists – all hailing from New York, the original home of hip-hop – didn’t do as much as Uncle Luke to pave the way for artists like Andre 3000, Rick Ross, Trina and DJ Khaled.
Campbell also took the stage to perform a medley of his hits, with Flo Rida standing in for Fresh Kid Ice, who died this earlier this year, on “Me So Horny.” Miami rappers Trina and Rick Ross joined Campbell on stage and Hustler of the Year Award winner Cardi B got on stage to dance.
“I started hip-hop in the South,” Campbell proclaimed proudly – defiantly.
Yes, yes you did, Luke. Hats off to you.