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As Clean As They Wanna Be

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Album Review

2 Live Crew's infamous — record store clerks were actually arrested for selling the album — and double platinum — a great example of how being banned can increase sales — As Nasty As They Wanna Be may be more talked about than listened to, but it's actually a thoroughly entertaining effort and as solid a album as the trashy party rap genre could have hoped for. In the first moments a sampled voice asks, "What do we get for ten dollars?." In a sleazy slow tone that might make Ron Jeremy blush, a hooker answers, "Everything you want" as the album begins to deliver on this street corner promise with the legendary "Me So Horny" ("me love you long time"). With a sample of Full Metal Jacket's Vietnamese hooker, a cheap drum machine, a fat bassline, and a simple set of rhymes that are filled with every cuss word, innuendo, and misogynist, knuckle-dragging reference to women imaginable, "Me So Horny" is the reason 2 Live Crew should exist. Nothing they or their leader Luke (Luther) Campbell recorded afterwards sounded as lean, as hook filled, and so instantly grabbing as the single. From the inner city strip clubs to the headphones of teenagers in the suburbs, the track was a massive guilty pleasure, one that could also fill the dancefloor in a second. The album that follows repeats and repeats this cheap and silly porno formula and miraculously stretches it as far as it can go. Divided into four sides — one for each member, the only reason anyone remembers their names — Nasty keeps it rolling with tracks that capture "Horny"'s energy, ("Put Her in the Buck"), its cleverness ("Dirty Nursery Rhymes"), and a whole bunch that are just as hooky. "The F**k Shop" is the best example of the latter with its easy to grasp chorus and wicked use of a loop from Van Halen's "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love." Other smart samples like Kraftwerk for "Dick Almighty" and Jimi Hendrix for "My Seven Bizzos" keep the album alive, while interludes lifted from Andrew Dice Clay, Rudy Ray Moore, Eddie Murphy, and Richard Pryor give away its true inspirations. A couple amusing left turns — the 12-bar "2 Live Blues" and the dancehall party "Reggae Joint" — round out the album, and suddenly the full-length that doesn't seem like it could ever suffer an injustice gets sold short by history, at least when it comes to remembering what a grand porno achievement Luke and his crew created. [In a completely misguided move, As Nasty As They Wanna Be was also made available in a clean version, retitled As Clean As They Wanna Be, with all vulgarities removed.]


Formed: 1985 in California

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

No rap group (save, perhaps, N.W.A) has stirred more controversy or provoked more heated debate than the 2 Live Crew. The furor over the graphic sexual content of their X-rated party rhymes — specifically their 1989 album As Nasty as They Wanna Be — was a major catalyst in making rap music a flash point for controversy and an easily visible target for self-appointed moral guardians. The fierce attacks on the group's First Amendment rights put many of their defenders in an awkward position...
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As Clean As They Wanna Be, 2 Live Crew
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