As Nasty As They Wanna Be


Band: 2 Live Crew
Album: As Nasty As They Wanna Be
Best song: Oh come on. Really?
Worst song: See above.

I know this sounds condescending, but I want to explain this for fear of sounding like a racist, a moron or some other such bad thing. I dated a girl for a bit who would sometimes capitalize certain things to prove her point. For example, something could be a Very Bad Thing, as opposed to just a very bad thing. 

In a more simple way, many of our early experiences with romance involve the word “like” and the difference in emphasis. Who hasn’t been asked if he liked a girl or if he liked a girl, as a young boy?

Which is to say that here is hip hop and then there is hip hop.

I cannot decide if As Nasty As They Wanna Be is hip hop or hip hop (or Hip Hop, if you prefer).

On one hand, the span of history will see As Nasty As They Wanna Be as a very important record for free speech policy. It’s the record that was deemed obscene by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, prompting the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to hear an appeal. 2 Live Crew eventually won, winning a major victory for free speech.

On the other hand, take a look at the tracklist.

I use too much profanity; I acknowledge this. I know it’s pretty lazy and I know I shouldn’t do it. But, I do it because it can be fun and it can be effective. Obscenity — in all of its forms — can be an art. And, on some level, we all fancy ourselves Drew Magary in our use of the profanity, using it as an art form, heretofore unknown.

Nevertheless, this is the entire hook of As Nasty As They Wanna Be; after all, this was the late 1980s, the time of Andrew Dice Clay (fitting, being that 2 Live Crew have an entire song of dirty nursery rhyms on As Nasty As They Wanna Be). As culture evolved, though, the Dice man became mostly obsolete, as did 2 Live Crew. Why?

Well, NWA was obscene, sexual and also socially interesting. NWA wasn’t a circus act (and a circus act not entirely caused by the obscenity suit). The entire being of NWA was not to write records about sex. And more sex. And even more sex. Again, tracklist.

The best comparison I can make is that of Dice Clay to an obscene comedian of more consequence — indeed, the most consequence — Richard Pryor. Pryor was obscene. He was very obscene. But, he was also the person considered the greatest comedian in history because he was also introspective, socially responsible, aware of his own demons, he did impressions, etc. Pryor could do everything and did. Before he even started talking about “the pussy,” he was telling stories about his upbrining in impoverished Peoria.

NWA is similar, in a different context. Sure, “She Swallowed It” is not the pinnacle of writing, but “Express Yourself” has an empowerment theme. “Fuck tha Police” predated the Rodney King incident by years.

The best As Nasty As They Wanna Be can do is “I Ain’t Bullshittin.'” A song in which Luther Campbell sorta disses some other Miami rappers.

I was a pretty young kid when the record came out and, like any young kid, my parents wouldn’t let us listen to it. Mostly because I didn’t try to get them to buy it for me. But, my friend Andrew had the tape and we listened to it at his house all the time. We thought we were so awesome, even though we barely understood what was going on. Sure, “Me So Horny” is kind of fun, but the album is shit. It’s just profanity and giving play-by-play as to what’s going on during sex.

There is good sex rap. There is sex rap with excellent hooks or awesome beats (Ludacris’ “Splashwater Falls” and Kia’s “My Neck, My Back” come to mind). There sex rap that turns into a strange melange of genius and profanity (Kool Keith, anyone?).

As Nasty As They Wanna Be isn’t that. It’s just sexist and dumb. But it matters.

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