2 Live Crew was once the nastiest, most explicit rap group around, leading the way for mainstream gangsta rap. What remains isn't much: a handful of albums, an infamous reputation, a name and ongoing attempts to make money on one smash hit.
The band is, for all intents and purposes, completely dissolved. Concerts these days involve one former member, Fresh Kid Ice, who is starting a new group called X-Rated Rydas. He and three other rappers are touring under the name 2 Live Crew, in an effort to boost ticket sales.
"When we go out, we perform all the 2 Live hits people want to hear," says Fresh Kid Ice, whose real name is Chris Wong Won. "We're introducing and breaking down a history of our music. I bring the "Me So Horny' dances. The stage show is really exciting."
X-Rated Rydas includes Fresh Kid Ice, Fish N Gritz, Sean Juan and Brooks, and is recording on Fresh Kid Ice's own label, Chinaman Records.
As depressing as it may be to watch someone try to revive a career after 15 years of irrelevancy, 2 Live Crew was, years ago, an achievement in hip-hop.
The group started in Southern California but moved to Miami, where its music was better received. 2 Live Crew helped expand Miami bass to a larger audience, and gained a reputation for explicit lyrics and a sexually suggestive stage presence.
"The whole concept of 2 Live Crew wasn't to be taken seriously," Fresh Kid Ice says. "We wanted to produce outdoor party music. What we wanted to do back then was basically take people away from the stresses and struggles during the day and let them have a release at night. So when you pop in a 2 Live Crew CD, it'll make you laugh, dance, bring all these things to the table."
The group hit success with 1989's album As Nasty As They Wanna Be and the single "Me So Horny." Fairly tame by modern standards, the explicit lyrics prompted Florida to take the group to court for meeting the legal standard for obscenity.
The case reached the Supreme Court, and ultimately, the justices sided with the group.
"We were aware of some of the things we were allowed and weren't allowed," Fresh Kid Ice says. "We knew we could say what we wanted to say. But we weren't expecting to take it to court. But we had to defend our music.
"We were just making party music. We were the first ones to bring sex to hip-hop, with the women and the videos and so forth. And at the time, we were expressing what we were seeing in Miami, because it's a sexual city. It took other people a long time to see what we saw."
After earning celebrity status, the group never duplicated its original success, even as it tried to build on its winning formula of sex, sex, sex. Now, almost two decades later, after break-ups and reunions and break-ups again, one founding member still plugs, and repackages, away.
"This is something new," Fresh Kid Ice says. "2 Live Crew is built on certain things. Musically, people expect the music to be up-tempo. With X-Rated Rydas, we have a bunch of new faces. It's more for the club, party-type. But with X-Rated Rydas, you never know which way we're coming."
2 Live Crew (X-Rated Rydas)
Union Station, 2419 N. Union Blvd.
Wednesday, March 28, 8 p.m.
Tickets: Available at the door; $15, 18 and over.
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