image from top40db.net
In 1989, rap group 2 Live Crew released their album As Nasty As They Wanna Be. Propelled by top 40 hit “Me So Horny,” the album went platinum. However, the American Family Association didn’t think the parental advisory sticker on the album adequately warned listeners of what they deemed obsence content. The case was presented to Florida Governor Bob Martinez to see if the album met the legal definition of obsence. At the local level, County Circuit Court judge Mel Grossman ruled there was probable cause for obsenity violations and local sherriff Nick Navarro warned record stores that selling the album might be a prosecutable offense.
Then federal district judge Jose Gonzalez ruled that the album was obsence and therefore illegal to sell. Local retailer Charles Freeman was arrested two days later after he sold a copy of the album to an undercover officer. On June 10, the group itself was arrested for performing some of the material at Club Futura after two police officers brought a tape recorder in to catch the band.
Lawyers for 2 Live Crew essentially presented a case that the first amendment protected the group’s free speech and that even though people might see the lyrics might be lewd, they were meant in jest. It didn’t help that the officers who arrested the group in the club had taped the performance but it was of such poor quality that most of it was indecipherable.
That October, a jury in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, acquitted 2 Live Crew’s Luther Campbell, Chris “Fresh Kid Ice” Wong Won, and Mark “Brother Marquis” Ross after only two hours of deliberation. They faced a year in prison. Freeman had been convicted earlier in the month but his case was overturned on appeal. It wasn’t until May 1992 that a court finally overruled the original finding that Nasty was obscene.
Banned in the U.S.A, written in response to the ordeal
Resources and Related Links:
- History.com: 2 Live Crew members are acquitted of obscenity charges (20 October 1990)
- LaTimes.com: Jurors Acquit 2 Live Crew in Obscenity Case (21 October 1990)
- Wikipedia.org: 2 Live Crew: As Nasty As They Wanna Be