Chris “Fresh Kid Ice” Wong Won, member of the controversial group, 2 Live Crew, died at age 53 on July 13, 2017. I send warm regards to his family and loved ones who lost their kin entirely too soon.
Let me state this clearly:
You don’t have to like 2 Live Crew.
You can find their music repulsive, degrading to women, and outright vulgar.
You can love 2 Live Crew.
You can find yourself unable to resist the urge to get up and shake your ass when “Hoochie Mama” comes on.
It doesn’t matter. What does matter is the important role 2 Live Crew played in the fight for artistic free speech for ALL musicians.
In 1990, members of 2 Live Crew were arrested for performing “obscene” lyrics to their popular songs.
“The arrest came three days after U.S. District Judge Jose Gonzalez ruled that the group’s album “As Nasty as They Wanna Be” is obscene, making it illegal to sell the record in Broward, Dade and Palm Beach counties. On Friday, a Ft. Lauderdale record store owner was arrested for selling the album to an undercover police officer.”
This reignited the “Obscenity Wars” that had begun making waves in the mid-1980s, with targets like Madonna, Prince, Sheila E., and others coming under fire for their provocative lyrics.
In 1991, the case was over and 2 Live Crew was left alone. They’d garnered a lot of support from people across industries and adamant defenders of the 1st amendment.
A few years later, 2 Live Crew came under fire (again) and successfully argued the right to make parody songs. They found support in outlets like Saturday Night Live and mastermind behind the group, Luther “Luke” Campbell walked away not only a free artist, but a trailblazer whose fight would help artists for decades to come.
This is a bit of Hip-Hop history we can’t let be erased, regardless of how we feel about their music. We have to protect artists’ rights to make the music they want and let the public decide if they want to support them or not. That’s how it should always work and I’m issuing this reminder to younger folks who want to “cancel” people over lyrics:
You don’t have to support an artists’ work and you can protest against it all you want. It is your right to pushback and call for a boycott of their music as they see fit. But when we get into a space of denying people the right to even create art without passing specific standards of arbitrarily-generated moral inspection, we’re veering into very dangerous territory– a space that violates a sacred right we often take for granted: freedom of expression.
Rest in peace, Chris, one of the first mainstream Asian-American Hip-Hop artists to hit the scene. Thank you for your commitment to a fight that paved the way for so many artists to make the art they create today.
Photo: Miami Herald