As a raunchy Miami rapper in the 1980s and 90s, Luther Campbell’s lyrics were so shocking that he courted the wrath of then-Senator Al Gore’s wife, Tipper, and the Parents’ Music Resource Council. But a lot can happen in a couple decades: Campbell, now an assistant high school football coach, has built a solid local reputation as a teacher and role model, helping to turn around lives of underprivileged kids in the same Liberty City area he grew up in.
But Campbell’s past is catching up with him. The man who gave us X-rated dancefloor anthems like “Me So Horny,” “Throw The D,” and “Pop That [Expletive],” as the frontman from the wildly popular 2 Live Crew is in jeopardy of not being granted a permanent coaching certificate by the state of Florida.
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Campbell, 51, has coached for two seasons at Miami Central High and one at Miami Northwestern as a defensive coordinator using a temporary certification, which expires next year. But as Sports Illustrated reports, the Florida Department of Education has a little problem with his vulgar strip club-inspired lyrics. The agency has appealed a judge’s decision to grant Campbell a permanent certificate, saying that he lacks “the required good moral character,” according to SI. That means the state’s Education Practices Commission has to decide this summer if Campbell will be allowed to continue coaching after the end of the 2012 football season.
This isn’t the first time Campbell has been in legal hot water. 2 Live Crew found themselves in the middle of controversy with their 1989 release As Nasty As They Wanna Be. The misogynistic lyrics and explicit themes depicted on the album drew fire from all directions and landed the group in a First Amendment battle after their lyrics were declared obscene by a U.S. District Court judge, making the sale of the album by retailers a potentially arrestable offense. An appeals court overturned that ruling but not before the controversy boosted sales past 2 million copies.
His 2 Live Crew days behind him, Campbell has worked to develop a trove of other Miami artists including Trick Daddy, Trina and Pitbull. But he has also focused on building his youth sports program in Liberty City as co-founder of Liberty City Optimists, an athletics and mentoring program for Miami-area kids. Earlier this year, he even took a stab at running for Miami-Dade County mayor.
He began coaching football at Central High School in 2009, acting as a surrogate father to several at-risk teens who later went on to play college football. As they await the Education Practices Commission’s verdict, students and the school community are afraid of losing not only a coach, but a friend as well. “He’s like a dad,” Jacquintin Victrum, a one-time mentee of Campbell’s who is now a linebacker at Northwestern University, told SI. “You shouldn’t judge anybody on what happened in their past. Honestly, everybody can see that he’s changed or whatever. He’s a good man.”
But Jack Anderson, a Coral Gables, Fla., lawyer who helped get As Nasty As They Wanna Be banned two decades ago, is skeptical of whether or not Campbell has reformed. There’s been talk of a 2 Live Crew reunion tour (although Campbell said that if it happens, he’d do it solo), and appearances under his 2 Live moniker Uncle Luke in South Beach clubs (Campbell was known as Luke Skyywalker in the ’80s and ’90s, but changed it after threats of a lawsuit from George Lucas). “I commend him for wanting to do this, but who is Luther Campbell right now?” Anderson asked. “Is he new and improved and had a Road To Damascus epiphany, or does he still have his hand in this?”
Campbell doesn’t talk much to his players for fear of worrying them and remains hopeful he’ll be allowed a permanent certificate. But he worries about how the kids he teaches will feel if he’s denied. “It’s bigger than me,” Campbell said. “It would be sad in more ways than one. They would be sending [the kids] a message that you can’t change your life.”
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