When it was announced that this year's VH1 Hip Hop Honors would celebrate the music of the Dirty South, the premise seemed much deserving given the decade-plus domination by the southern rap scene from Ludacris to Lil Wayne. Such icons as veteran label head and producer Jermaine Dupri; Rap-A-Lot founder J. Prince; Organized Noize, the lauded studio visionaries behind Outkast and Goodie Mob; and influential southern music mogul Master P, will be given tribute on July 7 in New York.
But one outspoken name is re-thinking his involvement in the historic show. Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell, whose Luke Records (formerly known as Luke Skyywalker Records) was the first Southern rap label established in 1983, says that while he's thrilled to be part of such an honor, he says he feels disrespected at just being simply labeled as the guy from 2 Live Crew.
“This year I’m supposed to be honored, but they only want to honor me as a member of the 2 Live Crew,” says Campbell, who also led Miami’s bass music scene for much of the ‘80s and early ‘90s. “They want to honor Master P for his business savvy and they want to honor Jermaine Dupri for his business savvy and I’m kind of offended by that. We have basically been talking it out, but it’s just so sad that people just don’t know my history. They try to link me with a group and not see me as a businessman. Luke Records was the first independent black owned record company owned by a rapper. We were the first to distribute our own product. There’s just so many first…the first to have an independent R&B group to go platinum with H-Town.”
Indeed, over the years, the groundbreaking Luke Records has featured the likes of the aforementioned 2 Live Crew and H-Town, MC Shy D, Poison Clan, JT Money, Trick Daddy, Pitbull, Home Team, and Luke himself. With a string of gold and platinum records, Campbell is seen by many hip hop historians as the bridge to other successful Southern rap imprints such as Suave House, No Limit, and Cash Money.
“For an organization like VH1 to try to say I’m just the first person to go to the Supreme Court over music censorship and be a part of the 2 Live Crew…I told them the other day, ‘Just go fuck yourself.’ We were even the first to have a street team. That wasn’t discovered by [Loud Records head] Steve Rifkind. I love Steve to death, but they keep giving him the credit. I don’t want to be a part of it unless you honor what I’ve done in a proper way. I’ve never asked anyone to do anything. But when you ask me to be a part of something, I’m not going to let you disrespect me.” —Keith Murphy