Luther Campbell knows a thing or two about politics. As front man of Miami bass outfit 2 Live Crew, Luke has had his share of run-ins with politicians. In 1990, the group’s third album, Nasty As They Wanna Be, was ruled obscene and illegal to sell in U.S. District Court. The ruling was overturned in Supreme Court two years later. Now, almost 20 years later, Luke has his eye on the other side of politics. Shortly after Miami’s last mayor, Carlos Alvarez, was recalled over inflated tax rates and salary raises for county employees, word began spreading that Luke wanted to run for office in the M.I. Yayo. Last week, he filed the paper work to officially begin his candidacy as Miam-Dade’s next mayor. XXLMag.com caught up with Luke to discuss his campaign issues, overcoming past controversies and why appearing in rap videos is still OK, but going to strip clubs isn’t. —Carl Chery
XXLMag.com: What do you say to people who don’t take your campaign seriously?
Luther Campbell: Basically, that’s our slogan. We’re serious. Are you? I’ve always been known as being the business man, you know, running the record company. I kinda think of government as a business. It’s a little political, but it’s a business at the same time. That’s why it’s so important for me to speak to a lot of different groups of people, do interviews like this right here [to] explain to people how serious I am. When you go through the Supreme Court, that’s political. When you have governors and state representatives and all these politicians coming after you and you’re protected by the First Amendment. Fortunately, you don’t have to be involved in politics to understand political process, especially if you’re a community server like myself. And I need to get things done in my community. You have to know something about politics. You gotta know who you need to talk to and you gotta know the different things available for these different communities.
XXL: What are your campaign issues?
Luke: Basically, the last mayor [Carlos Alvarez] upped the taxes 14 percent. My job is to roll it back. He added 15 more departments, gave all these people raises. My job is to go in and look at those departments, evaluate them to the fullest and put good people in to work and run those departments, because most of those departments have friends and family members working [in them]. At the same time, I look at the affordable housing situation. It’s a disaster. Crime is probably the biggest issue. Dade County, we’re a tourist destination. And being a tourist destination, you’re gonna have to make a decision as to where you wanna take your family at on vacation. You look at crime, crime directly affects that, ‘cause you can’t have that going across the news every night. It all ties in together, you give people jobs, give them housing and at the same time you don’t have as much crime as you would normally have and understand [that] the main economic [source] is tourism dollars. I think the individuals that I’m running against, they don’t understand. I’ve been fortunate enough to be one of the main creators of the entertainment industry in South Florida, which is generating the most revenue right now when you see artists coming in doing videos, recording an album, moving here at the same time, paying taxes, that’s something I created and I just want to expand on that.
XXL: You mentioned Carlos Alvarez. What are some of the other things you didn’t like about his tenure?
Luke: I mean, the mayor got recalled. One thing I didn’t think he did a good job with community relations. You have to go and revitalize these communities, bring back public trust. The public needs to be able to trust the government. My job would have to be to actually go in and run a government for the people, look out for the have-nots.The previous administration, their job was to look out for the haves. That’s what’s been going on. And even to this day, we’ve had quite a few kind commissioners, as well the African American commissioners that are not doing a good job that needs to be done for the community. I don’t just point the finger at, “Ok, we have a mayor that’s a Cuban mayor and he’s not doing it for the people of Miami.” It’s not a color thing with me, ‘cause when you look at color in Miami, the ones that’s actually doing it to the Black people are actually the Black politicians. When you look at Sweet Micky and Haiti becoming the president. I mean, that’s major. That’s an artist with a lot of hip-hop influence and got so much love for his country just like myself. I got love for my city ‘cause I could have easily picked up, moved to New York and lived a great life, or I’d move to LA and live a great life by being in that in crowd but I decided to stay here and give back to my community and that’s what I’m doing with this race here.
XXL: You mentioned trust. There are a lot of older folks in Dade County who may remember you as a raunchy rapper. How are you going to gain their trust?
Luke: Well, I’ll gain their trust by explaining to ‘em I’m a business man at the end of the day. I let them know about my family and my family history. I’ll let them know about my brother being a professor, my oldest brother and my other two brothers being Physics majors and comptrollers and navy pilots and general managers of resorts. I’ll let them know what kind of background I come from. I’ll them know about my mother and my father, how I was raised. [I have] a Jamaican father and a Bahamian mother. I let them know about me as a person. I’m a business man and I put many people in business in South Florida as well as employed many people in South Florida. So when you look at me don’t look at me as a character, look at me as a business man because I only did that on the weekend. Unfortunately I was never able to go on a major concert tour because I couldn’t, I had to run a business. I’ll let them know about things I’ve been doing in my community for so many years. I’m talking about the trip to Cuba when I took a 747 airplane to Cuba with Fab 5 Freddy, Ted Demme, an MTV crew, BET crew and I paid for the plane to feed the people in Haiti that was stuck in Guantanamo Bay, the military picked them up ’cause they were astray in the ocean. I’ll tell them I started a program called Liberty City Optimist that kids like Chad [Ochocinco] Johnson, Antonio Bryant, Darryl Sharpton- these kids are in the NFL right now because they were part of my program. People grew up on the music, but then at the same time they know that I’m a business man, they know I’m a freedom fighter. I’m the guy who fought to protect you on the First Amendment, so people respect that. I know that there’s no other candidate that’s in this race that has done as much for his community as I have. If there was, I wouldn’t be running.
XXL: Speaking of the other candidates. Are you concerned about them trying to use your past against you?
Luke: We expect that. The biggest thing is the people here think Latinos won’t vote for a Black person. My thing to them, well, they basically said these people won’t buy any rap records and we already know the story to that. That’s what they’re banking on. Hip-hop is so powerful, like I keep telling people this is the start of the Hip-Hop Party. I mean, they have the Tea Party, they have a Democrat Party, Republican Party. I’m a Democratic Party member, but I just hope that we can start a hip-hop party cause we can do so much for our community if we get politically involved. The Ice Cube, the KRS-Ones, the Ice-Ts, we were always involved politically. I just wish this is something that can get these young guys motivated.
XXL: Immigration is a big issue in your area. What’s your policy on immigration?
Luke: My view on immigration. These immigration laws that they passed in Arizona, I think it’s a disgrace. The police need to worry about policing. They don’t need to be worried about green cards, who’s legal and who’s not legal. My thing is people come to this country. We all came to this country. People came from all different walks of life and all different countries to come here. We’ll hear stories about kids, their parents came here illegally, but the kids are in school and now they wanna throw everybody in jail. That’s bad. At the end of the day, people gonna have to walk around with their passports around their necks to let people know they’re legal. My family members are from Jamaica. Some of my other family members are from Nassau. I don’t wanna see them getting harassed or deported because of some glitch in some system.
XXL: Now that you’re running for mayor, there’s a certain line that you have to walk. Do you feel like you won’t be able to appear in rap videos or go to strip clubs?
Luke: I’m being elected to a job and I have a responsibility. I would have to turn myself in a certain way. I’m a hip-hop mayor. My same policy applies with me. I would have to believe in the artist, believe in the music. That’s why you gon see me popping up in a video. I have to like the music and like the artist, because I think being in a video is really an endorsement of that artist. So when I got in the Biggie Smalls video ["One More Chance (Remix)", I liked Biggie smalls. Biggie wasn’t as big as Biggie was. If Jay-Z called me up, [to be in his video] I’m there because that’s my guy. I’m not saying strip clubs are a bad thing, that’s one thing I’ll probably miss. Because I think that’s not my job, it would not look good. If I’m gon represent the people, then I’m gon be representing all different walks of life, so I will have to do some changing because that’s what the job entails. I’ma still be me. I’d love to be sitting up there with Lil Wayne at King of Diamonds on Monday night, but it might not be good.