Uncle Luke, born Luther Campbell, is known as a founder of Southern hip-hop, 2 Live Crew legend, and an early pioneer of twerk music. Campbell has been in the rap game since the 1980s, and one consistency between his persona and personal life is that he’s not afraid to speak his mind and stand firm in his opinions.
The multi-hyphenate, whom many know for being responsible for Freaknik-era classics like “Hoochie Mama” and “Scarred,” faced down the Supreme Court in the early ’90s in a precedent-setting case to protect artists’ freedom of speech, founded his own record label, ran for mayor of Miami-Dade County, and has worked passionately with youth football in the area for decades.
The artist, record executive, and high school football coach, who now has an entire football field named in his honor, covered a range of topics while speaking with Atlanta Black Star, including giving us some generational wealth-building tips and sharing his surprising update on the alleged 2 Live Crew lawsuit over reclaiming their music catalog.
Congrats on having the football field recently named after you, what does that honor mean to you?
It means so much to me because I get a lot of respect from being an artist, or a hip-hop executive. But my passion is youth football and I love it. And the second thing I did after buying my mom a house was I started my youth football program, Liberty City Optimist. And so that’s 31 years ago.
To have the field named after me is such a great honor. I didn’t sought out after having someone name a field after me, the good people of the community, the commissioner, and some of the pastors felt that it was important that it get done, and they did it. I’m happy about it.
And you coach a team, a team that plays on that field?
Well, I did. I’m the president and the co-founder of the organization. I coach high school football, one of the local high schools around the area of my program, which is Miami Edison Senior High, I’m a head coach there.
It was reported recently that 2 Live Crew was hit with a lawsuit after you guys were trying to buy back your catalog. Can you talk about any next steps, about whether you’re still trying to get the rights back, or where you are as far as progress right now?
Yeah, I mean, I saw that online. I wasn’t actually served with anything, but I guess I’m not a member of the 2 Live Crew. What was happening is some of the members of the group filed a lawsuit to reclaim the copyright. After 35 years, you can go back to reclaim your copyright if you lost it in any kind of lawsuit, any kind of legal proceeding.
So after 35 years, artists have the rights to go and reclaim the rights to their catalog, or our works, or whatever it may be. And so, we did that. So obviously they’re going to try to defend their position on us not being able to reclaim the rights, which is their prerogative. But as of now, I have not been served with any lawsuit. Maybe some of the other members who was with Lil’ Joe Records were probably served with something, but not necessarily me. I’m just exercising my rights as a former member of the group to reclaim my copyrights from this record company, that in my opinion stole our works.
It seems like there’s been a wave recently of more artists that are trying to reclaim their catalogs and get those rights back. Do you feel like the industry is at all starting to kind of shift into the artist’s favor or is it still a real struggle between the artists and the labels?
It’s still a struggle, but with these laws that are in place that you can reclaim your copyright, I think there’s some great firms out there that pretty much understands the process. Like the firm that we have, they’ve litigated thousands of these cases and they have been very successful…I think it is a shift when you see different artists, whether it’s Miley Cyrus, and Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, or any of these artists that are trying to go back and reclaim their rights that was un-rightfully taken away from them.
It’s really asinine to go in the studio be a creative and be a creator, go in and do your music, and some lawyer or some accountants are in the back room coming up with a scheme to, in my opinion, steal artists rights to their music, and to then sit home. And because they’re slick, to be able to feed their families off something that you did not even build, something that you did not even create … then 35 years later, when it’s time to turn it over, they want to fight. But that’s just the nature of the beast, that’s the world that we live in. We live in a very sick world, where people want to steal people’s rights, whether they’re family members or not. You hear stories about family members, dads and moms making claims to rights of their kids works, which is pathetic that these things are happening.
You’ve been able to sustain a long and successful career, and you have your hands in a few different businesses and you’ve been able to build generational wealth. Do you have any advice for those of us that are trying to work on building our generational wealth?
I mean never rent, buy houses. … A lot of these investments, I would tell people make wise and smart investments, anything that’s a quick fix don’t get involved in it. If you make money any other way, I would suggest that you don’t put money into the music business because it’s a very difficult business, and it’s very clique-oriented. I tell all my athletic friends who inspire to be in the music business, “Look, don’t do it unless you really ready to throw away a bunch of money. But if that is your lifelong dream, no problem, do it.”
I try and tell people, especially artists, respect your fans, don’t treat your fans like second-class citizens because they love you, and they’re going to tell somebody else about you, whether or not you are a good person or not.
Just be wise with your money. I mean, going up into the strip club, throwing up two or $3,000 a day, when your homeboy right there barely paying his rent. Help somebody out, build generational wealth by investing back into yourself …Those cars, soon as the car leave the lot, the car lost value. Yes, I know you want to buy a nice little whip that you’ve always dreamed of, but don’t overdo it. But just invest back into yourself. And if you do that, you’ll always sustain this because there are going to be some days where it’s going to be down and you going to be down, numbers going to be down, everything’s going to be down. But if you’ve invested in yourself, the value of your company and what you do will always stand the test of time.