2 Live Crew
No rap group (save, perhaps, N.W.A) has stirred more controversy or provoked more heated debate than the 2 Live Crew. The furor over the graphic sexual content of their X-rated party rhymes -- specifically their 1989 album As Nasty as They Wanna Be -- was a major catalyst in making rap music a flash point for controversy and an easily visible target for self-appointed moral guardians. The fierce attacks on the group's First Amendment rights put many of their defenders in an awkward position -- passionately supporting their freedom of speech on the one hand, but often finding little artistic merit in their music. And they were indeed crude and coarse, and frequently misogynistic by most standards; even if they fit squarely into a tradition of raunchy, sexually explicit black comedy (Redd Foxx, Rudy Ray Moore, Blowfly, etc.), many critics and intellectuals found their view of sex repellently juvenile, even ugly (and if they found it funny, it was hard to say so publicly). Despite (or, more likely, because of) that fact, the 2 Live Crew were fairly popular even before all the uproar and benefited greatly at first from all the publicity, although later on the novelty perhaps wore off due to overexposure. Regardless of whether one enjoys their sense of humor, to focus only on the controversy ignores the 2 Live Crew's musical contributions. They were responsible for popularizing the booming, hard-driving sound of Miami bass music, and they were the founding fathers of a populist, dance-oriented rap subgenre that relied on simple, explicit chants and up-tempo rump-shaking grooves, appropriately dubbed "booty rap."