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In June 1990, a conservative group led by Florida lawyer Jim Thompson persuaded a federal district judge in Broward County to declare 2 Live Crew's third album, As Nasty As They Want to Be (which included the hit song "Me So Horny"), legally obscene. Luther "Luke Skyywalker" Campbell and his crew performed songs from the album anyway and were promptly arrested.

At the ensuing obscenity trial, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (an acclaimed scholar and Duke University professor) testified on the Crew's behalf: "Does it detract from [rap] being art because the words used are four-letter words?" their lawyer asked. "Oh, no, not necessarily," Gates replied. "The greatest literary tradition in English literature... Greek literature, Western literature always has its vernacular... included a lot of lewdity, a lot of verbal puns, sexual puns, curse words..."

During cross-examination, the prosecutor, not to be outdone, quoted some of the band's lyrics: "One of the songs that was performed at the concert," he explained, "where they sing 'Together as one we will be, I will be f---ing you, you will be sucking me then licking my asshole, lick it 'til your tongue turns doodoo brown,' That's great classical literature?" Gates's reply? "I never said it was Shakespeare."

As prosecutors read more lyrics into the court records, the jurors had an important question for the judge: Were they allowed to laugh? Permission was granted.

[The upshot? The obscenity ruling was overturned on appeal, the record sold some three million copies, and 2 Live Crew found themselves in and out of court for several years. "I wish they'd respect me," a peeved Campbell later declared, "for the joker that I am."]

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