It’s difficult, looking back from 2018, to understand just how thoroughly people once lost their god damn minds over 2 Live Crew. So outraged were the moral guardians of the early 1990s over Luther Campbell and company’s gleefully juvenile and sexual lyrics, as least one person was actually arrested for selling their records, and As Nasty As They Wanna Be earned the distinction of being the first American album to ever be legally defined as “obscene.” (The ruling was later overturned.)
And when it came to early-’90s controversy, no one was better at milking it for awkward, addictively watchable TV like Phil Donahue. Donahue—that proto-safe-space for America’s housewives to catch the rising edges of the country’s weirder, more transgressive cultural elements—actually played host to Campbell and his crew a number of times, usually as part of a wider conversation/shouting match about public indecency. (You can catch Jack Thompson, later infamous for his equally hard-handed pearl clutching on the topic of violent video games, in at least some of those clips.)
The group’s most fascinating Donahue performance—at least in terms of pure Schadenfreude—has still got to be its first, though, from March 1990. To be fair, 2 Live Crew did change the name of their hit single “The Fuck Shop” for Donahue’s deeply Midwestern-looking audience. (It went by “The Funk Shop” instead.) But they did not change many, if any, of the lyrics, creating the fascinating spectacle of the camera cutting back and forth between the band inviting young women to, among other things, drink their cum (and nothing more), and shots of well-coiffed ladies quietly losing their fucking minds at the indignity their pal Phil was putting them through.
It’s obviously all calculated for shock, on both the band, and the show’s producer’s, parts. But it’s worth it just to watch a bunch of respectable car salesmen try to glare a rapper for death for talking about filling them up “with something milky and white.”