Luther Campbell, the Miami-based record-label owner and rapper best known for raunchy hip hop anthems like “Pop That Coochie,” knows a thing or a thousand about twerking.
Riding the Miami bass sound and amply-proportioned dancers to fame as part of the rap group 2 Live Crew in the 1990s, Campbell has seen more than enough twerking in his time to know what’s real and what isn’t. (And he knows plenty about getting in trouble for it, as well. In 1990, Campbell and 2 Live Crew were defendants in an obscenity trial.)
Miley Cyrus, according to Campbell, falls firmly into the fake category.
“Let’s be real with it,” Campbell said, “you’re making a joke of some historical dancing.”
Campbell, who recently wrote a blog post for Miami New Times titled “Miley Cyrus is Doing What Got Me Banned in the U.S.A.”, said Cyrus’ performance at the MTV Video Music Awards exposed a double-standard perpetuated by TV networks and music industry executives.
“Do I respect the fact that she could still do that? Yes. Because I fight for that,” Campbell said in an interview Friday at a Miami high school where he is an assistant football coach. “But at the same time, these execs at these networks, they frown and say, ‘We can’t play your video. No we can’t support your product.’ I mean, this ain’t the first time she did this. She did it on ‘Good Morning America.’ I’m getting my 4-year-old ready for school, I’ve got the TV on, and (Cyrus) is giving a lapdance and I had to turn the TV off.”
Even today, Campbell said he still has trouble winning the trust of industry executives. He pointed to his trouble earning an invitation to the BET Music Awards last year to perform with Sean “Diddy” Combs and rapper French Montana, who sampled Campbell in his hit “Pop That.”
“They were actually acting like I was the Antichrist. And Puff had to go, ‘nah, I want Luke,’” Campbell said. “He had to fight to even get me on the show because of those types of things. So I still live it to this day with the networks and TV. And when I saw (the VMAs), I was like, ‘Wow.’ … At the end of the day, the double-standards are amazing.”
Because of these experiences — past and present — Campbell is confused about the new pop-culture fascination with twerking, saying, “It never stopped. There’s been dancing and twerking and booty-shaking for 100 years.”
Campbell recalled an improbable meeting in the early ’90s with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the ex-wife of Nelson Mandela and a prominent South African politician, that gave him some insight into the roots of the dance.
“(Madikizela-Mandela) explained to me — when it was at the height of the controversy — that this is what we do. This is our heritage. This is what’s in us,” he said. “The women go around and they perform for the men and they dance and do these gyrations and sometimes they only have a two-piece or a one-piece on. So I was like …. I’m alright. I was straight after that. No one else had to tell me nothing.”
When it comes to actual twerking ability, Campbell doesn’t think Cyrus pulled it off.
“If you’re going to do that, do the dances, go get you a trainer and do the buns-ercise and go eat you some peas and rice and oxtails,” Campbell said. “Go all the way in if you’re gonna try. Don’t come out there with all your butt hanging out the back of your pants, and have about this [Campbell holds his thumb and index fingers about an inch apart] much. I looked and thought it was gonna be OK. Alright, then she turned around and I was like, Oh my God.’ This is horrible here.”