AIN’T MY VAULT: Luke Interview Pt. 2
Part one, in case you missed it.
How did you feel about the other artists coming out of the bass scene at the time?
I think Miami does not have a sound right now… Oh you said back then? Back then I was excited because we had a sound that you could identify Miami with. It was the bass sound it was uptempo it was what we created and you had other artists around here piggybacking off of what we were doing and they were doing really good. Not on a national level but on a regional level. Then you had 69 Boyz and they were doing good on a national level and you had Quad City doing good when they did the Space Jam movie. that was a major movie for them and that was a bass record. I was really excited about the sound and the sound was something that you identify Miami with. You know that was southern music, that was the only southern sound at the time. We were the only ones from anywhere else that was really doing something. I mean you had Jermaine Dupri in Atlanta but he wasn’t really doing nothing southern. Only person in his camp that was really doing the southern sound was Lil Jon. Not in ’88 but a little later on. The sound was there, you heard a bass song you thought of Miami.
And we put the visuals [out there] as well with Video Juke Box, where we had an outlet because BET would not play our videos under no circumstances. It’s amazing now how much hell I had to go through in trying to get a video played on bet with a girl with a bikini on on the beach. It would be all hell breaking loose. I was the worst thing in the world. How could I put an african american woman with a bikini on on the beach? They just did not get that at all. But after Video Jukebox then everybody knew that and people wanted to see it. Still BET would not touch a video without MTV [playing it first]. MTV was pretty much the first one to put one of our videos on. Yo! MTV raps came down, I told them I didn’t want to come to New York and sit in the basement because I wanted to show them Miami. I’m not from New York. So they came to Miami, I wanted to show why we do what we do because we was going through so much hell. They came and they saw the beaches and the sand and people walking around in bikinis. In Washington DC, at BET headquarters there’s no fucking beach. So they don’t understand that people walk around in bikinis.
Ha, That’s true. I’m up here in DC now, it’s definitely nothing like Miami.
This is back in 88. Black people wasn’t even traveling to no beaches. The spring breakers was white folks. Oh no, y’all go to Martha’s Vineyard. And the crazy part about it, when I was a rough kid my mom sent me to stay in DC, I stayed in Oxon Hill with my brother, I know there wasn’t any damn beaches. So I couldn’t fault the employees of BET, they just needed to get out more.
Did you ever mess with the go-gos when you were up here?
Shit yeah. Man, Rare Essence, Chuck Brown, that was my thing. I used to go to a lot of the go-go shows at The Armory and when they used to have it at the Cap Center I’d be there. That’s really where I got a lot of call and response from. I was a DJ and I did call and response, but I never [knew] how to apply it on a record. So when I did spend my time up there, I would go to these shows and I would see Chuck Brown up there and Rare Essence and I would see the battles. Because back then, they would be battling and shit, they would be getting down, it’d be like battle of the bands. So I heard that and I kind of applied a lot of that into me as an artist. Keeping the party started, coming up with different call and responses. I learned a lot from go-go music.
Why do you think the bass sound of Miami caught on the way it did?
Because we were doing something and saying something that people wanted to hear, but people [before us] would never say. When we did the song “Throw The D” it was a dance song first of all, it had bass. So at that time, that was when the transition was people now focusing more on their stereos. We had that bass pumping in somebody’s car, everybody had a boom box. LL made em all buy radios. So we put so much bass in that boom box that was out of this world. Plus it was danceable. Plus on top of it you had these dudes talking about “Throw The Dick” and the other song “Throw The P” so that was a dance. Everything was a dance. “Throw The D,” people thought that [we were] talking about fucking somebody. That wasn’t the case, “Throw The D” was the name of a dance, and “Throw The P” was the girls version of that dance. The people would come down, hear the music, they would go to college, they would take their shit to college. “Y’all got this new york music, y’all go this go-go music, we got our Miami shit.” So they would make the DJ at the colleges play their Miami music. So now that’s what hipped the other kids from the other parts of the country to this new Miami shit. So then before you knew it, it became word of mouth. You know, around the country.
Then I would be sitting up there sending my records to all the record pools around the country so I could be sure that they had it. I would focus more on college campuses because I knew that you had Miami people living there and they’d be coming from Miami to those different colleges and they’d want they shit played. I just had to make sure that the DJs had the records. At the same time I was then starting this whole street [team] thing. I was looking at how people do presidential campaigns and run for office. I saw the little signs people were putting in the yards, giving out the flyers. I would already promote my parties like that and so I’d get me a guy on every campus, send him a Luke jacket, send him some records and now he’d be my promotional guy. And he would give out flyers and he would take the records to the clubs. Cause I couldn’t afford a record promotion man nor could I afford getting a record on the radio. So I would have these college students interning as promotional people for me in different regions across the country. So that’s how the music actually got popular and started spreading around the country.
Before you mentioned that you’re a little dissatisfied that Miami’s sound wasn’t what it used to be.
There is no sound when I look at Miami right now. You have artists that do different stuff down here. Very successful artists. But I think you need to have a sound to be successful in the long run. You can get an artist here and there, you can have one or two artists pop off, but if you have a sound, back then when go-go was hot, go-go had a sound, the Atlanta sound, you knew an Atlanta record. They have a sound, that’s why they’re so successful. They’re pretty much the only ones that have a sound. California, they had a sound, at one point, they never modified the sound. What Lil Jon did with our sound, he modified bass and turned it into crunk for Atlanta. We never expanded on our sound. Every time somebody do a Miami bass record it’s a very successful record. When Missy Elliott did her last song that was a Miami Bass record. That was a very successful record. She had the dancing going on in the video.
People still love that sound. It amazes me, people call me every day. Kids doing the parties right now, 13 years old. Certain people I grew up with they is like “My daughter is 13 and she did a 13 year old party and kids is jumping up off the record like it was back when we was running around.” It still amazes people. The sound is not dead, it’s just nobody is really using it. It could be a lot more artists out of Miami but a lot of artists want to do gangsta. When I look at the little girl who did “Lip Gloss” to me that’s a Miami Bass record – uptempo, lot of dancing, it’s a novelty record. When I see “Chicken Noodle Soup” same thing. That’s a Miami bass record all day. Kids from New York, they doing it, that’s what people like. So people kind of abandoned the sound and not using it. And now the Miami artists is much more commercial. You don’t know that’s a Miami record. Flo-Rida gotta tell you he’s from Miami. And I like Flo-Rida’s shit. Rick Ross gotta tell you he’s from Miami. You gotta really listen to Rick Ross’ lyrics to know that he’s from Miami. Trick Daddy same thing. Pit got a lot of latino in his music and that’s the latino sound for Miami, but we don’t have a sound that you can identify with.
And a lot of these artists you’re mentioning – Trick Daddy, Rick Ross coming out of the slip n slide camp – sort of came up either directly or indirectly under you, but you don’t hear it.
They know the story. When I found Trick and Pit and I sat in the studio in hard times with Rick ross and the Dirtbags and all these guys of the world and I sit there, I be giving them history lessons. I don’t just sit there and talk about money and girls and all that shit. I tell them – ‘look, when the Fat Boys was performing in St. Louis and Salt N Peppa and all the rest of them and Kid N Play they would leave us. They would ask the promoters to make us perform last because they were boycotting what we did. From our sound, who we was, they just did not feel like nobody other than a New York artist should be rapping. I would give them history lessons where I would tell them that we was like black people trying to break into a white school. We would fight.
I was in Jackson Missississippi on stage and Run DMC’s managers said ‘them niggas ain’t from New York, put em up there and give em three minutes.’ And because they were the headliners they would tell us that and we would have three minutes on the stage. And I would just stand on stage and say “these motherfuckers don’t want us to perform. they don’t want us to do the show that we capable of doing, so we’re gonna cut their record for three minutes.” And we cut “Peter Piper” and we would have a big ass fight on the stage because it was like those artists and some of those label heads did NOT accept us. And they fought like hell. We was in Nashville Tennessee. Eric B & Rakim got into it right back stage. We had brawls fighting with these guys ’cause we were not from New York and we were not accepted by them. A lot of people that people praise right now and a lot of these guys making money off of southern music, if they knew the history, if they knew what we had to go through… because donnie simpson and kid n play and salt & peppa would be sitting on tv. You would be sitting in your living room and they would be talking about us like dogs. “Naw they ain’t hip hop. That ain’t hip hop.” We went through some shit. So those guys, I give them a history lesson so they can understand where this thing came from.
And not about the sound or anything, they know exactly where this whole movement came from. You sit down and have a conversation with Cee-Lo, Cee-Lo will tell you, Goodie Mob all them guys, they’ve all said “hey Luke, we understood the struggle that you went through and that’s why we respect you so much.” And they know right now today that I’ve never been given an award for nothing. No BET award, no kind of award under no circumstances, but when those guys get in the magazine and they say “man, Luke was the one that paved the way for us” that’s all I need right there. So if those major corporations who don’t want to admit it, I’m cool with them cats saying that. It makes me feel real good that they know the history and that’s all I need. I don’t need nobody giving me no award to put on the wall. At this point now today it wouldn’t really mean nothing to me. If BET called right now and said “we want to give you a lifetime achievement award” I would not show up. Because right now it don’t mean nothing. What means something to me means them kids, getting in there, knowing their history and researching their history and saying “hey man, we fucking respect what you do.” Because it’s really too late for anybody to give us anything.
It must be nice to see so many southern acts getting recognition in this generation.
It’s great, when I look at what Cash Money is doing. [Back in the day] I signed up this kid called Bust Down out of New Orleans. And Bust Down was one of the hottest kids from around there. So when I see Baby at a club and he come to me and say “hey man, I tried to get signed with you way back then when you signed Bust Down”. I said “Really? I never heard of you.” “Nah, cause we was telling Bust Down to put us down with you. You came to New Orleans and you really respected our sound.” I spent time in New Orleans and I had a hell of a time. Nobody didn’t know nothing about it but the people in New Orleans. But I loved the sound and that’s when I signed Bust Down. So when you see them guys, when you see Jon and you see Goodie Mob, and all them guys, Flo-Rida, Trick, Pit. I see all these guys and I be happy. I feel like a proud Godfather.
When I go to some of the shows and be hosting some of them events. It brings back so many memories. Even if I’m performing. Normally I had a tradition where I wouldn’t look at another show, but nowadays I look at it because it’s almost like looking at what you created. You see the cats out there doing the dances on stage and they having fun, you see Rick Ross and all them out there performing. Shit just makes me feel proud. What I did had to kick down the doors, and we did have to fight to be on those shows. And I really did it for something. When they wouldn’t let me on the TV shows, when they wouldn’t let our videos on BET, I didn’t stop right there. I looked for another outlet to get our videos shown. When the radio stations said “no we ain’t playing this shit” I never stopped. I found somebody in the radio stations that’ll play a record from down south. And I’ll never forget it, at the New Music Seminar this one guy got up there and said “southern music will never be nothing”. And I stood up in the middle of the room and it was maybe 2000 people and I said “my man you will eat your words.” I forget the dudes name, but he’s a big guy in the music business right now. I said “you don’t understand the music business because if you knew how many records we were selling you’d have a different opinion.” That was before the soundscans and all that stuff. So it was just a big fight “that shit ain’t gonna last” it was like we were going against the establishment. I said “my man, just remember the south is bigger than california, the south is bigger than LA and the south is bigger than NY. So if you keep thinking with that mentality the south will eventually rule this game. Once these kids in the Memphises and the Texases start doing records, you don’t want to get to the point where you want to take on a fight with one city against half of the country.” And that’s what you see right now today.
But unlike the people who was in control back then, the south welcomes everybody. We don’t take the attitude that them guys had back then. It was like “if you ain’t from new york, you ain’t where it’s at.” And they had a real problem. I got a lot of respect because I was the first southern artist that blew up in New york. That day right there I met Red Alert, I met quite a few other people, Flex and all them, they were young guys. They had a lot of respect for me and them dudes started playing my shit in New York. So I was the first southern artist to get played in New York and that broke down all kinds of barriers because cats from New York respect a real g. And that’s why I’m happy that we ain’t taking the approach that some people back then took against us. It was a real hateful thing that they did to us. We don’t do that, we welcome everybody, we work with everybody, we love everybody. The south don’t talk about nobody. These guys they accept and they’ll work with anybody. Like I said back then and I said now, you need versatility in the music. We need New York and California to come back with a bunch of hot ass New York artists and some new Cali shit other than Snoop in order for the music to continue. I said that back then. It can’t be all about just one sound because it’ll turn into disco or house. It needs to be modified. We need that new hot dude from Brooklyn, a new hot dude from Harlem. You need the new motherfucker from Compton. But you know how the industry goes, they seem to ride whatever’s hot.