A cham­pion of free speech and nasty lyrics in 2 Live Crew


Christo­pher Wong Won, a found­ing mem­ber of the Miami hip-hop group 2 Live Crew whose sex­u­ally ex­plicit lyrics trig­gered a na­tional de­bate over the le­gal lim­its of artis­tic free­dom, died July 13 at a Veter­ans Af­fairs hos­pi­tal in Miami. He was 53.

The group’s man­ager, DJ Debo, said Mr. Wong Won, known as Fresh Kid Ice, had suf­fered from un­spec­i­fied med­i­cal ail­ments for sev­eral years.

2 Live Crew gained fame in the 1980s and 1990s for its Miami bass sound, sex­u­ally ex­plicit lyrics and le­gal chal­lenges.

A judge in Florida ruled that the group’s 1989 al­bum “As Nasty as They Wanna Be” was ob­scene, lead­ing to the ar­rest of a record store owner who re­fused to stop sell­ing it. Mr. Wong Won and 2 Live Crew front­man Luther “Luke” Camp­bell also were ar­rested af­ter per­form­ing songs from the al­bum at a show in Hol­ly­wood, Fla.

A fed­eral ap­peals court later over­turned the ob­scen­ity rul­ing, and the U.S. Supreme Court de­clined to hear fur­ther ar­gu­ments in the case from the group’s crit­ics.

The Supreme Court sided with 2 Live Crew in 1994 in a sep­a­rate case, rul­ing they had the right to par­ody other artists af­ter they were sued for sam­pling the Roy Or­bi­son song “Oh, Pretty Woman” on a clean ver­sion of “As Nasty As They Wanna Be.”

The group’s 1990 al­bum “Banned in the USA” was the first to be sold with a “parental ad­vi­sory” la­bel warn­ing about its con­tent.

“They paved the way for a lot of artists to be able to do what they do on records now,” Debo said. “They fought in court for peo­ple to say what they want to say.”

Christo­pher Wong Won was born in 1964 in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, and his fam­ily moved to Brook­lyn in 1977. He was hip-hop’s first no­table rap­per of Asian de­scent, and he ti­tled his first solo al­bum “The Chi­na­man.”

Mr. Wong Won told Vice last year that many 2 Live Crew fans didn’t know he was Asian un­til their mu­sic videos were re­leased.

“The Asians were there in the begin­ning of hip-hop — but as DJs,” he said in the Vice in­ter­view. “We’ve been in the back­ground and stayed be­hind the scenes, but we learn from our mis­takes. A lot of peo­ple see us as be­ing pas­sive, but some­times be­ing pas­sive means that you’re learn­ing. Right now, I see us right there with ev­ery­one else.”

Mr. Wong Won co-founded 2 Live Crew in Cal­i­for­nia in 1984. A cou­ple years later, the group moved to Miami and was joined by Camp­bell.

Af­ter the group broke up, Mr. Wong Won re­leased sev­eral solo al­bums. In re­cent years, he re­united with 2 Live Crew mem­bers for sev­eral per­for­mances. His mem­oir, “My Rise 2 Fame,” was pub­lished in 2015.


Christo­pher Wong Won — Fresh Kid Ice of 2 Live Crew — in 2015 at the Black Cat in the District.

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