Christopher “Fresh Kid Ice” Wong Won, a founding member of the groundbreaking rap group 2 Live Crew and a pioneer for Asian rappers, has died. He was 53.
Former bandmates Luther Campbell and Brother Marquis announced Fresh Kid’s death Thursday.
Won died early Thursday in a Miami hospital from health complications.
“People we lost a legend,” Campbell said over social media.
Won was born in Port of Spain to Trinidadian and Cantonese parents, and relocated with his family to Brooklyn when he was 12. After graduating high school, he joined the Air Force.
While stationed in Riverside, Won and fellow reserves David “Mr. Mixx” Hobbs and Yuri “Amazing Vee” Vielot formed the rap trio 2 Live Crew.
In 1985, 2 Live Crew released its first single, a bouncy, bass-heavy electro rap number called “The Revelation/2 Live.” Like a number of aspiring acts navigating the L.A. rap scene, 2 Live Crew took the single to Macola Records, a vinyl pressing plant that allowed artists to put their own imprint labels on the recording — Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records was Macola’s most famous client — and sell them independently.
“The Revelation” caught on in Florida, and the group, minus Vielot, relocated to Miami and aligned with Campbell, then a local promoter who performed under the moniker Luke Skyywalker.
Campbell became the manager and added himself to the group, becoming its lead member.
2 Live Crew group then took on a raunchy, sexually explicit aesthetic and became a national sensation with its 1986 debut, “2 Live Crew Is What We Are,” which was certified gold.
Shortly before the release of the group’s second album, “Move Somethin’,” in 1988, Won was in a near-fatal car accident, which injured his brachial plexus and caused him to lose movement in his left arm.
Tawdry recordings like “Me So Horny” and “We Want Some [expletive]” incited conservatives. The group’s third album, 1989’s “As Nasty as They Wanna Be,” was by far its most controversial. In 1990, a federal court in Florida ruled that the album was legally obscene — the first in history to be deemed as such.
A record store owner in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was arrested after refusing to stop selling “As Nasty as They Wanna Be,” and Won and Campbell were arrested at a South Florida nightclub after performing songs from the album.
The obscenity ruling was later overturned by a federal appeals court; the case was pivotal in the creation of standardized parental advisory labels.
“We knew that we were gonna get arrested, but we also knew we’d get our day in court, and we knew that there’s value to our music even though it’s not what they wanted it to be,” Won told Miami New Times in 2014.
“Our music is party music told in the way that guys and females talk behind closed doors. It’s locker room talk, and we knew it was protected under the First Amendment.”
Won launched his solo career with his debut album, “The Chinaman,” in 1992. He continued to release solo projects while recording with 2 Live Crew and formed his own imprint, Chinaman Records.
Won suffered a stroke in 2009; a second one the following year affected his speech and forced him to learn how to walk again.
Won departed 2 Live Crew last year to focus on his own imprint. Earlier this year, he released “Breaking Glass Ceilings,” a mix-tape showcasing new artists. Last month, it was announced that Lionsgate was developing a 2 Live Crew biopic based on Campbell’s memoir.
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