Fresh Kid Ice, one of the co-founders of seminal and controversial hip-hop group 2 Live Crew, has passed away. The group’s manager said the rapper, born Chris Wong Won, succumbed to a “medical condition.” He was 53 years old.
Being of Trinidadian and Chinese descent, Won was one of the first notable rappers of Asian heritage. Alongside DJ Mr. Mixx and Amazing Vee, he started 2 Live Crew in Miami in 1984. From the release of the group’s 1986 debut, The 2 Live Crew Is What We Are, their sexually charged lyrics courted controversy that followed them throughout most of their career.
2 Live Crew came under national scrutiny after their third album, As Nasty as They Wanna Be, became the first album to be declared legally obscene (the Supreme Court overturned the ruling in 1992). Florida’s governor at the time, Bob Martinez, declared the album obscene and allowed the arrest of record store employees that sold the album — a move that inspired the song “Fuck Martinez”. Won and 2 Live Crew frontman Luther Campbell were arrested in 1990 following a performance in a South Florida club for performing songs off the album.
The controversy led the band’s next record, Banned in the U.S.A., to become the first album to have the “Parental Advisory” sticker affixed to its front. Both of these incidents only helped 2 Live Crew’s album sales and gave the group the biggest records of their career. Beyond selling millions of records, 2 Live Crew and Fresh Kid Ice fought numerous legal battles that significantly changed the future of hip-hop and sealed the group’s fate as unlikely 1st Amendment champions.
Following the group’s final album, The Real One, in 1998, Won continued his career as a solo artist. He was also one of the first artist to work with Flo Rida, and is largely credited with discovering the popular rapper. In 2004, he founded his Chinaman Records label.