If there is one thing that humanity has a current and rampant love affair with it’s definitely jerking ourselves off over how accepting we are. White people in particular really love to point out how accepting and totally not bigoted we are (heartland racists notwithstanding)
It’s definitely ‘In’ to tolerate/celebrate other peoples differences. In media it’s very apparent. 20 years ago there were gay characters on TV but mostly as a comic relief or worse, the butt of the jokes. They weren’t characters, charicatures and they were plot devices. Now turn on an episode of Glee and try to point somewhere on the screen without hitting a gay character. And they’re not JUST gay, they have personalities outside of being gay because we’ve moved forward with our thinking.
Want to automatically get on the outs with most right thinking people? Start espousing some racist or exclusionist rhetoric. Unless you’re in a mechanics garage or at a Trump rally, you’re going to receive a poor reception. It extends to nearly all walks of life, systems of belief and nearly every ethos. You can walk into a bar and announce that you’re a vegan, lesbian, gluten free, transgendered hermaphrodite who identifies as a roast beef sandwhich and you’re more likely to get accolades for your “bravery” than confused laughter.
Still though, there’s one group out there that’s still very, very unpopular that people love to get their hate revved up for: The Insane Clown Posse and their followers, Juggalos. I’ll save the perfunctory backstory, if you’re reading this you’re on the internet and you’re already familiar with both of them.
I’m not here to badmouth ICP or their fans, in fact I’m here to present you with a few facts that might change how you see them. I don’t expect you to go out and get a full chest tattoo of the Hatchet Man, but I do know that the points I have to make may in fact put them in a different light and give you at least some appreciation for what they contribute to the world (Which if you’re like most people you probably assume the answer is “Jack fucking shit” beyond some lulzy memes)
I have been an avid ICP fan since a fateful day in the 90’s when my friend Steve put a free promotional cassette for Carnival Of Carnage into his tape deck. He had picked it up at a record store where it was set beside the counter for anyone who wanted a copy. Steve, who listened almost nonstop to WuTang Clan, easily the most pretentious rap group ever, quickly ejected the tape and threw it out the window declaring it the worst thing he had ever heard. Despite his reaction I myself was intrigued. Rap combined with horror laden imagery? Now this was some rap I could get behind!
Since then I have seen them in concert and bought all their albums at one point or another. One thing about being an ICP fan, it’s amllost never a warm reception when you announce that you’re down with the clown. It’s only slighly, and I mean only by an amount calcuable with a finely calibrated electron microscope, less acceptable than announcing that you’re an active member of NAMBLA at a PTA conference.
“But…you’re not [insert general perception of Juggalos here, an idiot, poor white trash, covered in Hatchetmen tattoos, retarded and drinking a 40 while pregnant, etc]” is a common reaction I get when I tell someone I like ICP, as if being mentally defective or on welfare are the only feasible reasons for liking them.
To a degree, I get it. Some Juggalos can be obnoxious, then again so can most Christians, atheists, door to door salemen, tech support agents and midgets. Actually I’ve met a lot of annoying ass midgets…what’s with that? Anyways, the common sentiment is that in order to like ICP you need to be an overweight white guy with corn rows and clown faces painted on your manboobs. I won’t deny that this contingent exists, nor that it exists with such regularity and ferocity that it’s a completely justifiable stereotype but what I DO want you to do is take another, closer look at these clowns, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. Here are a few things you may not have known or considered about the Insane Clown Posse.
1. They are a true American success story.
The media is rife with articles about rags to riches tales that are supposed to make you feel good but really, do they make you feel good? A lot of these stories boil down to “The artist struggled for a bit and then the right person noticed them and now they’re making millions of dollars”
Now I don’t know about you, but “Struggled for a little bit then got super rich” doesn’t make ME personally feel inspired in light of the fact that most people struggle their whole fucking lives, work hard and never see the big payoff. Finding out that someone else got insanely lucky and got noticed doesn’t make me feel better about the cosmic lottery. People love to talk about Lady Gaga living in an apartment in New York that had cockroaches as an inspirational “Look how far she’s come” story but in reality she started focusing on music in 2006 and released her first album in 2008, so what, 2 full years of hardship? Yeah, that’s a real struggle.
Gettings noticed by the right person doesn’t mean you’re talented or that you worked for your success and deserved it, all it really means is that you’re lucky. I don’t get inspired by luck, I get inspired by the people who worked their ass off for their stations in life and never stopped working along the way.
No matter what you think of ICP, you can’t deny their work ethic. Not only did they work hard, they suffered hard. Let’s take a look at a few career lowlights that would have been cause for most right thinking musicians to call it quits:
While putting flyers on cars outside of a club for a show early in their career a bouncer at the club forced Violent J to remove all the flyers from the cars and then upon finding out he was in a rap band punched him in the face, giving him a crooked nose to this day. Not many people can boast minor facial reconstruction as a price they paid to make their art.
Things started looking up when they signed to Holywood Records, that was until The Great Milenko was recalled by the record label HOURS after it was released. Imagine that, you’ve made a new album, it sells 18,000 copies out of the gate and suddenly the people who helped you make it are cancelling it along with all your appearances, your tour and your music video.
Then a silver lining appeared! It turns out the publicity over a clown themed rap band promoting violence and murder was catching on and people were taking note. Increased publicity would have been a god sent and saving grace except…the critics absolutely shat on the album.
Art and music critics are worthless because all of it is subjective and often the people reviewing the art aren’t a fan of that style and are only using their own narrow yardstick of taste and quality to measure its quality. In an interview with Adam Carollo the band said (And I’m paraphrasing here because I have not been able to locate a copy to quote online) that the problem here is that you have people who don’t like rap, comedy or violent music reviewing it and saying its terrible. If you’re not into that type of music you’re not qualified to make an assessment on it. “If you want to know if our new album is good or not, ask someone who likes our music and they can tell you if we made a good album or it sucked” which is actually a very astute critique of critics. If you spend your whole life thinking only movies like The Bridges of Madison Fucking County you’re going to think everything that’s not an acclaimed drama is garbage and never be able to enjoy an action film.
One critic, who doesn’t really deserve to be cited by name (because honestly, someone who just makes a living shit talking and produces no other content of worth or value isn’t worthy of recognition or publicity) said of the album “with its puerile humor and intentionally ugly metal-rap tunes, the album feels oddly dated” Dated? At exactly what date did you hear ANOTHER rap album by a white duo espousing moral lessons via violent imagery with a supporting mythology behind it? Seriously, have you heard a LOT of that? So much in fact that it’s both played out and apparently reminiscent of a certain time frame? Dipshit.
So what would have been a publicity boost ended up just being a group bowel vacation on their work.
These guys didn’t just work for it, they suffered for it. People love to talk about Lady Gaga living in an apartment in New York that had cockroaches as an inspirational “Look how far she’s come” story but in reality, what ICP went through makes that story look like someone attemtping to compare a tough day selling Girl Scout cookies to being active infantry in the Normandy Beach Landing.
Yes, they’ve achieved success, but they’ve also been told every step of the way that they’re failures, they suck, they’re not going to make it and that they’re stupid. the fact remains, whatever you might think of them personally, you can’t argue with results and if you can’t concede to anything else, you can’t argue that they aren’t determined.
2. They’re underdogs who give outcasts a sense of belonging.
Do you know why ICP has a following of people so devout they’d give Slayer fans a run for their money? It’s because they call out to the disaffected, the people who are rejected even from the reject groups. When society doesn’t want you, you become a Goth, metal head or greaser. When they don’t want you then you start looking for someone else who does.
If you’re like most people out there you’ve probably seen pictures or videos of ICP and their fans. Every year a little after Gathering Of The Juggalos the internet is filled with picture galleries and video compilations of the event and it’s usually a far cry from a piece in the New Yorker, usually it’s the internet equivalent of “Hey, lookee here at them thar weirdos n’ losers!”
Now here’s where the problem comes in. A lot of people (Read as the entire fucking internet) love to get roused by every single internet outrage of the week. You people love to get behind causes where you perceive someone to be a victim or make loud, boastful, self aggrendizing claims of support for underdogs and bullied people. You’re constantly crying foul over minor slights to feminism, race, sexuality and every other flavor of the week wail of injustice because you want everyone to know how tolerant and open minded you are. You want to blow your horn to the sound of your own mind blowing acceptance…except I constantly hear you fuckers going off on Juggalos. So what, this is where your tolerance stops and your unabated hatred and derision begin?
See, you think you stand for tolerance but you stand for the MTV version of tolerance. The fact is most human beings are shitty, hateful people and they really aren’t good at letting that part of their crappy personalities go. No, most people are just very good at suppressing it and then shunting it to another outlet. So you’re a champion of causes for gay, lesbian, transgender, minorities, immigrants, etc, but you still have to find an outlet for the internal garbage you have so why not open the spicket a bit and stand in judgment of a music group? Yeaaaaaaah, you thought you were better than that, funny right?
ICP has found a way to connect with the misfits among misfits and bring them together. A sense of belonging is far more powerful than most things musicians have to offer. They didn’t make a band, they made a movement and they invited everyone who would come. So go ahead and laugh it up. Go find the videos of pictures from GOTJ and guffaw over the overweight kids, or the dorks in makeup, the sluts or the poor losers. Laugh it up motherfucker, but at the end of the day you’re actually worse than any of the bullies YOU hold disdain for because you actually think you’re better. You’re not, you just found an open lane for your ugly, judgmental hatred that still an acceptable place to laugh at people like this. You can’t claim to be a champion of tolerance and then cut it short when it comes to a certain group. You’re still a bully and ICP had the amazing idea to be your antithesis and accept with open arms the people you rejected.
For the record I am not saying Juggalos are any of the things I listed above, I’m saying it’s what the rest of the world perceives them as.
So again when you take away everything else and boil the situation down, you’ve got a group of people who have a vested interest in making outcasts feel loved and welcomed, how could you sneer and shit on that? At the lowest common denominator it’s a very positive thing.
3. They are authentic as fuck.
The same people who will bitch that bands sell out for becoming popular will turn around and give a band shit for being authentic too, like all the people that whine that Nine Inch Nails is a sell out band because a lot of people like his music and he’s not interested in playing clubs for 50 people while living in a studio apartment. Some people think that is selling out. Well, if you’re of that mindset the good news is, ICP is a band that will never sell out, ever.
They own their own label, which means they never have to dumb down their lyrics or write a song because the studio told them ballads were really big (Seriously, Johnny Cash and like every metal band in the early 90’s got fed that bullshit line and fell for it) they call the shots, from their music, to tours, cd art and everything else. And that’s part of why people hate them. They don’t have to appear on a crappy late night show and make a good impression SO THEY DON’T.
Have you ever heard some Holywood actor or director who makes millions of dollars bitching that they can’t make a piece of art their way and think “Hey asshole, you have tons of money, just go make something the way you want to!” well, ICP is the answer to that. They took their money, made their label and gave the finger to anyone and everyone who could have suppressed them artistically.
Going back to the underdogs/outcasts point from earlier, ICP and their fans don’t get a facelift or liposuction to appear younger, they don’t do publicity appearances on Ellen to woo some dumb ass demographic like shitty sycophants. They hold their ground and continue to make offensive, outspoken art on their terms, with their fans the way they want to. That’s part of why people hate them, they are NOT going to meet you halfway. We’re so used to people buckling, giving in, conceding and pandering that when someone has no interest in it we think it’s either stupidity or outright offensive.
The problem is that people like the underdog that is LIKE them, the ugly girl who actually just needed to take her glasses off and get new clothing to be “beautiful” or justin Long playing the unpopular dork who gets a lucky break in the movie and ends up with the hot girl. What I’m getting at is, people love the underdog who really was just a hot stud the whole time. What people really, really fucking hate are the ugly ducklings who stay ugly.
Appreciate ICP for the fact that they’re authentic and will never become watered down or homogenized like so many artists do, it’s worthy of respect.
4. They’re original.
This is a band that didn’t just start playing music and end up popular and then 5 years later was making music for Hollywood blockbusters (Cough, cough, Manson anyone?) these are guys that had a vision, a weird, fucked up vision. They created a mythos, they created a sound, these guys created a type of music combining rap, rock and horror themes that had never been done before. Yes, Horrorcore existed in some small forms but it’s like comparing cave paintings to the Mona Lisa. They turned the volume up and created an entire legacy and built an empire based on an original mythology.
How many more songs in the world do we really need about going to the club? I like “Scream and Shout” and “Telephone” just fine, but they’re still just mostly anonymous songs about going out the club and being sexy. How many more songs do we need by DMX telling us how he’s going to kick some asses for an unspecified offense against his badass character?
Put in an ICP album and actually listen to the lyrics and you’re going to get a story that’s equal parts Johnny Cash, Freddy Krueger and A-Team. You’ll find songs about wicked spirits dispensing valuable (if lethal) moral life lessons, stories about a man who found a bazooka in his grandfathers basement and the ensuing renaissance of the spirit that can only come with surface to air ordance. There are songs about killer hearses, putting your nuts in peoples soup, the joys of sex with full figured women and much, much more. In fact, I’d wager to say aside from the given that there’s going to be talk about murder, you’d be hard pressed to guess what bedlam and anarchy any given album is going to deliver.
I love NIN but I can tell you every album has 8 songs about women being shitty, a song about god and one about the powers that be. If you’re tired of being able to guess what’s going to sex up your ear holes next with outright ubsurdity ICP will deliver.
5. They are in fact musically talented, or at least technically proficient.
You might HATE the style of music they make, but unless you’re an absolutely braindead fool, you can’t discount a genres technical proficiency at what they do just because it’s not what you like. They’re actually talented. People like to debate talent because they equate their personal taste as a yardstick of talent.
This is like saying Wayne Gretsky sucks at hockey because you don’t enjoy hockey. Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean your taste dictates their talents. Personally I hate Lord of the Rings but I cannot say it’s a bad movie because based purely on the scope and quality of the cinematography I could not, in good conscience, deny that it’s a masterpiece of film making. Sure, it’s a masterpiece that makes me want to put a bullet in my head out of sheer boredom from the hours of soulful, meaning filled glances between the protagonists, but it is a work of art nonetheless.
You may not be aware but they are in fact hugely influenced by the music of Michael Jackson and stated that the engineering and cleanliness of sound in his recordings was their inspiration to take the quality of thier sound seriously. Sure, it might be a song about nutsacks, but you’d better believe that it’s the most professionally mastered song about nutsacks to ever exist.
6. The lyrics aren’t as dumb as everyone makes them out to be. Let’s shut the fuck up about the “magnets” line.
Their lyrics can be dumb. Yep, that’s true but you know what? So can the lyrics of every other band in the world. Have you ever actually sat down and READ lyrics out of the context of most popular songs? Seriously. Song lyrics are probably some of the worst writing on planet Earth, we give them a free pass because the tune usually kicks ass. Let me use an analogy on this one…
Have you ever eaten just the olives off of a Subway sandwich? They taste like little shit rings dipped in gopher pee. They’re terrible on their own as are a LOT of ingredients in fast food. The thing is, when they’re combined with the larger picture of the sandwich they taste alright. Lyrics are the olives of the music world. They are palatable in the context of a song but if some guy came up to you on the street and said:
“Hello, hello, baby, you called? I can’t hear a thing / I aint got no service, in the club, you see, you see / Wha-Wha-What did you say, huh?” you wouldn’t think he was a poetic genius, you’d think he was borderline mentally defective and needed to change cellular providers.
Stop trying to convince me that any pop music out there is superior in the lyrical department.
Let’s look at a few bands people think are genius and see what their lyrics really look like on paper. Let’s start with the ever amazing “Whole lotta love” by Led Zeppelin which gives us the nearly Shakespearean mastery of the following passage –
“Way, way down inside honey, you need it, I’m gonna give you my love… I’m gonna give you my love. Wanna whole lotta love” (Repeat 43 more times with the Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrr! guitar riff)
Or industrial legends Skinny Puppy who people revere as geniuses but in reality boast the lyrical content that sounds like the result of a Speak N Spell having a stroke with such masterpieces as –
“binge cringe on the fringe sloppy mincing eyedropping biopsy cyclops overlooks
optic options rotton showstopper skinpopper babbler dabbler”
I like both of those bands OK but let’s be honest, is “babbler dabbler” or Robert Plante talking about being some girls “Backdoor man” any more devine word play? If we’re going to start taking the scalpel to every song and judging it based on how much sense or how profound the lyrics are it’s going to be a bloodbath because a lot of great songs have some pretty fucking stupid lyrics. You’ve let all the other stupid lyrics of the world slide, give them a pass on it.
7. They’re in on the joke.
I don’t know why but people really seem to think that ICP isn’t aware of their own absurdity, that somehow a group with that name is taking themselves seriously and doesn’t realize that they’re…well…CLOWNS! I mean come on people, they come right out and admit it, they’re clowns and clowns are supposed to make you laugh. Unless you’re the type of person who is just so rectally water tight that they can’t laugh at some good, crude humor, you’ll get a laugh out of their tunes. That’s what they really want. It’s the one theme that permeates every album, the desire to make you laugh.
In a fucking ugly ass world of hate and anger, isn’t two people who just want to make you laugh and smile enough to cut them a little slack and deserving of respect? I submit that it is.
Post script – If you are in fact at least nominally intrigued to give The Insane Clown Posse another chance, here is some recommended listening –
$50 Bucks – It’s a good song that opens with an unexpected guitar strumming and plummets into a graphic bet between the clowns on who can score more tail in only the most obscene ways possible. https://youtu.be/OK5fPV0dqsw
When I’m Clownin’ – Again, a well mastered song that despite it’s whimsical content, out performs most Holywood produced hits in terms of engineering quality. It’s also catchy as fuck so listen to it twice so it will madden you for the next 24 hours. https://youtu.be/1erjP1P8FCY
Bazooka Joey – Just a hilarious song and worth a listen as the sound of an outgoing mortar whizzes from one speaker to another. https://youtu.be/lbcBJZKp6CM
Fonz Pond – Just a great tune with some very tight audio performances and nuances in the sounds. In fact, a lot of ICPs songs have very layered sounds intigrated into the mix, give it a listen https://youtu.be/sRgaTC9EFAs