There’s a stigma that surrounds the Insane Clown Posse, a prejudice that tends to steer outsiders away while strengthening the bonds of their community of followers, known as Juggalos. In the current popular music landscape, there are few groups that rock the boat as much as ICP while still making platinum records. But for some, success wrapped in intense scrutiny is intriguing. TCP talked with Violent J, one of the two members of the Insane Clown Posse, and had an enjoyable conversation with one of America’s most talented, misunderstood musicians.
ICP’s studio, Psychopathic Records, is just up the road in Detroit. Both Posse members grew up in the urban decline of a once-great city with a rich musical history. Yet one of Violent J’s biggest influences might come as a surprise. “Our hooks, believe it or not the way we sing them, it’s our influence from Michael Jackson,” he said. “You wouldn’t know that, ‘cause what we’re singing about and the beat we’re singing it on, you would never know there’s a Michael Jackson influence in there.” He conceded that “after it comes out of us, it don’t sound like Michael Jackson no more.” Whether or not you are a Juggalo, these artists are continuing a legacy of American music while critically thinking about those who preceded them.
With a name like Violent J, it could easily be assumed that this guy has some history of aggression, but that isn’t what gave rise to his name—it actually just came to him. “We were driving and I remember right where we were [ . . . ] we were in Del Ray driving around at night, you know, looking at all the burnt down f#%*ing buildings and shit and I was like, yeah, I’ll be Violent J. And the rest is history,” he explained. He is now a family man, a husband and father of two; not quite the madman as portrayed by the media. And as far as the impact of family on his career is concerned, “It don’t change nothing musically, you know what I’m saying, but it definitely changes my life,” he said.
Insane Clown Posse is an interesting phenomenon. While many recording artists beg for appreciation, ICP acts like they don’t need it. This could be the reason for their success, a go-it-alone mentality that resonates with people in a way that other music can’t. Unfortunately, along with that mindset comes misunderstanding. “There are thousands of things written about the Juggalos . . . people write so much negative shit,” Violent J said. It’s hard to overlook the negative media attention, but the beauty is that they brush it off and keep doing their thing. The music world could learn a lesson from the individuality and radical self expression embodied in the culture that ICP has created.
Insane Clown Posse has just started a tour with Da Mafia 6ix, 5 of the 6 original members of Three 6 Mafia. The two groups met when they teamed up on a track back in 2000 and recently produced a full length album together titled Reindeer Games(2014). “Shockfest” is a 28-stop tour, lasting just over a month long and covering much of the continental U.S. In a few weeks they will be rolling through Toledo, their quintessential Faygo showers and Juggalos are sure to follow. Give this group a shot, their live performance won’t disappoint and should be on every concert goer’s bucket list.
ICP will appear on the Headliners stage, 4500 N. Detroit Ave. on
Monday, September 29. (419) 693-5300. $39.75, psychopathicrecords.com/tour-dates.