The real star of this week’s Village Voice. Don’t miss 1:00 to 1:20–capturing it on camera changed my life. Also, his dancers are amazing.
Andrew Hieb is a 12-year-old Juggalo from Rock Springs, Wyoming, a town with a population of “approximately 20,000,” according to the city clerk’s office. His favorite subject is math–at the end of this past school year, he’d finished the curriculum for kids two years his senior. He wears glasses, pauses to think before he speaks, and invokes Cousin Oliver from the Brady Bunch–except that his hair is twisted into menacing mall braids and he uses words like “ass” and “fuck.”
Andrew features prominently in this week’s cover story, “Revenge of the Losers: Live from Insane Clown Posse’s Gathering of the Juggalos” because for the last few years, he has won the Gathering’s karaoke contest. It’s his favorite thing to do at the festival besides climb the local rope swing and dive into the nearby Ohio River. He first entered the annual competition three summers ago at the age of 10, to support his older sibling Shad. With his mother Sherry and step-father Frank in tow, the brothers seperately rapped along to a recording of ICP’s “Chicken Huntin’,'” a metal-riffed rap-rock anthem about cutting up rednecks. (Exemplary lyric: “What can you do with the drunken hillbilly?/Cut his fuckin’ eyes out and feed em to his Aunt Milly.”)
Andrew in the Gathering of the Juggalos karaoke competition in 2008
Back then, Andrew was much more timid. Draped in an orange basketball shirt that hung to his knees, the elementary-schooler strained his neck over the microphone and mostly stood in one place while mumbling the lyrics. His brother Shad’s rendition was livelier, but Andrew’s adorable precociousness made him a crowd favorite. Upchuck the Clown, the contest’s host, even told the seated audience, “This kid right here is the shit, man.”
Andrew killed it again in 2009. This time he had a mohawk and a purpose. He stomped around the stage like a baby dinosaur while again leading the crowd in “Chicken Huntin.” His brother didn’t enter; Andrew won easily. The text beside a YouTube video of that performance, posted on his stepfather’s channel, reads, “Lil ninja spittin wicked shit.”
Andrew in the Gathering of the Juggalos karaoke competition in 2009
In 2010, the lil’ ninja prepped for spittin’ wicked shit by mouthing along the words to Mp3s. (But not in front of the mirror–I inquired.) Before his family left for the Gathering, his 62-year-old grandmother asked if he’d chosen his songs. Her interest surprised Andrew.
“We were kind of scared to show her [the videos],” his mom Sherry admits. “Her grandson saying ‘Fuck?’ But she thought it was cool.” Now Grandma can’t wait to see this year’s performance. “She’s proud of it.” Sherry doesn’t mind if her sons curse at home. “As long as I’m not getting a phonecall from school saying, ‘They’re cussing, come get them,’ I’m fine.”
At school, Andrew identifies himself as a Juggalo even though his friends don’t (“they’re still cool with ICP and all that”). Still young enough, he can wear his hatchetman gear to class (he’s worn ICP hats, shoes, and a backpack), though 15-year-old Shad can’t. “Even if I’m wearing something with [ICP acolytes] Twiztid killing somebody, with a cigarette–ah, a blunt–in their hands, teachers don’t even really see the blunt because it’s so small on the shirt,” Andrew says, with the casual defiance of a shopper who has just sneaked 15 items through a 10-item checkout.
He doesn’t understand why his hometown treats Juggalos like a gang. “Seventy percent of us don’t do anything,” he reasons. “Twenty percent just dresses up as clowns and walks around. Ten percent does something.” By “something,” he means “something bad.”
Something not bad is Andrew performance of “Seven,” a track by a killer scarecrow MC named Boondox. Written from the perspective of a “demon spawn,” the homicidal climax goes like this: “I hear these voices talkin’, they won’t leave me alone/Tell me snatch up this bitch by her hair and drag her home/Over my shoulder in the back of a pick-up truck/Can’t wait to get her home and hold her/Bleed her/Then chop her up.” Two hypemen bounce around the stage while Andrew paces back and forth, grabbing at his crotch and frequently missing. At one point Faygo gets sprayed all over his shirt and in his eyes. His reaction is priceless.
Andrew wins, of course. His encore is “Chicken Huntin,'” which isn’t even his his favorite ICP song–that’s “Tilt a Whirl,” a campy track about killing a rich dude and a child beater on a carnival ride. (“We gonna spin until your soul/Leaves your body dead and cold/Tilt-a-whirly sprayin’ blood/All over the neighborhood.”)
After he’s collected his winnings–a free Gathering of the Juggalos T-shirt he picked out from the merch table–a random Juggalo runs over to him, gives Andrew a first-pound and a “Whoop! Whoop!” His grandma would be proud.
A less-bloggy version of this text also appears in “Revenge of the Losers“