You may’ve noticed that Insane Clown Posse, the Most Hated Band in the World, have hijacked this blog, this paper, this life. The two questions we’ve encountered in this process have most frequently been: 1) Insane Clown Posse are still around? 2) Are these guys serious? The answers are yes and yes. As this edited transcript of our hour-long conversation with the blazingly passionate Violent J and his equally devoted life partner, Shaggy 2 Dope, suggests, these two men aren’t joking. Discussed below: Method Man, Tila Tequila, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Trekkies, their Gathering of the Juggalos performer wish list, why a Juggalo is different than “a regular person,” how clown love is supernatural, why haters opened “a can of whoop-ass” on the “Miracles” video, and so so much more.
This year, when Method Man kept shouting out, “Illinois” at the Gathering of the Juggalos and seemed confused by their repeated “Whoop! Whoop!,” I couldn’t help but wonder, do you let performers know what to expect from the Gathering? Or do you assume they know?
Violent J: [With Method Man and Redman] we didn’t just book them and assume they’d know what a Juggalo is. We actually sent them the documentary, A Family Underground, which explains what the Gathering is. The other thing is that their booking agent is a guy we’ve been booking acts through for years. We thought for sure that guy would explain to them what this was. We figured they wouldn’t even say yes unless they knew what it is.
Also, usually we go [backstage] and give [performers] a quick brief. We tell them what’s up, what this audience is like, and who they are.
Shaggy 2 Dope: But [Method Man and Redman] just pulled up in their bus. It was just another date they were playing.
Violent J: They just pulled up, and we were in our bus getting ready. [Insane Clown Posse headlined the last night, after Method Man and Redman’s set.] There’re groups all weekend, so we didn’t talk to everybody, and unfortunately that’s what I apologized to [Method Man] for. I said, “I’m sorry we didn’t come over and give you a quick briefing on what’s up.” But we really honestly assumed they knew and they didn’t — and that’s unfortunate because one asshole made the Juggalos look bad. [Method Man] told me it almost knocked him unconscious it hit him so hard. And that’s fucked. I don’t want him to think that’s all Juggalos. We all didn’t throw that.
A lot of Juggalos I talked with couldn’t understand why you invited “mainstream” performers to an “underground” festival.
Violent J: We like it to be a four-day festival. When it works, it’s a beautiful thing. Look at Tech N9ne — they love Tech N9ne. Look at Bones Thugs-n-Harmony. For some reason, Bones Thugs-n-Harmony can murder it every time they do the Gathering. They kill it. Bones Thugs-n-Harmony have a lot of slower pop songs, lot of r&b influence.
It’s hit or miss. Andrew WK didn’t do so well. Vanilla Ice turns it out every time. You don’t know who else they’re gonna wanna see. Usually, gangsta rap works. But you can’t be sure of that, either. One year, Too $hort went up there, when the Gathering was about 50 miles away from Cleveland, and Too $hort kept saying, “Cleveland!” And they were throwing shit at him the whole time. And that’s Too $hort, man! How could you throw shit at Too $hort?
Shaggy: We had Ice Cube up there [last year] and not one thing [was thrown at him].
Violent J: They were throwing shit at the Ying Yang Twins two years ago. We figured, “The Ying Yang Twins, they got fun anthems!” We didn’t pay the Ying Yang twins 30 grand for them to come in and get booed offstage! You can’t guess who it’s going to happen to.
Some artists go up there and seem to not have a clue [about Juggalos]. And that insults Juggalos, I think! When they’re at their own festival and the artists don’t have a clue. It’s obvious they’re there just for the money.
Other artists seem to care more. Other artists seem to take an interest in the Juggalos and they want to prove themselves to Juggalos. And Juggalos can feel that.
I was just talking with Tom Green and he said he made an effort to research the Gathering.
Violent J: That’s what Juggalos can detect. They know when somebody’s up there with no respect for them. Juggalos aren’t the most popular people in the United States. So when somebody’s up there, showing them respect, they respect them back.
One thing I do know is if anybody does a little bit of investigation, they will be able to tell you, Juggalos are not just ICP fans. They’re much more than that. They’re not the Deadheads, they’re not the KISS Army, they’re not hippies, Juggalos are something that’s never happened in the music industry. Juggalos are AMAZING! They’re an incredible phenomenon.
Juggalos are picked on, they’re fucked with, they’re the black sheep. When they come together, there’s so much love because they know what each other goes through. When there’re 800 Juggalos, it’s just the magical feeling. It’s like, “OHHH, FINALLY WE’RE WITH FAMILY!”
Being a Juggalo says a lot about somebody. It says that they like more to their music than just a fancy hook. It says that they have a deeper imagination. It takes more to entertain a Juggalo. They’re into showmanship, theatrics, facepaint, background story — it takes more to entertain a Juggalo. In return, Juggalos are faithful. Their support is tremendous. Their loyalty is 100 times that of a regular person.
Regular people, they’ll like you when your shit’s on the radio. As soon as the radio and MTV stops spinning it, they forget about you. Juggalos don’t work like that. They’re down with you and they support you. As long as you provide that fresh produce — not that stale shit, not that, ‘Oh I got a fancy hook.’ You need a whole story. Juggalos are awesome, awesome people.
But you guys are the leaders in this culture.
Violent J: Actually, we don’t look at ourselves like that. We look at ourselves just like you. We’re standing there looking at it all. Serious! We don’t think this shit up — we hear about it. We don’t think of what hits and won’t hit. We thought Tila Tequila would turn it out — we didn’t know that was gonna happen. Juggalos knew that was gonna happen. We watch in amazement.
When this shit is around us, this shit is mindblowing. This shit is. A. Lot. For Us. To Take. Both of us are on medication for this shit. It’s too overwhelming. This shit is — [long pause] — unreal! Everyday. Is Breathtaking. Every day, it’s amazing — that Juggalos even exist. And we appreciate it. We don’t control this. We’re not the leaders of this. All we do is provide a soundtrack.
Shaggy: We’re a part of it.
Violent J: We’re promoters, we promote events that bring us all together. But Juggalos are their own beast. Their own movement.
But you definitely tapped into this thing, this “movement.”
Shaggy 2 Dope: We are Juggalos.
Violent J: The difference between us, and all those other bands that Juggalos love, is we are Juggalos. I don’t think these other bands are. They have Juggalo support, Juggalos love them. But they themselves, they turn it on and off, depending on where they’re playing. We don’t turn it on and off. It’s full-time for us. It’s in our blood.
Shaggy 2 Dope: We represent Juggalos no matter what we’re doing or where we’re at. We could go to an award ceremony — which we never do — but if we did, we’d be repping to the fullest.
Is there a shared life experience to being a Juggalo? For example, most of the Juggalos I talked with had a hard time growing up.
Shaggy: A lot of Juggalos have, but it’s not necessary. You don’t have to grow up in a broken home or nothing like that.
Violent J: You might have grown up with a silver spoon in your mouth, but still been the black sheep of your family. Or fucked with at school. You might’ve grown up with everything, but still relate to being a clown.
That’s the mystery of Juggalos: trying to define what it is. Years and years and years we’ve been pondering — years we’ve been trying to answer this. That’s why after all these years, our simple response, is “It’s super-natural.” We’ve thought of it all and tried to explain it all many many many times. Not just when talking to people, but just home alone, thinking about it.
Shaggy: It’s like trying to explain love to somebody. There’s many different explanations for it, but unless you experience it, you just don’t know.
Violent J: Why does somebody fall in love with somebody else? It could be because you have stuff in common, it could be because they are beautiful, but the magic happens when you fall in love with somebody. That’s what it is to be a Juggalo. It’s this love for each other, it’s this love for being a Juggalo, the magic comes in somewhere in the equation.
So specifics don’t matter? Some Juggalos I talked with were like, “You can’t be a rich Juggalo.”
Violent J: You can’t be a racist Juggalo. It sort of defeats the whole thing. If you call yourself a Juggalo and you have a racial prejudice, it’s just not making sense to me.
What about class? You guys do rap about targeting rich people — “richies” — though.
Violent J: People that have it all and don’t realize it and take it for granted. Absolutely. People would consider us “richies” now, you know what I mean?
Sure. So “richies” suck, but now you’re “richies”? How does that work?
Violent J: There’s a big difference. Most richies will tell you they’re not rich. Well, me and Shaggy are sitting here telling you, “Yeah, we’re rich.” We’re not gonna sit here and be like, “We’re just average.” Because then people who have less than us have to take the role as poor, when they want to be average.
But on a side-note. You would be very, very shocked to find out how little money we have. I think all of the Juggalo world would be very shocked.
Just a small example, we’re celebrating over here, because when the whole Gathering was said and done, Psychopathic Records only lost 15 grand. It’s true. I swear to you, it’s true. We only lost 15 grand. That means we came that close to breaking even. Yet in everybody else’s mind, they’re sure we came home with half a million. “Here’s your money, Shaggs! Here’s mine!” It just ain’t like that.
So the Gathering is a labor of love?
Shaggy 2 Dope: Absolutely.
Violent J: I don’t think we’ve ever in our lives made money off the Gathering.
Shaggy 2 Dope: That’s why we’re so geeked because we didn’t lose our fucking asses.
Violent J: The way we look at it, we paid 15 grand to give everybody that awesome experience.
Shaggy 2 Dope: It’s like our tickets to the Gathering were 15 thousand.
Violent J: Another thing people think — and I’m just shooting with you, being totally real — is people think that we get paid when we tour. Not true. We never get a penny for touring. It’s the same thing. When we come off a tour, if we can come close to breaking even, it’s a success. Because we bring all these extra guys to be clowns. And we bring this huge stage set. Every time we go on tour, we bring a different stage set, all the time. We never use the same thing we always switch it up.
Shaggy 2 Dope: And we go out like three times a year.
Violent J: We bring never-ending amounts of Faygo, which costs beacoup money, just to have a semi carry that shit over the country. And we’re not playing arenas, we’re playing 1,500-seaters. And when we’re done, if we can not lose our ass, like if we can not lose 80 grand, then we’re doing great. That’s the way it is.
The tour you’ve got coming up in October [“ICP: The Old Shit”] is deliberately stripped down. You’ll make some money from that.
Violent J: We want to make money for once in our lives. We’re doing a cool set, it’s gonna be old-school, but there’s a chance we could make some money, and that’s what we’re trying to do. For once, we want to go out and come back and put something in the bank.
Shaggy 2 Dope: Mind you, there’s only a chance.
Violent J: That’s not including any of the surprise costs. There’s a chance. Usually our goal is to break even. But this time, we’re gonna try.
If you were to take Juggalos from 1995 and compare them to Juggalos of 2010, how would they be different?
Violent J: I just remember getting our dreadlocks pulled out of our head and stuff like that in 1995. Back in the day, when we used to do shows, there wasn’t even a barricade. People were able to get up on the stage, run around for a minute, grab a Faygo, and then dive off the stage.
Shaggy 2 Dope: It was a lot more chaotic.
Violent J: Now, when we’re coming to town, the venue knows who we are. They know to put the barricade 15 feet back from the stage.
Shaggy 2 Dope: Insurance is ridiculous.
Violent J: They double the security up. People know now.
Shaggy 2 Dope: Now it’s like organized confusion, when before it was just straight chaos. Bones broken.
Do you think it’s hard for Juggalettes?
Shaggy 2 Dope: [Pause.] I don’t think so.
Violent J: I don’t think so, either. I don’t like the reputation that Juggalettes don’t get no love. We’re not exactly sex symbols or anything like that, so we don’t have a super amount of Juggalettes — they don’t outnumber the Juggalos or anything like that.
I definitely got treated differently at the Gathering because I’m a girl.
Violent J: It might be like that, and that’s unfortunate. But Juggalettes, from us at least, receive just as much love as Juggalos. We’re guilty of saying “bitches” and “hoes,” just like any other rapper. Not every one of our lyrics has some deep meaning behind it. A lot of it is what is.
Psychopathic Records really hasn’t had a female face.
Violent J: We’ve tried, we’ve tried. We tried to sign a female rapper and we’re always looking for a female emcee. We’re waiting for the perfect opportunity to come along. We’re trying to open up. That’s why we’ve been doing things with Sugar Slam lately — to put a female face out there to let people know we don’t like the reputation where it seems like we don’t have no love for females. We’re trying to change that. Like with Ladies’ Night.
But then on Psychopathic’s first Ladies’ Night, one of your female guests gets pelted with rocks.
Violent J: It didn’t work out. But we’ll try again next year. [Long pause.] That was Tila Tequila’s fault. She didn’t have to go up on that stage. She was told that was happening, that she wasn’t popular. Her exact response was, “I ain’t no bitch like that.”
Shaggy 2 Dope: She’d already got her money.
Violent J: She already got paid, nobody was gonna be mad at her. She wanted to go up there. Tila Tequila lives off press. If she doesn’t have press, what does she have? She went up there strictly for that and she knew what she was doing.
Who would you love to play the Gathering that has declined?
Shaggy: Nobody’s ever turned it down. It’s just a matter of meeting their price. You throw enough money at anybody, they’re gonna do it.
Violent J: I think Snoop Dogg would murder it at the Gathering. Getting Ice Cube was awesome, man. That was like the dream come true for us, right there.
As far as people who’ve turned us down. It would always be awesome to get somebody like Rob Zombie or Korn — something like that would be devastating. The prices are just astronomical. I don’t know if they are for everybody, but they are for us.
Then we try for groups like Puddle of Mudd and things like that that we think would be cool. But it just don’t work. They’re not interested. I think they hear it’s us and they just shoot us back some astronomical figure they know we can’t fuck with. I could sit here and name them off.
Most people don’t seem to think Juggalos are human.
Violent J: Juggalos are the most misunderstood people. People fear what they don’t understand and that’s a shame. Just because you don’t understand something — to simply write them off, it’s stupid. “Oh, I don’t know what a Juggalo is, so fuck them.” It’s a copout, it’s an easy, stupid way to be. Before you judge a Juggalo, just take a little time. Take a little time and look into them for yourself. You might be a Juggalo and not even know it. Why all these thousands of people would be happy doing what they’re doing and it bothers other people, I’ll never understand.
You know, not only do people diss us for what we do, but it’s almost to the point that they want us to stop! But what about the fun that everybody’s having? What about the memories all these people are having when they go to the Gathering. They’re having lifetime memories!
I’m not a Justin Bieber fan. But I don’t want him to stop!
What do you think it is about you guys that makes people want you to stop?
Violent J: We’re easy targets. We’re clowns.
It’s just like the “Miracles” video. When you really hate something, you don’t even talk about it. You just hate it. When I hear a song that I really hate, I just move past it. I won’t sit there and write down all the lyrics, and post something on a website: “This song sucks and here’s what’s wrong with the lyrics.” To me, that video affected people. It touched people. But they’re not man enough, or woman enough, or they’re not confident enough in themselves, to admit it. So they say it sucked and they hated it, even though they know it affected them in some way. And they don’t like it, therefore they open a can of whoop-ass on it.
Shaggy 2 Dope: They sit there and they know the lyrics well enough to pinpoint certain things. I don’t know any Lady Gaga songs! I don’t give a shit about Lady Gaga, so I don’t listen to it.
Violent J: It’s Insane Clown Posse, we’re clowns, we’re singing about something positive, and they said, “FUCK THIS. THIS IS THE WORST SONG EVER MADE IN LIFE!” They know we don’t really not know how magnets work! They know we know that shit. We know we know what miracles are. And we know those aren’t all miracles. But they get what we’re trying to say. We’re just trying to show appreciation for the things that’re in our everyday life. And we made a song about it. You should go on YouTube and look at these posts! How mad these guys are! They’re so angry!
It’s because we hit some kind of note in their brains, and their hearts, and they’re mad about it. That’s our belief. I’m not saying they secretly play it over and over again, which I bet that some of them do. But I’m saying they heard it one time and it was powerful enough to invoke that in them.
A piece in Slate likened Juggalos to Trekkies. How would you explain to that Juggalos and Trekkies are different?
Violent J: Trekkies aren’t magical.
Shaggy 2 Dope: They think they are. They think they have actual light phasers or something.
Violent J: I respect Trekkies though. But there’s nothing supernatural going on at the Trekkie convention.
Insane Clown Posse’s “The Old Shit Tour” comes to Philadelphia’s Electric Factory on Sunday, October 24.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 14, 2010