Somehow I wonder if this is Stephen King’s fault for unintentionally creating ICP. His 1986 novel, IT, managed to create an entity that effectively personified any and everything that we ever were afraid of. IT, or Pennywise the Dancing Clown, mutilates and devours children, kills anybody who gets in its way, and the mere mention of IT drives one of the supporting characters to suicide. It makes sense that a story like this would appeal to the likes of horrorcore rappers from Detroit who call themselves Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope. Only instead of being everything we ever were afraid of, they’ve unintentionally turned themselves into everything any music lover despises.
It’s not like clowns have ever had that much respect to begin with. Usually whenever a kid has a birthday party where the parents feel compelled to hire a party clown, the birthday kid, as well as the guests, usually look bored or unimpressed as the clown tries like hell to entertain a bunch of children by telling bad jokes, and making herds of balloon animals. ICP, on the other hand, are clowns who love to party, and consider themselves responsible for entertaining an audience of adults; most of whom presumably live in trailer parks, and ride mopeds due to DUI/DWI busts. Throughout every one of their 11 official studio releases, J and Shaggy try like hell to entertain us with carnival mythology, and make bad jokes about psychopathic behavior. For the majority of us adults, ICP has failed to make an intimidating impact, even though the minority, who likes their music has been deemed “a loosely organized hybrid gang” by the FBI. And why ICP is putting up the funds and courage to sue the FBI over this obvious claim, I do not know. Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope may not agree that “Juggalos” are a gang, but when they’ve created cult appeal for those who are fans, doesn’t anybody who willingly puts clown paint on their faces submit themselves to becoming a member of this cult, or gang, even ridicule? To the Juggalos themselves, it’s merely a ‘free-thinking’ way of life, but it would be dangerously naïve of us to think that. In some places in America, there are Juggalos out there who do consider themselves gang members, and conduct their business accordingly.
The album itself is dubbed the fifth “Joker Card” in the Dark Carnival series of ICP studio releases, or in more accurate terms, just the fifth album. We start out with the introduction of Jake Jeckel (supposedly representing righteousness), whose character is immediately shrugged off so that J and Shaggy can take centerstage and spit their childish raps. Same goes for Jack Jeckel, who more or less represents pure evil and is introduced near the end of the album. These characters are only central to the album title, because they are only mentioned in their respective tracks, and never referenced again. This leads me to believe that ICP wanted a theme, but probably about halfway during the production, decided that it was probably more difficult to pull off than what they realized. But since J and Shaggy would rather take over the album themselves, these characters are meaningless. And supposedly, this is considered their best album.
The problem I noticed within the first 10 minutes of the album is how unfocused it is. “Bring It On” has difficulty in deciding which beat it should carry on with for five minutes. Nor are there actual raps either; more like couplet poems that happen to have a haphazard flow.
My theory as to why ICP is so hated is not necessarily the music (handled by longtime producer Mike E. Clark), but pretending to have a worthy message (yet another battle between good and evil, but if this album was called anything else, I wouldn’t have picked up on that), and undermining it with useless and frustratingly endless hardcore rap schticks. This use of messages and how they convey them to an audience is what separates ICP from fellow Detroit horrorcore rapper Eminem. Eminem tells horrifying stories and uses vulgarity as emphatic catharsis. ICP is pretty much the other way around where they don’t really tell stories at all and employs vulgarity simply because they believe that’s what makes them hardcore. It’s an endless stream perpetuated by songs like “I Want My Shit,” “Bitches” (featuring a dissociative verse from Ol’ Dirty Bastard), “Another Love Song,” “I Stab People,” and probably the worst track on here, “The Shaggy Show,” where ICP members endlessly hype an appearance by Snoop Dogg, who at this point in his career was also using his image to sell Girls Gone Wild tapes, and putting out tacky fucking albums and album covers like “Da Game is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told.” Also, dissing the Beastie Boys and the Dalai-Lama in “Fuck the World” is a move that pretty much begs your persona to be ridiculed and disrespected.
All in all, I don’t believe ICP represents the absolute nadir of what music is capable of; believe me, I’ve heard worse rhymes and beats from respectable and widely dissed artists alike. The problem is these clowns believe they are so hardcore, they don’t come across as such. They just exist to entertain and justify legions of trailer park inhabitants, and endorse the only drink they can afford, Faygo. What baffles me about Juggalos is how they claim to adopt a free-thinking way of life, but the ideologies ICP seem to endorse are myopic and involves malicious violence towards anybody, especially women, or those who aren’t “down with the clown.” The misogyny is so overwhelming, it makes me wonder how a female Juggalo interprets their music. So in their world, you are a free-thinker, but only if you paint your face, listen to artists on the Psychopathic label, and consume endless amounts of Faygo. Sorry guys, but a clown is still just a clown.
Significance: 3Overall Impression: 4