That seems like a really obvious statement to make, considering that Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J hail from southwest Detroit, not all that far from the factory suburbia I grew up in, but hear me out. I’m not saying that I’m down with the clowns, or that you should like the shock-rapping, Faygo-spraying kings of Juggalo Island. What I’m suggesting, quite simply, is that it might be time to lay off of ICP, to stop being down on the clowns.
This is a new feeling for me, on that made me a little queasy a few weeks ago when I realized, to my surprise, that the Insane Clown Pose are, in fact, human beings in possession of a soul (or whatever it is that makes humans human). It wasn’t that long ago that I hated–HATED–them, made fun of them, ws bitter that we hailed from the same general geographical area and that they wasted my preferred cheap pop of choice.
Curiously, it was pro-wrestling that changed my mind. In June I went to Chikara’s A Demon in His Pocket, an independent show held in the empty corner of a flea market in Taylor, MI, which is exactly the kind of town you’d expect to hold a wrestling show in a flea market. During intermission, I nearly run into this little girl, Ruby, who later got to draw raffle tickets and had her name chanted by the crowd. I looked up from her, saw her father and apologized.
“No problem, ninja,” he said, calling his daughter over.
A big, bleached blonde dude saying that to me should have registered, but it didn’t. Maybe because he wasn’t wearing face paint or maybe because I would never expect to be in the same place as him, but I’d nearly stepped on Violent J’s daughter, and he was really nice about it. Later that night, some Juggalo-looking dude handed me his cell phone and asked me to take a picture of Violent J and him by the ring. I did so and it still didn’t register, this time maybe because the Juggalo was so polite in asking and Violent J was still just this big, bleached blonde guy whose daughter I almost crushed. I didn’t figure on his being there until a bunch of the wrestlers from that night’s show started retweeting Violent J’s short review of the night’s events:
The show was, as J said, “sweet ass” and “AMAZING Y’ALL,” but I felt a hollow pit in my stomach. It wasn’t that Violent J liked wrestling–I knew the ICP loved it and, to my chagrin, had managed to do stuff with WWF, WCW and ECW at a time when wrestling was at its hottest, even at one point sharing a dressing room with Steve Austin and the Undertaker at Madison Square Garden. It’s because that Chikara show was so good and so outside the realm of what I thought was ICP’s kind of wrestling that finding out otherwise was a deathblow to my ego.
With Violent J in attendance–with children–obeying Chikara’s rules as a PG show, I was forced to reevaluate my stance on them, and came to the conclusion that the ICP aren’t to be reviled or hated upon as people, even if Miracles was unintentionally hilarious and the rest of their discography is, well, terrible. I’m all for calling a spade a spade (unless you’re calling someone a spade in a racist way), but the critical community, or, at the very least, the self-appointed internet sheriffs who patrol the comment threads and message boards of the critical elite, have deemed Insane Clown Posse to be the worst sort of people possible, to the point that one slapped together joke single released last week has undone whatever critical reputation Jack White had previously amassed (“Have fun curating the Gathering [of the Juggalos,” one particularly awesome comment read. “That’s all that’s left for you”).
The Insane Clown Posse are living the American dream, and while I’m not the kind of guy who thinks that people detract others because they’re jealous of success, the level of vitriol surrounding the group certainly makes it seem that way. The candor of discourse in the ongoing debate is like a music criticism version of the current war between classes, where the rich point out the flaws of the poor, right to their face, and there’s nothing the poor can do about it because the only people who really care about them are other poor people. ICP aren’t poor (most of their fans aren’t well off, but that’s another issue), admittedly, but those are the roots they come from, and they’ve managed to build a small multi-media empire, including their music, their own independent wrestling promotion, a few movies, and a nationally infamous music festival, the Gathering of the Juggalos, where half the acts (Charlie Sheen! MC Hammer!) seem booked in a none-too-subtle attempt at trolling the non-Juggalo quotient of America. But ICP are the idiots here, so they’re shoveling cash at Charlie Sheen past his cultural sell-by date because they still think #WINNING! is a wonderful hashtag and another Major League sequel is a great thing.
But, since Miracles, the group has managed to become culturally relevant in a way they haven’t been since Columbine put the spotlight on violent music (an event which, while tragic, allowed the pair to troll Bill O’Reiley, who sounded like a total idiot when he said “these guys make some of the black rappers sound like Shirley Temple”) or their 90s heyday (they had a heyday, right?). Two sketches on Saturday Night Live (two good sketches), an internet meme, an annual music festival and a collaboration with Jack White that also got a ton of press are the sort of thing most people hating on ICP would sacrifice a goat for, but to Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, “Leck Mich Im Arsch” is just another day at the office. So go ahead and laugh, America; clowns are supposed to be funny.