We’ve Got A File On You: Insane Clown Posse
We’ve Got A File On You features interviews in which artists share the stories behind the extracurricular activities that dot their careers: acting gigs, guest appearances, random internet ephemera, etc.
This summer, every festival is cancelled. Most of the cancellation announcements have been brief and businesslike, but one was emotional. In April, the members of the long-running Detroit duo Insane Clown Posse were forced to tell their fans that the Gathering Of The Juggalos, their annual family reunion, couldn’t happen this year. Their announcement is heartbroken, determined, and compassionate: “The bottom line is simply that we REFUSE to risk even ONE Juggalo life by hosting a Gathering during these troubling times.”
That’s the way things tend to go for the Insane Clown Posse. Since they first put on the clown makeup nearly three decades ago, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope have built up a fascinating cult around themselves, and they’ve been fierce, ardent defenders of that cult. ICP have been treated as a pop-culture punchline for years — when they and their fans haven’t been treated as something to be feared — but they’re also a DIY success story and a rallying point for a whole lot of people who really need one. In the name of the Juggalos, ICP sued the FBI and marched on Washington. They live for their fans, and their fans live for them.
Today, ICP are underground rap elders. Nobody else in the entire history of popular music has ever had a career anything like that of the Wicked Clowns. On a Zoom call from the Psychopathic Records offices in Michigan, Violent J, the more talkative half of ICP, spoke with us for a long time, telling us about some fascinating moments from ICP’s back pages. And yes, he was wearing the facepaint. Violent J, I learned, is an excellent storyteller.
Custom Clown Clips and Cameo videos (2020)
STEREOGUM: I was wondering how often you put the facepaint on during quarantine.
VIOLENT J: We’ve got these things we do. Ours is called Custom Clown Clips, and it’s also the Cameo things. We’ve got to do those pretty much every day. If we don’t do them, they’ll stack up on you. We’ve got paint on pretty much everyday. For some reason, those things take me forever, man.
STEREOGUM: You’re good at them! You put real time into all of them. If you’ve seen other people’s Cameos, a lot of the time they’re just 30 seconds.
VIOLENT J: It’s not a good thing, though. I’ve got to relax on them. I keep going over. I’ve discovered that they can’t be over four minutes and 30 seconds long. I’ve gone over the limits, and it won’t send. Some of them, I was like, “Fuck that, that one was too good,” and I started sending part one and part two. I can get away with that on Custom Clown Clips, but Cameo, you can’t get away with that. I’ll be like, “I killed it!” And then I go to send it, and it’ll be two seconds over. It’s like, fuuuuck! And then you gotta do it all again.
Sometimes, I’m on a roll, and I like what I’m saying. I got one the other day, and it was deep. The guy was like, “Man, my older brother is going off the deep end. He’s drinking himself to death. Me and my dad, we drive into Columbus looking for him when he hasn’t been home in days, and we check the morgue” — all this deep, sad shit. He was like, “We’ve been to 17 Gatherings! Talk some sense into him, J!” And I’m like: Four minutes, 30 seconds, and I’m going to do something that you and your dad couldn’t do? This is going to be tough. But I wanted to seriously try. Luckily, that was a Clown Clip, so I could give him a two-parter. I tried to bring up some of the freshness about the world that you might overlook when you’re in the day-to-day of mundane life. I just think it might be what I’d want to hear if I was in that state.
I enjoy doing them. It’s something different. You been around 30 years, brother, anything you can do that’s different is cool.
“8 Ways To Die” Psypher (Feat. Stitches, Esham, Mac Lethal, Ouija Macc, DJ Paul, & Cage) (2019)
STEREOGUM: I couldn’t stop thinking about this. The collection of rappers on it was so interesting, and nobody else would’ve put that together. Can you tell me how that came together?
VIOLENT J: If you were going to categorize ICP, what category would that be in? In what group of rappers do we fit?
STEREOGUM: I would say you’re your own category, culturally. But if I had to put it in a broader context, I would say underground rap, which is a real broad term. It could cover a lot of things. And what I thought was cool about that Psypher was how everybody came from different versions of underground rap, and they didn’t necessarily have anything to do with each other under any other circumstances.
VIOLENT J: Those rappers on that Psypher, those are our friends. We don’t really fit into any category very well. Those are just a variety of the type of friends we have. It might be a strange combination, but those are the guys we’re down with. It’s a bizarre group of guys, but those are our touring partners.
We’ve done so much stuff with our family at Psychopathic. We wanted to invite guests on this one. We wanted it to be ICP with industry friends, homies that aren’t our artists. Ouija Macc is on there, and that’s our artist. But usually, when we do a Psypher, it’s all our artists, but we wanted this one to be our friends. And when you look at our friends, they just don’t have a lot, necessarily, in common with each other. It’s all walks of life — which is a lot like Juggalos. You’ve got metal kids. You’ve got goth kids. Juggalos are all walks of life. And it’s all kinds of people that we hang out with, that we tour with.
There were other guys we asked, but we couldn’t make it line up — guys like Jelly Roll. Vanilla Ice would’ve added even more of the strangeness! It would’ve been even more of a weird combination. But honestly, those are the friends that we have. We didn’t set out to make it a bizarre combination. If we do it again, I’d like to have Willie D from the Geto Boys, or maybe Scarface — guys that you might never think we affiliate with, but we do. I’d like to put the D.O.C. on it! People don’t like his voice, but I think he still sounds cool. I’ve heard him on several things. Obviously, he could still rap his ass off. Used the right way, it could be cool.
STEREOGUM: You see the same thing in the lineups of the Gatherings over the years. You guys clearly love rap music. You book a lot of rappers who don’t necessarily get the same type of love in different arenas.
VIOLENT J: We definitely, first and foremost, consider ourselves rap. If ICP had to be categorized, we’d like to think of ourselves as rappers. But I also believe there’s some pop in there — if you take out the language, which today, in 2020, doesn’t seem to be an issue anyway. Ever since MTV changed and satellite radio became the thing, language doesn’t seem to be an issue no more. In the ’90s, it pretty much defined whether you were a sellout or not. I don’t even know if there is a sellout anymore. It’s all YouTube now, which is crazy fresh. There’s no program director telling you no. You don’t spend $200,000 recording an album just to have one meeting at MTV, where people vote and say, “We’ll take the pass option.” Your whole career is in the hands of that meeting. It’s not like that no more.
“Halls Of Illusions” (Feat. Slash) (1997)
VIOLENT J: In Detroit, we were trying to get a record store chain called Harmony House to carry our product. Harmony House had 33 stores. If you got Harmony House to pick you up, it was a big deal. That distributed you everywhere through Michigan, instead of just the mom-and-pops. To get with Harmony House, we did a track with a guy named Esham, who was really big in Detroit, and Kid Rock, who was really big in Detroit. By us getting those guys on our album [1992’s Carnival Of Carnage], that automatically propelled us into Harmony House. Harmony House said, “If you got Esham and Kid Rock, then it must be something on that level,” so they accepted our first album.
Telling that story to our A&R at Hollywood Records when we did our album The Great Milenko, we wanted to try the same tactic — putting big-name guests on the album and hoping that the nation, and record stores, would accept us more, instead of starting with zero. So we got Alice Cooper to do the intro. We got Slash, incredibly. And we got Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols. That was the tactic. We repeated that on our next album, The Amazing Jeckel Brothers, when we got Snoop Dogg and Ol’ Dirty Bastard. We’re so different; its so hard to fit in anywhere. The first time, obviously, was more of a rock approach. I think Hollywood Records saw us going down more of a rock route. This is when nü-metal was happening. But when we were with Island/Def Jam, it was more of a rap approach. It was us taking the same tactic that worked for us in Detroit and applying it nationally.
STEREOGUM: Did you work with Slash directly? You weren’t emailing files back and forth back then.
VIOLENT J: No, we went to the studio. Shaggy was in jail. He had a bunch of DUIs, I think. So I flew out to LA, and I remember our A&R guy — Julian Raymond, super cool, great guy, we’re still friends — he was like, “I can get Slash.” We were like, “Fuck yeah! Fuck yeah!” We were at the studio, waiting for Slash, and all of a sudden Julian said, “Are you ready, bro?” And a voice said, “Yeah.” And one of the guys that we’d been chilling in the room with for the last hour was Slash! He had a baseball cap on, and his hair pulled back in a ponytail. He did not look like Slash without the top hat and everything! I was like, “Oh shit, brother! I’m sorry! I didn’t know that was you!”
We talked about the song for a minute, and then he wanted us to leave while he laid his tracks. So we left for like an hour. We went into another room, and we talked to Leif Garrett, for some reason. When I saw Leif Garrett’s Behind The Music, I saw that phase was when he was hanging out with, like, Marilyn Manson. I don’t really know what he was doing at our session, but he was there.
Slash murdered it, and we were like, “What can we give you for it? You gotta let us give you something.” He said, “I want a pint of Wild Irish Rose.” We ran across the street and grabbed it, gave it to him in a brown bag, and he killed it right on the spot. Then, the next morning, I was at my hotel room, and he called. We didn’t exchange numbers or anything, but he called my hotel room. It was like 9:30 in the morning. He was like, “I’m about to be on the radio, doing an interview. I want you to hear it.” I turned the station on, and he was giving us mad love. It was super fucking cool. After the radio show, he called back to the hotel room, and he said, “I want to be in the video. I really like this song.” I was so happy, right? The fucking record label said no to having him in the video!
STEREOGUM: His label?
VIOLENT J: Our label! Our label! They said, “That’s not the right look for ICP.” We’re like, “Whaaaat?” It was a battle! They didn’t want Slash! I bet you they wish they would’ve put Slash on it now. I will admit, careers are strange. As large as Slash was, when he left Guns N’ Roses, he wasn’t iconic, like he would become. People coming out, they blow, and then they go down for a minute. Even the mighty Slash — I know it sounds fucking nuts now — they go down, and then when they come back up, they’re iconic. You can’t even ever imagine there was a down time in their career. But he wasn’t the coolest thing at that time. Pearl Jam and Nirvana and all that had taken over. It was just a different time.
Three 6 Mafia – “Just Anotha Crazy Clique” (Feat. Insane Clown Posse & Twiztid) (2000)
VIOLENT J: I’m extremely proud of that song, and I also hate that song. Mixed feelings like a motherfucker. First of all, Three 6 Mafia reached out to us. They saw us on wrestling, they said, and they looked into us. They thought we were dope, and they reached out to us. I can’t even tell you how blown away we were.
We were working with a group called Twiztid, and we were pushing Twiztid as hard as we could. We wouldn’t even do radio interviews unless Twiztid could come in with us. We were pushing them with everything we had. Incredibly, Three 6 Mafia sent their tapes over for us to get on. And when we sent it back, we had Twiztid on it with us. Three 6 only did the first verse and the chorus, and there was two open verses. So when we sent it back, ICP did the second verse, and we put Twiztid on the third verse. I don’t even know what to think of that now, but that’s what we did. And Three 6 somehow loved it! We got lucky.
What I’m embarrassed about is the stupid ad-lib shit at the beginning.
STEREOGUM: “Stab you with an umbrella and then open it”?
VIOLENT J: Yeah, and “sick like a diseased Ethiopian.” Listen: I was that stupid. I didn’t understand the offensiveness in that. I was legit that stupid. I never heard nothing about it. I’ve never heard anything about it in my life. But when I hear that now, I can’t believe I said that as a joke.
There’s never been another time in ICP’s career that we did any other type of racially insensitive joke, ever. I honestly can’t tell you what the fuck was happening in my brain. Nobody said anything to me in the studio. It just flew somehow. In our entire discography, you’ll never hear any other type of racially insensitive song lyric, joke, anything. I just don’t know what the fuck happened.
STEREOGUM: I’ve heard that song a million times, and it never even occurred to me that that was a racially insensitive line. Maybe because I was always picturing the umbrella with the guts on it.
VIOLENT J: That’s what I was doing! And when I say “sick,” I just picture that commercial that was showing all those sick kids. That was just my thinking, without even pictured what the fuck I was saying. I just pictured “sick” and “illness.” It’s just so fucking dumb, man. Therefore, I cringe when I hear it now.
At the same time, we were also crazy homophobic back in the day. And now, my daughter says, “Dad, why did you say this?” And I say, “Because your dad was a fucking fool.” I hate to blame Ice Cube, but we wanted to be like Ice Cube. We wanted to be like gangsta rap, and gangsta rap said it all the time. And we had a gay producer! Our producer was gay! And he didn’t give a fuck. It was us three in the studio — night and day, night and day — making these albums. It was something that didn’t come up.
It was just part of life back then. We wanted to be hardcore, and that’s why we did it, you know? And when I look back now, what can I say? We don’t have an excuse. I can tell you this: There was never a time when we had a problem with gay people. It was just the word being thrown around, like “asshole.” It was just something we called each other all the time — just a bunch of dumbasses.
STEREOGUM: People my age, we talk about how we were lucky that we didn’t have social media growing up, and there’s no record of all the dumb shit we said and did. You didn’t have social media, but everything you said and did in those years is on record, and you’ve got to live with it now. That’s tough.
VIOLENT J: And the amount of gay Juggalos out there is really surprising. I think about them doing their research and getting the old records, getting excited about it, and getting their hearts broke or something, you know? I tell my daughter, “For the rest of your life, when your friends ask why your dad said that, say it’s because your dad was a fool. Don’t defend me. Say I was a fool then, but I’m not now.” There’s no excuse. I was going with the flow, and that’s the very thing we preach against — being a sheep. And that’s what I was doing.
“Slim Anus” (2000)
STEREOGUM: When you look back at your feud with Eminem, it’s pretty much just you and him throwing homophobic insults back and forth. It’s a weird thing to look back on now. This was a high-profile rap feud, and you sounded like sixth-graders in 1998 or something.
VIOLENT J: I never thought I’d be so old! That I would be guilty of something so stupid! But we are. I feel no different than somebody explaining why they were a racist. I hate racists, and I was doing the same fucking thing. It just sucks, man. It’s terrible to think about.
STEREOGUM: It’s cool to hear you grappling with it, though.
VIOLENT J: It’s not cool. It shouldn’t even be an issue. We’re smarter than that. As Juggalos, we’re not judgmental. How the fuck could we be Juggalos and say that? It don’t even make sense. It’s the biggest contradiction you could have. And somehow, it just flew for years. It’s a terrible thing.
ECW Hardcore Heaven (1997)
STEREOGUM: Looking back on your pro wrestling career, you’ve been in pretty much every major company in America at some really critical times. When you did the thing with Rob Van Dam and Sabu in ECW, that’s peak ECW. That’s when ECW was at its absolute coolest, and you’re there as celebrity guests, getting chairs kicked into your faces.
VIOLENT J: From the age of 10 until 17 — so when Shaggy was eight to 15 — we were positive, positive, that we were going to be wrestlers. We were already bragging about it. If I was at school and they were saying something that couldn’t benefit my wrestling career, I wasn’t trying to hear what the fuck they were saying, at all. Like: “How’s this going to pertain to my wrestling career? Fuck this whole class.” I was so positive of it, and that’s the laws of attraction. That’s the power of positive thinking. That’s The Secret. You know, they say, “Don’t wish for it. Don’t hope it’ll happen. Know it’ll happen, and it will.”
At the age of 17, my passion was going toward hip-hop. I fought it, too. I remember fighting it. It was changing in me, and I didn’t want it to. I was so certain I was going to be a wrestler. I had it all figured out. Everybody’s a rapper, and it’s like, “Fuck, that mountain is so high to climb.” I was already an independent wrestler. We were wrestling in the Midwest. But I could not deny myself no more. Neither could Shaggy. I remember the very day we were like, “That’s it. We’re going to be rappers.” And then, brother, we knew we were going to be rappers.
When I was 26 and we had our first gold record, wrestling came to us. It actually came to us! It was because we put that energy out there! It came knocking on our fucking door! It’s crazy, but that’s how it happened. WWF called us up and asked us if we wanted to make the ring music for a team that they had called the Oddities. I knew Rob Van Dam from the independent wrestling scene here in Michigan.
STEREOGUM: Did you go to wrestling school with him?
VIOLENT J: No, I never went to school. We wrestled in our backyards. There was a promoter here named Malcolm Monroe. He was running wrestling shows, and he had Rob Van Dam on his show — the first matches he ever did. Malcolm asked us if we’d been trained, and we said, “Yes, at the Chris Adams wrestling school in Texas.” We lied like a motherfucker, man.
We knew how to wrestle because we were backyard wrestling. From 10 until 17, we were doing it big in the backyard. We were putting out fliers in the neighborhood. We had bands playing our wrestling events. We had a ring built in the backyard with railroad spikes pounded into the dirt with a sledgehammer, and then garden hose, wrapped thick with duct tape, wrapped around the railroad spikes. You could go off the second rope, top rope, anything! It was a sturdy, nice-built ring! We weren’t waiting. We ran a whole promotion.
I would’ve went and trained for real, learned how to do it, but my heart was leaning on hip-hop. I was slipping on the wrestling dream. I couldn’t deny it. I was making these basement tapes using a karaoke machine, and I was loving doing that. I was thinking more about hip-hop than I was about wrestling. I couldn’t lie to myself no more.
When the ECW thing happened, ICP was starting to really take off. We were still super cool with Rob Van Dam, and he was in ECW. So we were like, “Hey man, we could do a thing where we’re the rappers come around. Nobody knows we know how to wrestle, so you guys can kick our ass! It’ll be awesome!” He talked to Paul [Heyman] about it, and it happened. So when WWE called and said, “We want you to make the music for the Oddities,” we said, “We know how to wrestle.” We sent them a video. Next thing you know, they flew us to Stamford, Connecticut, and we were at fucking Titan Towers. We wrestled, and they videotaped it for Vince McMahon. Next thing you know, we were booked to rap the Oddities out to the ring at SummerSlam.
When we first got there, we said we need a mirror to paint up. They stuck us in a dressing room. It was only two other people in that dressing room. Swear to God, on everything I love, it was Stone Cold and the Undertaker! Going over their main event! Me and Shaggy are painting up, and they’re right behind us, sitting on a bench, calling spots!
WWF Monday Night Raw (1998)
VIOLENT J: We had so much fun at SummerSlam, and they asked us what we were doing the next day. We were like, “Where’s Raw at?” We went to Raw the next night, and we started doing it every Monday. Back then, they would have Monday, and the next night would be Tuesday, and they would film for next Monday. They were live every other week. We’d do Monday and Tuesday and then be gone for two weeks. We did that for months. We came to Joe Louis Arena and wrestled, right in our hometown. We used to get autographs by the back door. We used to wait there as kids for the wrestlers to come out. We got to go look out that back door, to see if there was any other kids out there, waiting for autographs! And there wasn’t any! Where’s the dreamers, you know? It was great! We felt like we did it, we’re on the other side now. We’re on the other fucking side of the door!
Our concern was we didn’t want people to think we were a wrestling angle. We had CDs in stores, and we felt like we were getting all this exposure, but they don’t know that we’re a real band. We told [WWF booker] Vince Russo, “We want you guys to air one of our commercials on Raw one time. Let everybody know that we have CDs out, that we’re for real a band.” He said, “Done deal.” We brought him the commercial, and week after week after week, they kept saying that they were going to air it. They didn’t. Finally, it happened to be the day I took a Stone Cold Stunner from Stone Cold. The next night, we were supposed to go wrestle somewhere on Tuesday. After the live broadcast, our manager was like, “Man, they didn’t air it again. Walk out.” And we did.
Sometimes, we’d fly from California, all the way to Philadelphia, and be on TV for 30 seconds. Our heart was in music. We had just got our foot in the door. We had just really started hitting. The Milenko album was going platinum. It was two different worlds, man. So we quit. We wanted to go to WCW and see what that’s like.
STEREOGUM: When you fought the Headbangers, that’s the same Raw where Stone Cold beats up Vince McMahon in the hospital. That might be the best Raw ever. So you were there when WWE was at its peak of cultural relevance. Was there a sense that this was a real moment that you were taking part in?
VIOLENT J: I wish I could say yeah, but our heart was so into music. We were going to take it when the opportunity presented itself, but we were done chasing it. I wish we wouldn’t have walked out on them. I regret that. Even though we had a deal, I feel like that was Vince Russo that screwed us. We screwed the WWE by walking out on them. We had a pay-per-view coming up and everything. We felt like we fucked over WWE. If I could ever communicate with Vince McMahon, I’m sure he wouldn’t give a fuck, but I would just say, “We regret it. We’re sorry. You guys gave us a dream come true, and we just wish we would’ve saw our commitments through.” It was a terrible move.
WCW Monday Nitro (1999)
STEREOGUM: Jumping from WWF to WCW is a real wrestler move.
VIOLENT J: We had big fun in WCW, twice the fun that we did in WWE. In WWE, we felt like people looked at us like “you guys don’t deserve to be here.” We didn’t understand you’re supposed to go around and shake everybody’s hand in the dressing room. We had a lot of concerns. We didn’t want to be good guys in WWE; we wanted to be bad guys. We wanted to be with the Headbangers, not the Oddities. And I guess we developed a reputation that we were full of complaints. But that’s not true. We were always crazy respectful.
But if we were going to do wrestling, we wanted to benefit off of it for our music. They were only paying us like $1,000 each episode. We’re leaving thousands of dollars behind to fly out there. We could’ve been doing a concert and making way more. They didn’t offer us a contract or anything. Do you know how many people probably still think we were just a wrestling thing? That we weren’t a real band? We were getting a lot of love, too. There was a lot of ICP signs in the crowd, a lot of Juggalos. I know we were getting over. It was working. We just had that concern. I think it was just Vince Russo. Everything probably went downhill because he was being dishonest with us. I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. Maybe a 30-second commercial on Raw is worth two million dollars! I don’t know! But they could’ve just explained that to us instead of saying, “Sure, it’ll be on next week.”
STEREOGUM: It seems like WCW treated you more like real wrestlers. You were in a stable with Vampiro and the Great Muta.
VIOLENT J: Fuck yeah! Muta! It was unreal. You know when you see a six-man tag and the guy’s in the ring wrestling, and the other two guys are outside of the ring and talking to each other? I can tell you what me and Shaggy were saying when Vampiro would be in the ring, wrestling. We’d be like, “Bro, we’re on pay-per-view! Look at the fucking crowd! What’s next? I forgot! What are we supposed to do? Who’s he gonna tag?” We were never one of them. We were a couple of fans out there. It was just awesome.
In WCW, the wrestlers were much more cooler with us, maybe because they saw us on WWE, so it felt like, “Oh, they’re one of us.” We didn’t make a lot of friends in WWE; it was just silence and stiffness. WCW was hugs and welcome and goofing. I took Muta’s spray in the face! You know the green mist? He did this thing where he went to mist the opponent, and he ducked, and I caught it in the face! I was like, “Yeah, man!” We did this one thing where Goldberg’s running down the hall, and he’s looking for Sid Vicious. Me and Shaggy come out of the door, and he grabs us by the shirts. He’s like, “Where’s Sid?” And we’re like, “I don’t know!” And he throws us into a box, right? My Hatchetman [medallion] was just mangled! When he grabbed me, he just crunched it! The diamonds all popped out of it and shit! I didn’t care. I was like, “That was awesome!”
We also saw crazy shit. Before they opened doors one time, Goldberg was standing by the ring, and this wrestler named Evan Karagias went up to Goldberg to give him a pound. Goldberg had his hands down his sweats, grabbing his nuts, standing there, relaxing. Goldberg took his hand off his balls to shake Evan Karagias’ hand, and Evan Karagias was like, “Whoa! No! You’re good!” For some reason, Goldberg took crazy offense to that and grabbed Evan Karagias by the throat, lifted him up over the metal barrier, and slammed him into the chairs! It was real! Evan Karagias was like, “Man, I could fucking sue him! You guys saw that?” We’re like, “Hell yeah, we saw that!” He’s like, “Will you guys testify for me?” We’re like, “Fuck no!”
Andrew W.K. At The Gathering Of The Juggalos (2008)
STEREOGUM: There’s this video of Andrew W.K. getting mercilessly booed at the Gathering and then getting pulled offstage. If something like that happens, who makes that call?
VIOLENT J: The Juggalos. Really, they do. Sometimes, it’s really fucked up, man. Sometimes, it’s just not fair. Sometimes, [the performers] go up there and do everything right, and I don’t know what it is, bro; it just don’t work. We’ve seen heroes of ours go down, especially in the rap world.
I remember the Ying Yang Twins going up one year. They had a lot of hits out at the time. They were hot. We were so happy to have gotten the Ying Yang Twins. They did their homework. They were addressing the fans right. They were calling them Juggalos, doing the whoop whoops, family, everything. And it was just destined to happen. It didn’t matter. The Juggalos just gave it to them. And I remember seeing Method Man and Redman go up there and do everything wrong! Everything! And the Juggalos just gave them a pass. It’s strange! The fans were chanting “family!” And one of them said, “Fuck family, this is about hip-hop.” I said, “Aw man, here it comes.” And it didn’t! It just didn’t make no sense!
For the most part, it’s not like that anymore. It was a while there where it was getting really bad, and I think the Juggalos just corrected themselves. They were just like, “Man, we’re being unfair.” It just sort of stopped. People still get booed off, but it’s when they deserve it — when people get up there and they’re not familiar with where they’re playing. If the Gathering is near Columbus one year, and the band or the rap group is up there yelling, “What’s up, Columbus” — Juggalos at the Gathering are from everywhere. They’re from all over the country. If the guy is up there yelling “Columbus,” it’s obvious he doesn’t know where he’s playing. Then they feel disrespected. They might start to boo shit.
STEREOGUM: Have there been people who got a good response who you weren’t sure about when you booked them?
VIOLENT J: Maybe worried, but we would never put somebody up there who we thought was going to get booed. I was worried about Morris Day. We hadn’t had an R&B group since Bobby Brown, so we were worried about that, and he killed it. He fucking murdered it. We were so happy. I was at the side of the stage, dancing.
But we’ve seen some things. Ol’ Dirty Bastard got it. It wasn’t so much his fault as his crew. The guys up there with him: “If one more person throws something, we’re coming out there and fucking somebody up!” You can’t yell shit like that at the Gathering. Kurupt from Tha Dogg Pound — same thing. You can’t be threatening the crowd. They see it as a challenge. Even Too Short! But it’s the crew’s fault.
Other guys, though — take Yelawolf. He’s out there with a Confederate flag hanging out of his back pocket. Now, Juggalos hate the Confederate flag. But Yelawolf is doing things like when they throw a bigass Slurpee at him, he catches it out of the sky, takes a drink of it, and throws it back behind him. That’s cool! He’s putting out a good energy, and people are like, “Well, maybe he’s got the Confederate flag because he’s from the South, and that’s just the way they’re repping. He’s just not aware that we hate it.”
STEREOGUM: Did anybody talk to Yelawolf before he went out onstage with it?
VIOLENT J: I don’t think anybody noticed. I most definitely would’ve. I got to talk to Ice Cube before he went out onstage. Ice Cube’s my favorite, and we asked if we could talk to him before he went on. I told him, “They yell ‘whoop whoop,’ and when 10,000 yell that, it can sound like ‘boo,’ but they’re not booing.” I told him about family, about everything. And it was so cool to see Cube and WC go out there and use every tactic I talked to them about. It was the best! And then they came back the next year and did it again! Then they did a song with us! For nothing! Out of respect! That’s my favorite thing to brag about. I’m so unbelievably proud.
STEREOGUM: Could you name a few artists who aren’t directly affiliated with you or Psychopathic who got the best responses you’ve seen?
VIOLENT J: The band In This Moment killed it. They murdered it. This DJ team Flosstradamus, we were concerned about that. We’d never done this, but we knew they would kill it if the DJ team was dope. Man, it was a grand slam. They murdered it. Busta Rhymes was scared to come out. We’re talking about Busta! Busta had heard all kinds of shit, and he just wouldn’t come out. They said he was in there drinking, just getting his nerves together. Man, he came out and flexed it. Machine Gun Kelly killed it. Going back to the beginning, Vanilla Ice! Who would’ve thought? Who would’ve thought Vanilla Ice would be iconic in the Juggalo world? He is!
George Clinton murdered it; nobody wanted him to leave. It was such a great vibe when George Clinton was up there. He played a long set, and nobody wanted it to end. We could’ve had George Clinton headline and just jam for three hours, and everybody would’ve been totally happy.
When you’re booking for the Gathering, it’s a tricky thing. But then again, Juggalos are open-minded. We feel like we could bring in some real heavy metal — even some hair metal, if it’s done right. That’s a road we haven’t been down yet. Let’s say Skid Row were together with Sebastian Bach — that might fuck around and kill it. It still has to be explored. Puddle Of Mudd did great. They didn’t do so hot the second time; I’m not sure Wes Scantlin was in the best shape then. His energy was different. I’m not saying he was messed up, but he’s supposed to clean now. I’m a fan of theirs, so I was real happy when we first booked him and they had a great, great show the first time.
One year, we had three surprise guests come out and do one song apiece between acts. Do you know who Eamon is? He had that song “Fuck It”? Remember? He did great! People were like, “Oh shit, I remember this jam!” He’s super religious now. He didn’t want to do it. We were like, “Just come and have fun for one song! Turn it out, man! Sing the classic!” We talked him into doing it. We paid him for a full set, but just the one song was all we needed. We brung out Digital Underground and the Luniz. They killed it, too. It’s cool because it’s straight to it. That one jam is just what everybody’s waiting for anyway.
STEREOGUM: At Woodstock ’99, you had $500 bills taped to giant beach balls, and you were kicking them out in the audience.
VIOLENT J: We wanted to do something special. We were on tour at the time, so we kept trying to throw things together that would make it a little bit more exciting. I told my crew, “Anyone who runs across the stage naked, we’ll give you $500″ — just for madness, lunacy. I wish we got to do things like that more.
All of our experiences with festivals back then were the same — except Woodstock. Woodstock was something else. If we got booked on a radio festival, it was always the same deal. It would be 700 or 1,000 Juggalos in a pack up front, singing along. All around them and everywhere else in the crowd would be [gives blank-faced stare]. If we said, “Put your hands in the air,” everyone would be [holds two middle fingers up]. That’s what it always was. We did eight or 10 festivals that were all like that.
Now: Vanilla Ice came to town, maybe in 2017. He said, “I want you guys to come out and do one of your songs on my set.” This was the I Love The ’90s tour, and it was sold out — DTE Energy Center, 18,000. I don’t know what we were expecting. Nobody knew we were going to be there. The whole show is groups that are basically the opposite of ICP. We don’t have any hits. These are all groups that have one or two hits. The rest of Ice’s set, he was standing next to the DJ, and they would just spin hits! Like, not his hits! Hits! Like [sings Ginuwine’s “Pony”], and everybody would be singing along. Every group did that. Tone Loc, same thing. They must get together backstage and discuss who’s going to spin what. The only time they actually performed was their hits.
The first thing that went bad was he did “Ice Ice Baby”! We didn’t even come out yet! After “Ice Ice Baby,” he invited all the girls up onstage, so there’s like 100 girls onstage. Then he says, “Give it up for my homies from Detroit! The Insane Clown Posse!” They start spinning “Chicken Huntin’.” It got a mild cheer. Me and Shaggy enter at the back of the stage, making our way through all the girls. Brother, when we got to the front, so we’re actually looking at the crowd, they swung those cameras on us, and we were on the screens at the side of the stage. I swear to you, the whole fucking house exploded! We were blown away! We could not believe it. This is the first time in our entire career anything near that has happened, except Woodstock. Even at Woodstock, they didn’t all collectively jump up and cheer. We couldn’t believe it.
We started talking about it, and we realized that our notoriety is much bigger than our success. Our notoriety monsters over our success. Those people were excited to see us in the safety of their world. It was cool! So we came home and had a meeting. We’re like, “Yo, we need to try to get on some festivals! It’s different now! The whole world is different now!”
The first festival we did was in Canada. We were booked on a festival, and what time did we go on? Noon. We’re like, “That makes sense.” They’re driving us on a golf cart, and we can’t see the fans or anything. We walk out onstage, and I promise you, same fucking thing. It was just a rush. I can’t even tell you how awesome this felt.
The next festival we did was called Rock Fest — not a very original name. It was in the Midwest. The headliner that night was Slayer, and before them was Lamb Of God. We go on the second stage after Lamb Of God. We’ve never met Lamb Of God, and the lead singer is like, “Yo, ICP’s coming up! And if you ain’t down with ICP, fuck you!” We’re tripping out! We couldn’t believe it! We get out onstage, same thing. We had a fantastic show. The whole crowd is participating. Now, we love festivals.
We think the thing of it is that people would never come to a packed club full of Juggalos at one in the morning, get in the moshpit, get Faygo thrown on them. They’re scared of Juggalos. They would never come to our world. But to see us in their world is cool. They give it up. And I don’t think they give it up because they love our music, or they even know our music. We think they give it up because we’ve been around a long time. They’re like, “I got a cousin who loves these guys,” or they may have gone through a period of their life where they liked it. But it’s all love.
Saturday Night Live Gathering Of The Juggalos Parodies (2010-2012)
STEREOGUM: If there was one Saturday Night Live parody, then you would’ve officially been part of culture. But there was, like, five of them. You became recurring characters, almost.
VIOLENT J: I mean, fuck, man. It makes me feel like I’m going to have a panic attack. I don’t even know how to comprehend that, to this moment. We’re so honored. It’s hard to feel like we’re the most hated band in the world. I feel dumb saying that now. It’s like: “What are we crying about? We’re on Saturday Night Live!”
STEREOGUM: So you never got pissed about the parodies? They didn’t rub you the wrong way?
VIOLENT J: Fuck no, man! Rubbed me like five fine hotties rubbing me! That’s what that rubbed me like — like five naked hotties. We played New York City, and the staff came down to our show. The whole staff of Saturday Night Live! My mouth dried up. I didn’t even know what to say.
To have this stuff happen to us, at this stage of our career, we’re so happy. Whatever route we took to get here, we’re so happy that that’s the route we took. It didn’t involve any type of selling out. We never had that guy from the record label in the studio like “I don’t hear a single.” That’s every band’s nightmare! They have to worry about that! Every label we’ve been on don’t give a fuck about our music. They’re just like, “Tell us when it’s done.” I feel overwhelmingly fortunate for that, for everything.
I don’t know what I did to be so fortunate. This was never in the blueprint. We never said, “We’re going to work so hard, and there’s going to be this awesome, loyal fanbase.” That shit happened to us. When Juggalos say, “J, man, being a Juggalo saved my life,” I’m like, “It saved my life, too! You’re no different than us! You guys saved our lives!”
VIOLENT J: That movie Family came out a couple of years ago, and we made a cameo in it. That was so dope, taking my family to the movie theater to see that shit! Going to the set — they built a Gathering! In Atlanta, in a big field, they built a fucking Gathering! It looked like the Gathering! They could’ve just came to the Gathering, but they built one! With carnival rides and tents everywhere! These experiences, I’m going to be bragging about them for the rest of my life.
Fresh Off The Boat (2019)
— Murder Mayhem Show (@MurderMayhemGuy) January 19, 2019
VIOLENT J: I don’t hear bands getting mentioned on TV as often as we’re mentioned. Maybe it’s just because I’m always getting told about it. But who else, besides top-tier bands, gets mentioned like that? I know it’s always a punchline. I’m not dumb; I know we’re the punchline. But to have our name dropped, it just don’t happen. It doesn’t happen to a lot of very successful bands — way more successful than us.
STEREOGUM: You’re an organic phenomenon. People talk about branding, and I know you didn’t do any of this stuff as branding. But you’ve built up this real culture around yourselves. It’s immediately identifiable, and nobody else has done it.
VIOLENT J: It happened to us, though. All we’ve done is what would be dope. Our only job is to sit around and say, “What would be dope? Let’s do that!”
STEREOGUM: Sometimes, though, you’re not just a punchline. With something like the Nightline interview you did, it’s more like they’re setting you up to make you and your fans look like the demon of the week. Here’s this new thing to be scared of, and it’s you. How does that feel?
VIOLENT J: You’re talking about the Martin Bashir thing? Me and Shaggy both are huge Michael Jackson fans. What if we were to sock Martin Bashir in the face and say, “That’s for Michael!” How do you think that would’ve played out? To Michael Jackson fans, he’s the devil. He’s the antichrist. They blame him for Michael’s downfall. That show sparked the allegations of the second trial, which Michael never recovered from. He recovered from the first one, but the second one, he never recovered. He became a recluse, and then when he tried to come back, he died. His body couldn’t handle it. Martin Bashir is the one that duped him into that whole documentary, with the crafty editing and all that. Michael Jackson fans all over the world loathe Martin Bashir.
“Chicken Huntin'” (1995)
STEREOGUM: Was that your first video?
VIOLENT J: Yeah. We did another video for “Chicken Huntin'” that sucked. The record company, Jive Records, said, “Not only are we not going to put that out, but we want to remix the song.”
STEREOGUM: That’s a good ’90s rap video. It jumps out. It has energy.
VIOLENT J: I listen to this station on satellite called Lithium. It’s all ’90s alternative. They also play rap. They play some Cypress Hill, some Beastie Boys. It would be so nice to hear “Chicken Huntin'” on there. I feel like writing those guys a letter, saying, “Come on, man! We’re ’90s! It wasn’t a hit, but just give us some love!”
“When I’m Clownin'” (Feat. Danny Brown) (2013)
VIOLENT J: There’s two weekly papers in Detroit, Metro Times and Real Detroit. Danny Brown was on the cover of both of them at the same time. He came out of left field for me. I had to look into him, and I’m like, “Whoa, this is dope.” When we reached out to Danny Brown, he was like, “I’d be honored to do that.” Anytime we ask anybody for a feature, we’re paying. We’re so used to it. Danny Brown was like, “Out of respect, I got you.” He was just so cool. To hear that from somebody like Danny Brown, it’s just so great. He was super cool.
When you look at us with clown paint, very strange indeed, right? But when we came up, Detroit rap was very much like the WWF. There were very defined characters. That was a big thing in Detroit. When I look at the history of Detroit music, I see a lot of that, too. KISS wasn’t from Detroit, but this is one of the cities that popped for them. Same thing with Alice Cooper — this is one of the cities that really popped for him.
When we came up, Detroit had Esham, who was coming out onstage in a coffin. He had a big 666 on his shirt, and he rapped about the devil. And we were terrified of him! We were like, “Fuck, is he really like that?” And then you had the polar opposite. You had Kid Rock riding a tractor in his video, with a cowboy hat on and some overalls. Who was doing that back then? Nobody! You had a group called Detroit’s Most Wanted, where they used to dress up like mafia guys. Detroit rap had characters. Gimmicks!
The whole facepaint thing made a lot more sense in Detroit than it did elsewhere. Detroit was about characters — something that you could make a comic book or an action figure about. Danny Brown’s teeth were very descriptive of him. That was very much part of his swag. It was very much part of his character. I tell rappers that a lot: Have things about you that I can recognize right away.