Insane Clown Posse: the name has burned an image in everyone's minds. Some see only the image of the Wicked Clowns, horrifying the world with their sinister rap styling, violent lyrics, and their mind twisting mesh of rock and hip hop. Others see just fools, entertaining with their often gross and juvenile humor. Still others, ICP's loyal followers - The Juggalos, have based an entire life style around Insane Clown Posse and the Dark Carnival. And still others find themselves intrigued and confused about the esoteric prophecies and mystical messages of the Dark Carnival's music.
In truth, ICP are all these things and more. Despite being one of the most hated bands in the world, Insane Clown Posse have managed to release several Platinum Albums. They've also managed to create the third highest grossing wrestling organization in the country; managed to keep the longest running hip-hop record in Billboard Top 200 history; filmed their own full length feature motion picture, wrestled in the WWF, WCW, and ECW; founded their own record label (Psychopathic Records); as well as released their own highly successful line of comic books, toys, and clothing. All while building an army of over 1,000,000 dedicated Juggalos.
It all began in the early 90's in Southwest Detroit. Joseph Bruce (Violent J) and Joseph Utsler (Shaggy 2 Dope), along with a crew of neighborhood homies started an ill-fated street gang called ICP "Inner City Posse". They also began to rap, with a mildly successful independent release, Dog Beats. Having just moved to the inner city from the suburbs, the young J and Shaggy had little knowledge of any real gang life, but attempted to throw ICP's name right into the dangerous mix of Southwest Detroit's street gangs anyway. The little notoriety ICP received from their music also proved to be an almost fatal setback. Southwest Detroit's established gangs, some of which had been around for generations, began to harbor serious resentment towards ICP. The entire Inner City Posse became the target of much gang related violence, and after 2 years of battery most members bailed out... some barely escaping town with their lives. J and Shaggy were among the last few that remained true to their weakened ICP clique. They remained in Southwest Detroit, still trying to uphold their name, while basically trapped, alone, and fearing for their lives. It finally looked as if ICP's road had reached a dead end when Violent J took his 4th trip to the county jail and was put away for the entire winter of 90.
Right around J's release from county jail in 1991, J and Shaggy suddenly reached a turning point of their lives and careers. According to there own wild assertions, they claim to have been visited late one night by spirits of a mysterious Dark Carnival. They claim that this pack of neutral, carnival phantoms ordered them to deliver 6 very special messages for them to all that will listen. J and Shaggy claimed they were specifically chosen by this phantom circus to deliver these 6 messages, and do their best in making the entire planet listen. These ghosts allegedly explained to J and Shaggy that many souls will doubt them and only a few souls will listen, but those few that do listen, are worth all the effort 10 fold. They were also informed that there are to be no leaders or followers of the carnival and it's messages? only believers. J and Shaggy are merely messengers, sent to gather believers, nothing more and nothing less. Their mission is to find as many believers as possible, before the end consumes us all.
Now, we'll admit, it's a little hard to swallow, but it's interesting none the less.
With their new found mission from the beyond, J and Shaggy finally got their lives back on track. They quit their own gang, and changed their rapping name from Inner City Posse to Insane Clown Posse. Having been told that each special message will come one by one, and only when the time is right, J and Shaggy chose the only form of expression they know anything about? Music. They decided to expose the magic messages in the form of albums. Six albums in all? Each album will take on its own identity in the form of Jokers Cards? Each album preaching another one of the Dark Carnival's messages to the world.
J and Shaggy say that they gave themselves the identity of clowns to better fit in while spreading the messages of the Dark Carnival, others say they're clowns because? well they're baffoons. However you perceive this strange rap group from Detroit, the fact is that they're here to stay. With their grease painted faces, fat, heavy carnival beats and demented, vulgar lyrics injected with positive messages and magic? You have the band you love to hate? the Insane Clown Posse.
ICP recorded its first Jokers Card in 1991. After money problems and other hurdles, Carnival of Carnage was finally released in October 1992. It was followed by an EP entitled Beverly Kills 50187. Next up was the 2nd Jokers Card, named The Ringmaster in 1993. Sales of Ringmaster were stronger than expected right off the bat and the Detroit music scene began to lift its head. ICP quickly shot out another EP entitled Terror Wheel, which spawned a local Radio hit entitled "Dead Body Man." By now Insane Clown Posse had began to develop a rabid following in Detroit as well as hot spots around the Midwest. After Terror Wheel's release, it wasn't long until record labels began to try to cash in.
ICP, looking to spread the message of the Dark Carnival, quickly signed for a small amount of money to a New York based record label, Jive Records. Jive Records promised to take ICP and the Carnival's message worldwide. But shortly after Jive released ICP's next album and 3rd Joker's Card, The Riddle Box, Jive's true plan were uncovered. They would release the new album only in Michigan, with no push, for all of ICP's already rabid fans to buy, and make all the money for themselves. An easy sell for the work ICP had already done.
Insane Clown Posse, along with the core members of their new elite Psychopathic Records Team (Alex Abbiss their manager, Billy Bill, & Jump Steady) knew they couldn't wait around for the record to take off by itself. They developed a unique strategy never seen before in the music industry. They assembled street teams, samplers and Riddlebox Vans, and traveled throughout the country, TELLING PEOPLE about the album. They traveled coast to coast, from state to state and city to city. They would roll into a city, hit the night spots, the cruising strips, colleges and wherever people with an open mind would hang out. They informed people face to face about the Dark Carnival, ICP, and Psychopathic Records. They would not leave a city until everyone in town was informed of ICP. Once their work was finished and they left, each of those cities was designated as "Clown Towns."
Meanwhile, Insane Clown Posse toured the country, bringing its insane live performance across the US. Already well known throughout the Midwest for the riotous live show, which involve full theatric stage sets, costumed monsters, and gallons of Faygo Soda (a soda manufactured in Detroit, and commonly found in poor urban areas of Detroit and around the country) being poured all over the audience. Thousands of newly found Juggalos would squeeze into venues filled to capacity, just to catch a glimpse of the pure insanity and chaos that would erupt at an Insane Clown Posse show.
Record sales began to take off, and Insane Clown Posse began to look for another record label that would better promote their 4th Joker's Card message. And this label was without a doubt Hollywood Records. The people at Hollywood totally understood the message of the Dark Carnival. They knew how to market it, they knew how to promote it, and they knew that it was going to be crazy. But there was one catch? Hollywood Records was owned by The Walt Disney Corporation. However, key people at Hollywood reassured ICP that they were allowed full control of content, and that Disney was not involved with anything Hollywood released. Hollywood and Disney both approved the album, and a new era was born. The era of the 4th Joker's Card, The Great Milenko.
The country's underground music scene was buzzing with anticipation. The world was ready to receive the 4th message. Whether it was really from a ghostly carnival or just from J and Shaggy's twisted heads, either way, they were ready. But unfortunately, 6 hours after the initial release of The Great Milenko, Disney forced Hollywood Records to recall the album. At the time, Disney was under boycott from the Southern Baptists. The Southern Baptists were upset about Disney's subsidiaries, like Miramax, releasing "anti-family" movies (such as Pulp Fiction), as well as Disney's refusal to get rid of it's "Gay Day" at Disneyland. Disney decided to drop the album 6 hours after release, as a token effort to placate the Southern Baptists and end the boycott. This did not stop Insane Clown Posse for a second. Seeing Hollywood and Disney drop the ball on such a hot album, record companies began a bidding war to see who would be able to sign Insane Clown Posse. Island Records offered Insane Clown Posse not only money, but also the marketing skill and respect for the music that Insane Clown Posse were looking for, and Insane Clown Posse quickly signed. However, there was one serious catch. Disney refused to release ICP from their contract unless ICP paid Disney two million dollars. ICP did not have two million dollars to spare, and it looked like ICP would not be able to leave Hollywood. But in a meeting with Disney president Michael Eisner, Alex Abbiss said that if ICP weren't released with its contract with Disney, he would "bring in the Juggalos to burn down Disneyland." Shortly after Alex's statement, there was a sudden breakthrough in negotiations, and Disney released ICP for a substantially lower sum (which was paid by Island Records).
The Great Milenko was re-released on Island Records, with extra tracks that weren't included on the original, and despite the setbacks caused by Disney, it went on to be certified Platinum, and is currently the record holder for the longest running hip-hop/rap album in Billboard history.
ICP spent the interim between Jokers Cards expanding into the world of wrestling. In 1998, Insane Clown Posse joined the WWF (World Wrestling Federation), to wrestle with a team of sideshow freaks known as The Oddities. After several months in the WWF, ICP left, unhappy with the way they were portrayed in storylines. They moved to the WCW, where they first met their tag team partner and lifetime homie Vampiro. Insane Clown Posse and Vampiro instantly hit it off, and began terrorizing the WCW with their antics. But finally, due to scheduling difficulties (they were also on a U.S. tour at the time), ICP left the WCW.
In June of 1999, the last year of the century, the 5th Jokers Card - The Amazing Jeckel Brothers arrived. The album was an instant success, debuting at #4 on the Billboard Charts (just behind the Backstreet Boys). It was considered a landmark event among many in the music industry, that a band with no radio play, no MTV play, loathed by the critics, despised by the media, and without any major advertising campaign or strategy, would be able to be so successful. It was a testament to the power of the Dark Carnival, and its dedicated followers, the Juggalos. The album was certified platinum shortly afterward.
That summer, the music industry finally began to show some respect for the Insane Clown Posse. ICP were asked to perform at the legendary Woodstock Music Festival. And later that year ICP were the cover story for Alternative Press (that issue turned out to be the best selling issue of AP EVER!).
ICP began to take the Dark Carnival's message into other areas. ICP released their comic book line (by Chaos! Comics), helped produce their label mates and homies Twiztid's new album Mostasteless, and started the now infamous Juggalo Championshit Wrestling, which is currently the third highest grossing wrestling federation nationally (behind the WWF and ECW, and ahead of the WCW who is currently losing money). They also filmed a full production motion picture, Big Money Hustlers, featuring stars such as Rudy Ray Moore (Dolomite), The Jerky Boys, Harland Williams, WWF's Mankind, Fred "Rerun" Barry, The Misfits, and more!
The Dark Carnival became even more powerful in the new Milenium. ICP made a triumphant return to WCW to be reunited with Vampiro, and to form the team known as "The Dark Carnival". ICP also began preproduction on their next movie, a comedy western. Psychopathic Records put on the most legendary fan convention ever, The Gathering of the Juggalos. And finally, they prepared to release their next big project, the double album Bizzar Bizaar!
And what lies in the future as the 6th Jokers Card approaches. None but the Dark Carnival knows. All we can guarantee is that no matter what happens, it will be insane, and that The Wicked Clowns will never die!