From Ridicule to Ruler: How Juggalos became one of the most dominant voices in the underground
Calgary, AB – It’s around noon and my phone is ringing, the caller ID displaying “Psychopathic Records.”
A representative from the Michigan-based record label is on the other end letting me know that my interview with Violent J, one half of the Insane Clown Posse, will start in around 10 minutes once he gets to the office.
The rep asks what kind of questions I have planned, and I tell him that most of the questions pertain in some way to the forthcoming Canadian Juggalo Weekend here in Calgary. The rep is glad to hear that this is the primary topic of discussion today, because according to him the label has been envisioning an event like this for well over a decade.
That’s the length of time that ICP was prevented from coming into Canada because of issues at the border. Before their return last summer, the last time they played in Canada was actually a one-off show in Toronto in 1999.
“I’ve read reviews of our concerts that said the show was pathetic and awful, and there were the Juggalos. Let’s look at that statement for a minute… how does that even make sense? Juggalos are human beings. They’re people. So that’s like saying the show sucked, the only ones having fun were the people. How does that even make sense?”
– Violent J
Despite the long absence, the growth of Juggalo culture – the group of fans that have risen around ICP and their “wicked shit,” or hip-hop infused with cinematic horror imagery – here in Canada has been visibly unhindered. The culture is now entering its second generation, with children of the original wave of Juggalos getting into the music. ICP, after all, has been active since the late 1980’s.
The forthcoming Juggalo Weekend is a testament to their popularity north of the border, and the resounding response by fans last year. It’s a colossal, two-day event boasting acts like Ice-T, Swollen Members, and the Posse themselves.
Ten minutes has gone by and the phone rings again. This time it’s the voice of Violent J. Question-and-answer format is the best way to present an interview with Violent J because of his unique way of speaking. J has been involved with wrestling in some form or another since 1983, and each response he gives resembles a wrestler cutting a promo. His voice is animated and energized, his responses go on for minutes at a time without faltering. Wrestlers use promos to advance storylines, and each sentence J speaks advances the storyline of the Juggalo community, and the legacy of ICP.
There aren’t too many groups left in music that can take an artist from relative obscurity and charge them up to the point of being able to make a living while touring, at least not without the intervention of a major label. According to Violent J, however, this is something the Juggalo community can routinely accomplish.
We talk in depth about the true potential that the Juggalos have in the modern music industry landscape, their impact on hip-hop, and what it means to be a Juggalo in 2017.
Q&A: Violent J
Written by Jonathan Crane for HipHopCanada
Photo by Sarah Jay for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada: Historically, when it comes to hip-hop, Calgary has kind of been seen as being a bit behind some of the other big cities like Toronto or Vancouver. So what made you guys pick Calgary for this event?
I’m not sure. In reality I had nothing to do with that. That was done between our manager Billy, who’s a childhood friend of ours, and whoever our agent is over there. I think, I assumed it would be somewhere closer to Toronto because Juggalo Weekend has been in Detroit for the first three years. So just my own assumption was it was going to be in Toronto, but I thought that’s not so cool. Anybody that lives in Toronto, if they really wanted to go to a Juggalo Weekend they could have drove to Detroit. It’s only four hours. But when I heard it was in Calgary I was like “Fuck yeah, that’s dope, because that’s way west. It’s what I consider deep into Canada, and that makes it legit, so I’m happy to hear that’s in Calgary!” I think that’s cool. I’m not sure logistically why it was chosen, but I definitely am happy about it. Especially Calgary’s wrestling history. I’m a huge wrestling fan, so every time I think of Calgary I think of wrestling.
HipHopCanada: One act on the lineup that I think has caught a lot of attention down here is 2 Live Crew. You’ve stated before that the Juggalo movement has kind of given a second wind to a lot of older acts. I was wondering if you could elaborate on that second wind of classic hip-hop artists coming back into the Juggalo community.
Well you know, Juggalo subculture is very unique, there’s never been anything like it, that I know of. I’m waiting for someone to tell me something similar, even remotely similar to the way Juggalos operate. Juggalos embrace certain artists, and they embrace them strongly. Collectively they move as one.
Of course Juggalos disagree with each other about things. But looking at it from a higher perspective, it looks like they move in masses as one. They accept you or they don’t. We toured with the 2 Live Crew on the Shangri-La tour. Back in my day when I was a kid, I remember being a kid listening to that shit and loving it, and when we did the Shangri-La tour back in 2001 or something like that, we were like “How about the 2 Live Crew?”, you know?
And they weren’t active at the time. They weren’t doing anything, so they kind of came together and did the tour, and it was just dope man. It was like… even kids today, they don’t remember their days, the days of the 2 Live Crew. They know the songs, every body knows “Hey, we want some pussy,” and that’s just anthem shit, you know what I mean. And of course [they have] a lot of other hits, so all the Juggalos are having a blast in the crowd like ‘wow I know that shit, I’ve heard that shit before.’ Even if they’re younger, you know. And Juggalos chose to embrace them.
The same thing can be said for Vanilla Ice. Vanilla Ice was this humongous pop star, they were even calling him the ‘Elvis of Rap’ which is just crazy. He was this huge pop star, and then he came down, because when you’re up that high there’s nowhere else to go but down, you know. He came down, and then he was no longer with the major label he was on and shit, and he started being who he really is.
He reinvented himself, and he started doing hardcore shit. And I remember when he came out with his album, everybody’s laughing at him, and dissing him, and ‘ha ha ha.’ Same people that used to love him of course, the same people that put him on that pedestal, they’re the ones laughing at him. At his lowest point, the Juggalos embraced him, took him in. And he never forgot that, and now that all this 90’s nostalgia shit is back, I don’t know if they came to Canada, but they did this tour here called I Love The 90’s Tour and sold out, I think, every date.
They’re playing 15,000 seat amphitheatres killing it. He came to Detroit, the tour came to Detroit, and he called us and asked us to do a song with him. I think the Juggalos mean everything to him because they were there for him when nobody else was.
That’s just the way that Juggalos operate. Juggalos understood what he’d been through, and he was saying “Man, they told me to wear those pants, they told me to do my hair like that, I was just going with the flow, I was just a kid.” And Juggalos saw the realness in that shit, you know what I’m saying? When he came out with his hardcore shit, his album Bi-Polar, this kind of darker, wicked shit, Juggalos were there for him. Juggalos accepted him because he was an outcast. The world outcasted him, and now it’s all cool to love the 90’s again, and he’s selling out all these amphitheatres, headlining this tour called I Love The 90’s, but he doesn’t forget what really matters to him. Those who were there for him this whole ride, it was the Juggalos. Same thing with 2 Live crew.
“Juggalos accepted [Vanilla Ice] because he was an outcast. The world outcasted him, and now it’s all cool to love the 90’s again, and he’s selling out all these amphitheatres.“
Ice-T has great love for Juggalos. Now, there was never a point where Ice-T was down and out, but he just seems to recognize what Juggalos are, and has an appreciation for them, you know what I mean? My favourite rapper of all time, Ice Cube, somebody who’s never had a low point in his career, also recognizes what the Juggalos are, and he played The Gathering in the United States twice. I sent him an e-mail asking if he’d do a song with us, and he did it for free.
This, to me and Shaggy, it is like… I can’t even tell you. It’s meant more to us than anything to have Ice Cube rap on our shit for nothing. I remember back in the 90’s we offered Ice Cube $100,000 to do a 16-bar verse, and they turned us down, you know what I mean. But years later, because of what the Juggalo world has become, it was like a nod of acknowledgement, it was like a nod of props.
So yeah, the Juggalo world… like rapper Paris… take Paris for example. He was super controversial, super ruthless, Warner Brothers threw him off of Tommy Boy records even though he was hot because he had dead cops laying on his album cover and shit, and hanging out of a car with bullet holes and shit. He had a song called “Bush Killer” when president Bush was in office. And Juggalos love that shit. Paris was pretty much inactive when we met Paris. We brought him on tour, we said “Ride with us for a while,” and he was like, “Sure.”
He was making good money [outside of music], I think he’s some sort of an accountant or something, but he was making good money, and making a living. And I’d tell him every day on the road, I’d tell him “You don’t understand, you’re a beast, you’re a monster man. People love your shit.” Now, you go to guerillafunk.com and you can see Paris is active as hell, you know what I’m saying. And I think that had a lot to do with the Juggalos, I really do, Juggalos embracing him. He played The Gathering, we did songs together, and I’m not saying that Paris’ only audience is Juggalos, because that’s not the case at all. Same with 2 Live Crew or any of those people. But it was the Juggalos that kind of recharged the batteries maybe, you know what I mean, and let them know they’re loved. There’s others that Juggalos have embraced when nobody else was, you know what I’m saying.
Of course, I think Juggalos biggest credit is the discovery of dope talent. Like for example, Tech N9ne… biggest example I guess would be Tech N9ne.
He was grown in the Juggalo garden, there’s no question about it. For years, for years, his entire world was Juggalo. He’s been at the last probably 10 or 15 gatherings, he performed at them. He toured with us, on one of our biggest tours called the Wicked Wonka Tour. It was us and Bone Thugs, and Cottonmouth Kings, and Tech, and somebody else was on it.
He was born and raised in the Juggalo world. He was grown in the Juggalo garden, is how I put it. Now, he has hits on the radio, he’s doing tracks with Lil Wayne, Lil Wayne’s on his album and he’s on Lil Wayne’s album, and he’s got pretty much every fuckin’ body in his album, and he’s got hits on the radio you know.
Same thing with Hopsin. Hopsin, born and bred in the Juggalo world. The first people to ever discover Hopsin, and this has nothing to do with us, neither does Tech, nothing to do with us. Juggalos found this, discovered this, supported it heavily, you know what I’m saying. They laid the foundation for these artists, you know what I’m saying? Juggalos seek out innovative, interesting, eccentric, independent artists, and they just support. It spreads through the Juggalo community, like “This guy’s dope! Check this guy out.” Next thing you know that guy has a fucking following, a huge following.
There’s artists, like Twiztid for example. They live and exist in the Juggalo world, right, they buy homes. They pay their houses off, they raise families, all while living their dream of being a quote-unquote “rock star.” But you will not find an article on Twiztid anywhere, any publication, any newspaper, anything, you won’t find it, you won’t find even so much as a review of the new album. [Editor’s side note: in 2016 we both interviewed and reviewed Twiztid] They’re from Detroit, right here in Detroit’s weekly papers you won’t even find a fucking review because mainstream is, in the United States at least, the mainstream world is like “Oh that’s Juggalo shit? Well that don’t count.”
Now, any other artist capable of buying a home, raising a family, and touring for 20 years, is considered a fucking success, you know what I mean? But Twiztid, and others like them, Boondox, Blaze, fucking Anybody Killa, fucking Jelly Roll, these guys, they just don’t get the accolades that they deserve. They don’t get the attention they deserve.
It’s a shame because I just think man, sometimes I hear a song from them and I think, ‘if that was in the mainstream world, that would without a question be a legitimate hit.’ That would be a hit. And it just will never be seen by anybody but the Juggalo world, which is plenty for us, Insane Clown Posse, believe me. That’s all we want. We’re totally happy satisfying the Juggalo world, that is our world, that is our life, that is what we live to do, is entertain Juggalos, but some of these other artists I just think ‘man, if that were anywhere else, on any other label or something, that shit would fuckin’ blow, there’s no question.’
HipHopCanada: So to follow from that, you say that Juggalos are really keen at finding new talent, new artists, so is that why there’s also a focus on general underground artists like Merkules and Swollen Members on the lineup?
Absolutely! These are people Juggalos are very familiar with, you know what I’m saying? These are people Juggalos love, man. Swollen Members? Madchild? Come on, man. Juggalos fuckin’ love them, you know what I’m saying? I don’t know anything about their business, but I can tell you in the United States, 75% of the people that buy their music and come to their shows are Juggalos. And that’s just a guestimation, I would assume it is. Hands down, Madchild [is] respected hard in the Juggalo world. I could be wrong… I could be dead wrong, my guestimation would be easily 75% of the people at their shows are Juggalos, in the United States. I don’t know about Canada, because I know that’s where they’re from, but I know here that would be my guess. Again, discovered first by Juggalos, like Ritz… are you familiar with Rittz?
“Swollen Members? Madchild? Come on, man. Juggalos fuckin’ love them, you know what I’m saying? I don’t know anything about their business, but I can tell you in the United States, 75% of the people that buy their music and come to their shows are Juggalos.“
HipHopCanada: No, I don’t think I’ve checked him out.
He’s incredible, he’s on the ascent. I think his third album is coming out. He’s ascending fast – Juggalos, all day, all night long, Juggalos. Same thing, and Ritz is like reaching the point where he’s breaking out from the Juggalo world into the mainstream now but – Juggalos.
Juggalos knew about him for years, you know what I’m saying? That’s how it works. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jelly Roll blows next. He’ll probably blow up and then fuckin’ have a huge hit on the radio, and then it can cross over to country and all kinds of shit. But he’s been in the Juggalo world for years because the first people to find him were Juggalos, you know what I’m saying.
Anything authentic, anything different, anything legit, anything good and I think – anything independent – is what Juggalos love. I don’t know of any major label artists that Juggalos all collectively love, you know. I don’t know one. It’s usually ‘do-it-yourself’ guys that they get behind. I say usually… but I think I’d be safe in saying it’s only ‘do-it-yourself’ artists that Juggalos get behind. You know, that’s my knowledge.
Of course there’s Juggalos that like everything; Korn or whatever, you know what I mean yeah. But not all of them have like a collective unit.
If you go to a Juggalo fanzine, they’re not talking about Korn’s album, you see what I’m saying? Juggalos, would they rock out if Korn was at The Gathering? Fuck yeah, you know what I’m saying? Would they rock out if In This Moment’s at The Gathering? Fuck yeah! Flosstradamus at The Gathering? Fuck yeah! But you don’t read – Machine Gun Kelly at The Gathering? Fuck yeah! YellaWolf at The Gathering? Fuck yeah! Ice Cube at The Gathering? Fuck yeah! but you don’t read news about them on the fan sites. You don’t read reviews of their album, you don’t see their videos posted on the Juggalo fan sites, but you do see Swollen Members, Madchild, you see Ritz, Tech N9ne, Hopsin, you know what I’m saying, you see all of that. Twiztid, Boondox, Blaze, Anybody Killa, you know all those artists, you see their shit on the fan sites. You understand what I’m saying though?
HipHopCanada: Oh yeah, totally.
Yeah. They love Rob Zombie, you know what I mean? But it’s not a Juggalo thing. But sure they’ll rock the fuck out of Rob Zombie, you know what I’m saying? But it’s just not, Wu-Tang Clan… fuckin’ Method Man and Redman, they’ll rock that crowd, you know what I’m saying? Same thing with Ice T. He’ll come and fuckin’ slay the Juggalos… slay ’em dead man. Like totally flip all their wigs off. But it’s just not like, collectively. Well, Ice T’s a little bit different, Juggalos love the fuck out of Ice T, I might be wrong there. You get what I’m saying though.
Mainstream artists can come and rock The Gathering… don’t get me wrong. But to be considered a Juggalo-loved artist is something different, you know what I mean.
HipHopCanada: So kind of touching on that as well, you talked a lot about what makes the community unique in the way that they bring up artists. But you’ve also said that with the Juggalo community there’s been nothing like it in history of rock ‘n roll. And you’ve even mentioned the hippy scene back in the 60’s, not even that was like the Juggalo movement.
Nothing like the Juggalo movement… that was like collectively all across the United States. That’s what the mainstream was doing, that’s not a movement. Hippies, that was what was in, you know? It’s like disco. That’s not a movement, that’s a fuckin’ what’s-in-style, you know what I’m saying. It’s like wearing fuckin’ piano ties and colourful jackets in the 80’s, it just didn’t have a name. You get what I’m saying though.
Juggalos are an underground thing, a subculture, there’s nothing like it. Even, let’s go deeper than hippies… Dead Heads. There’s a subculture, right? But, the guys that follow the Grateful Dead, they used to follow the Grateful dead, that’s a subculture, you get what I’m saying.
HipHopCanada: Yeah, that’s where I was kind of going with that, what distinguishes the Juggalos from anything else in the history of rock ‘n roll.
Well, because Dead Heads are Grateful Dead fans, nothing more, nothing less. That’s what they are, it’s a name for their fans. They all get stoned, they fuckin’ follow the band around, getting high. Same thing with Phish, that band Phish. When they tour, all the Phish heads come out, they fuckin’ get high, they set up tents in the parking lot, they, what do they call that, tailgating, and they fuckin’ set up like a whole drug city where they trade drugs, sell drugs, get high, whatever. You don’t have to be high to enjoy a Juggalo event. But apparently you gotta get stoned on acid to have a good time at a fuckin’ Phish concert… I know I would have to be.
“You don’t have to be high to enjoy a Juggalo event. But apparently you gotta get stoned on acid to have a good time at a fuckin’ Phish concert… I know I would have to be.“
Juggalos are just incredible man. So you’re a Phish head, you follow Phish around, you get high. That’s it. There’s your legacy. Well Juggalos have a lot more to offer. Juggalos seek out and discover fresh talent, support that talent, you know what I mean. There is no leader in the Juggalo world, there’s no king group in the Juggalo world, Juggalos make their own decisions.
Like Insane Clown Posse, Juggalos may have originated as ICP fans at one time, but it’s nothing like anymore. There are Juggalos out there that don’t like ICP, you know what I’m saying. It’s just what it’s become todays, nowadays. We, ICP, we’ll produce an album with a new artist, put it out there, and Juggalos will say “Get out of here, we don’t like this.”
It doesn’t mean they’re automatically successful at all, we’ve had several artists that didn’t make it, that we found in the Juggalo world, that we put everything we had into. Juggalos make their own decisions. That’s why Juggalos support artists we [ICP] don’t even know, we never even met, and all of a sudden these artists are – I never met Madchild before he was a star in the Juggalo world. Juggalos discovered him. Juggalos communicate with each other, and it spreads like wildfire, next thing you know there’s someone successful in the Juggalo world because the Juggalos have chose to embrace them.
I think it’s cool man. And here in the United States they call it a fucking gang, the government declared it a gang, it’s so fucking unbelievably foul man. And they’re laughed at, they’re joked at. They’re laughed at and considered inbred fucking morons and shit… and you know it’s just not right. But when has shit ever been right, you know what I mean? There’s always some fucking bullshit going on.
HipHopCanada: That was actually going to be my last question here. I know that being declared a gang was one of the motivations behind organizing the next major event, which is the march on Washington. But how did marching on Washington even become an idea?
Because it’s becoming harder and harder to do everything that we want to do. The gang list was published in 2011, the top 10 gangs in the United States, and Juggalos were one of them. That’s the only year the FBI ever published a top 10 gang list, in 2012 there was no gang list, and there hasn’t been one since, and there wasn’t one before 2011. That was it, just 2011.
But that shit impacted Juggalos forever.
First thing that happened was stores like Spencer’s and Hot Topic pulled our merchandise. To do our event, to have The Gathering, it’s become nearly impossible to find a location willing to host The Gathering because it’s now looked at as a gang rally. It’s just so incredibly wrong.
And there is no calvary, there’s no fucking bunch of people stepping up to help us and support us and say “Hey man this is fucked up.” It’s not happening because we’re the bad guys, we’re the ultimate bad guys, we’re the bad guys of the bad guys. That’s why we call ourselves the most hated band in the world.
I can’t even understand how people like Neil Young and fucking all these people that always speak up, speak out on injustices and discrimination, shit like that… they’re just like “Oh they’re calling Juggalos a gang, well who gives a fuck? They’re Juggalos.” It’s just crazy to me.
I’ve read reviews of our concerts that said the show was pathetic and awful, and there were the Juggalos. Let’s look at that statement for a minute… how does that even make sense? Juggalos are human beings. They’re people. So that’s like saying the show sucked, the only ones having fun were the people. How does that even make sense?
“If you go to a fuckin’ Juggalo concert have a Juggalo do the review. It’s like having me fucking review Céline Dion’s album. I don’t know what the fuck she sings about. I can’t even tell you one fucking song of hers, what am I doing reviewing that shit, then what is some fucking asshole from some newspaper doing reviewing the Juggalo shit?“
That’s like picking me to review a fuckin’ Phish concert, I’m going to tell you they fucking suck because imma fall asleep 15 minutes into it because I’m not into that shit, you see what I’m saying? So what am I doing reviewing it. If you go to a fuckin’ Juggalo concert have a Juggalo do the review. It’s like having me fucking review Céline Dion’s album. I don’t know what the fuck she sings about. I can’t even tell you one fucking song of hers, what am I doing reviewing that shit, then what is some fucking asshole from some newspaper doing reviewing the Juggalo shit?
Anyways the reason we’re marching is because we’re letting the country know that we are not okay with being labelled a gang, and the stigma that came afterwards. We’re not okay, because if we don’t march then we might as well be everything they say we are. If we don’t fucking say something, it takes more than the band, it takes more than ICP and even all of the Juggalo artists to say “Hey man that ain’t cool.” It’s not about that, it takes the Juggalos themselves to say we’re not okay with it.
And how can you do that bro? How can you do that except for to march on Washington. I don’t know any other way to do it man, you tell me how to do it, I don’t know any way. People say that’s a publicity stunt for ICP, whatever. Damn right it’s a publicity stunt, but it ain’t for ICP, it’s for Juggalos.
It’s the Juggalos saying “fuck you” back.
All the shit you say about us, all the the ways you hold us down and discriminated, calling us a gang, fuckin’ making fun of us on TV and shit, fuck you too. That’s what it’s about… “fuck you” back.
Because if we just sit there and take it, we might as well be everything they say we are, you know. We’re just marching to say fuck you man, we’re the shit. That’s what’s up. We have pride, that’s what the march is about. We’re not trying to get nothing done, there’s no accomplishment other than to say hey man, fuck you too. We’re not cool with that, fuck you too. That’s what it’s all saying.
It’s like the mainstream world is like “fuck you” to Juggalos. They make fun of Juggalos everywhere… all that shit. It’s what happens here, it’s not so much like that in Canada or Europe or anywhere else, but in the United States it’s definitely like that. If you look at the positive articles about Juggalos and stack that amount next to the negative articles, it’s clearly a diss on Juggalos. And so it’s just Juggalos marching, it’s not going to be every year event or no shit like that, but just us one time as loudly as possible coming together and saying you know what man, fuck y’all. Fuck you too. Fuck you back. We’re not okay with it.
About: Canadian Juggalo Weekend
The Canadian Juggalo Weekend makes its debut in Calgary this year on April 7-8 at Calgary’s Marquee Beer Market and Festival Tent with two days of performances by ICP, their affiliates and friends of their worldwide Juggalo movement. Each day of the festival starts at 3 p.m. and ends just before midnight with a performance by the group.
Circus performers will get things started on both dates along with an hour and a half of the highly popular Juggalo Championship Wrestling. From there, the focus turns to music as DJ Clay (Friday) and DJ Carlito (Saturday) run through half an hour sets.
The festival also includes local showcases DJ’d by Dustin Def. Psychward Kidz and Doom Squad hold down the Friday slot while Alberta Murderaz and Saintanik perform on Saturday.
Other performing acts at this year’s festival include include Swollen Members, Fredro Starr and Sticky Fingaz of Onyx, Ice-T, The 2 Live Crew, Merkules, Blahzay Roze, Lyte, Big Hoodoo, Kung Fu Vampire, and hard rock band Kissing Candice. Tickets are available for purchase here.
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