The FBI suggests they are gangsters, while others call them Christians.
According to rapper Shaggy 2 Dope, his Insane Clown Posse is really just misunderstood.
The rapper (also known as Joseph Utsler) said he and his posse partner, Violent J (Joseph Bruce), are constantly thinking up darkly imaginative ways to distinguish themselves from other hip-hop artists, while also showing their listeners a good time.
For more than 25 years, the two white guys in clown makeup have been inventing, and then defining, the horrorcore rap genre through elaborately packaged CDs and gimmicky stage shows. The Detroit duo often chucks bottles of local soft drink Faygo out into the crowd while acting out shocking, over-the-top narratives (sometimes involving monsters and dancing girls) on spooky sets.
The posse is now on a first full Canadian tour in more than a decade.
While Shaggy remains mum about what violent, tongue-in-cheek morality tales are planned for the Red Deer show — on Monday, July 11, at Wild Bill’s Sports Bar — he promised the concert will be “from top to bottom, bigger and better” than ever.
“It’ll be full-on — know what I’m sayin’? We’ll be on the verge of passing out, there’ll be so much energy… We’ve elevated our craft to a science…”
Since forming as a trio in 1989 (Shaggy’s now late brother John Utsler left in 1992), Insane Clown Posse has been emulated by many other hip-hop groups including Twiztid, Ax Murder Boyz, Ill Bill, Boondox, etc.
Lesser artists might consider it copying, but Shaggy finds it flattering. “We’re very humble guys,” he said. “To have something like that happen to us… how can we ever express how grateful we are?” He feels ICP’s legacy should be “coming from nothing and changing the whole f—-ing thing.”
Right now, the duo is probably best known for being hassled by the FBI.
In 2011, the agency publicly called ICP fans (known as ‘Juggalos’) gang members. The duo filed a lawsuit over this label, and it still gets Shaggy’s blood boiling: “It’s the most ridiculous thing in the history of music… To call a nine-year-old rural kid in Montana a ‘gangster’ just because he wears an IC T-shirt is the most f—-ing, asinine sh— I’ve ever heard!”
The Christian label, first mentioned in The Guardian newspaper, seems equally bizarre (a writer decided ICP’s songs about evil people getting punished sends an evangelical message.) Allowing for leeway in song interpretations, Shaggy considers it “not as crazy as the gang thing.”
The rapper, who grew up poor as his stepfather kept getting laid-off from various jobs in the ‘80s, said he’s not a church-goer, but recognizes there are rights and wrongs in the world and evil-doers usually get their just desserts.
ICP’s stage antics are good theatre, he added — not unlike shows by fellow Detroit-native Alice Cooper, which also involve a bad man getting his comeuppance.
The duo’s 13th and 14th studio albums are called The Marvelous Missing Link: Lost and The Marvelous Missing Link: Found.
The first is made up mostly of negative songs (Vomit, Explosions), while the second contains mostly positive ones (The World is Yours, Pineapple Pizza).
While Shaggy and Violent J have previously written tunes that touch on social issues, such as child abuse and racism, Shaggy is completely uninspired by politics, saying “I’ve never voted in my life, so why start now?”
The artist, now a dad in his 40s, would rather encourage kids to stick with their passions. He noted he wasn’t the best rapper when he began the “upward climb… Everybody was rapping, but we were the only two that stuck with it…
“If you quit, if you don’t keep going,” you don’t get anywhere, Shaggy added. “You’d got to keep elevating yourself, you’ve got to evolve with the times…”
Tickets to the 9 p.m. show are $30, if there are any left at the door.