Metalhead Juggalo: The 15 Best Rock Songs by Insane Clown Posse
Insane Clown Posse have been a musical institution for over 30 years, but the public opinion of the Detroit-based clown duo comprised of Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope has morphed over the years. First seen as a cult rap group, it wasn’t long before they were pegged as “the most hated band in the world,” leaders of a “gang” and ridiculed for not knowing how magnets work. But that’s markedly different from their current position, where it seems that the wicked clowns are finally getting some respect for their hustle and creativity.
With the announcement that ICP’s next tour will be their last due to Violent J’s health issues, people are rediscovering the band or perhaps listening to them for the first time to see what they missed. Though ICP are mainly a rap group with some horrorcore elements related to carnivals and psycho circuses, ICP were actually the bridge for many rock and metal fans into hip hop, as they did sometimes walk the tightrope between rap and rock. I vividly remember seeing the video for “Halls of Illusions” on the Canadian metal music video show Loud, which led me to The Great Milenko album and beyond.
ICP fans are called Juggalos (and sometimes ninjas), but you don’t need to label yourself that to enjoy their songs, just like you don’t need to call yourself a Maggot when listening to “People = Shit.” The documentary American Juggalo was a glimpse into that world, though I think it could be taken even further; when is African Juggalo or Asian Juggalo coming out?
What’s more, Insane Clown Posse’s annual Gathering of the Juggalos festival has played host to some surprisising bands over the years such as Cannibal Corpse, Fear Factory, Gwar, Psychostick and Green Jelly, showing that ICP’s connection with the metal world is very much intact.
If you were on the fence about ICP and didn’t know where to start or just want to go down memory lane, “Let’s take a walk down the hallway. It’s a long way. It takes all day.”
Here are some of the duo’s best rock-based songs.
“Chicken Huntin’ (Slaughterhouse Mix)”
ICP’s first two albums, Carnival of Carnage and The Ringmaster, were as close to traditional rap as could be, albeit with the theme of dark carnivals and their tortuous rides. There was a grungy guitar backing track on “For the Maggots” from Ringmaster, but otherwise these albums were void of rock elements. It wasn’t until their third album, The Riddle Box, when a guitar finally came into the center mix. “Chicken Huntin’,” a song about murdering racist rednecks the clowns deem “chickens,” is a beefed-up remake of the Ringmaster track and is one of the group’s more iconic songs, featuring lyrics inspired by Violent J’s personal experiences. The track begins with a simple riff before the clowns take you down to the deep south: “What can you do with a drunken hillbilly? Cut his fuckin’ eyes out and feed him to his Aunt Milly,” spit J and 2 Dope. Blood, guts, fingers, toes fill this classic horrorcore track; enjoy with a 5-piece chicken nugget box.
The Great Milenko was ICP’s first foray into the mainstream in 1997. The album was backed by Disney’s Hollywood Records but was taken off shelves just after its release (surely the label brass listened to ICP before signing them?) and later released on Island Records. The album has some noteworthy guest rock musicians including Alice Cooper on the intro track, Slash on “Halls of Illusions,” and ICP’s version of “The Three Little Pigs” with The Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones on guitar. Fantasies about killing racist rednecks come up a lot in ICP’s songs, and this is one of the more iconic examples, including a bigot cop as the second piggy and a greedy, wealthy piggy as the third. The track brings to mind “Chicken Huntin’” and is from the same wicked farm, though dealing with pork this round.
“Halls of Illusions”
During ICP’s The Great Milenko phase, their hair was in prime nu metal style: thick, long dreadlocks, which made the duo seem like clownish versions of Jonathan Davis when headbanging to the “rock” choruses in songs like “Halls of Illusions.” The aforementioned song with Slash on guitar, the track takes the listener down a carnival ride where they are made to firstly look at illusions of an ideal life, and then the life they actually created for themselves and their families, which, as you can guess, is shit. Some choice lyrics here are “Back to reality, your son’s on crack. And your daughter’s got nut stains on her back.” While vulgar, it is a great morality tale which condemns domestic abuse and showcases ICP’s knack for storytelling at its best.
“How Many Times?”
One of the darker tracks on The Great Milenko, “How Many Times?” in its edited video version includes a Sabbath-like droning guitar. Violent J’s lyrics are akin to Michael Douglas’s character from Falling Down, experiencing the terrible and frustrating trivialities of daily life — traffic jams, waiting in lines and going into McDonald’s and not getting a cheeseburger — while knowing one can make gunpowder from limestone, on the verge of snapping. The video for the song features classic wrestlers The Honky Tonk Man and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine lounging in a living room with the clowns.
When The Amazing Jeckel Brothers was released in 1999, ICP found themselves associated with the current nu metal crop of bands that were out at the moment. ICP were never labeled nu metal, but blending rap and rock certainly made them acquaintances to the genre. The release of the album saw them play Woodstock ’99 playing opposite Korn. Later, they booked a tour with Coal Chamber only for the Chamber boys to leave the trek after only two shows (the reasons for which have been disputed on both sides). On “Assassins,” their Woodstock ’99 set opener, ICP take the Geto Boys classic (whom they also brought back together for The Mighty Death Pop) and add chunky guitar riffs, letting the festival attendees know that these clowns were not to be fucked with.
“Fuck the World”
The Amazing Jeckel Brothers featured a handful of guitar-infused tracks which properly morphed ICP into a more aggressive unit. “Fuck the World” could be considered a precursor to Limp Bizkit’s “Hot Dog,” with Violent J proclaiming “In this song I say fuck 93 times.” Mike E. Clark’s sinister production on this track sounds like it’s a B-side from an ‘80s New York gang film like The Warriors. Fueled by the duo’s conflict with Disney from their previous album, ICP laid their spire down here, calling out Celine Dion, Ted Nugent alongside Spin and Rolling Stone. The pre-chorus, “If I only could I’d set the world on fire,” sees ICP at their height of nihilism.
“I Want My Shit”
The Great Milenko attempted to tell listeners exactly what a Juggalo was, and on their next album, ICP expanded upon that and tried to inform us of what they want. Apparently that’s a rusty axe, to know how to practice voodoo, to have a “fat bitch” named Bridget as a companion in life and to have a little sip of the soda known in discount marts everywhere as Faygo. Truthfully, ICP could have named anything they wanted in the song and it would have worked; the format rocks and is perfect for a shout-along, as thousands did at Woodstock ’99.
When ICP were active WCW wrestlers, they teamed with metal-based characters Raven and Vampiro, and later the Japanese legend The Great Muta. For their tenure, like in the WWF before, they produced their own theme song, the guitar-driven “Take It,” originally used in their group The Deadpool. The song is probably what you’d imagine a rap/rock song by ICP would typically sound like if you’ve never heard them before. After the release of The Wraith and the revelation that “the carnival is God,” the lyrics to “Take It” could certainly be referring to a higher power as in the lyric “everything is up to him.” Violent J has said that it alludes to the devil, however. Interestingly, wrestlers other than ICP used the track for their entrance music after the clowns left WCW.
From Forgotten Freshness Volume 3, “Cartoon Nightmares” sounds like what you’d expect ICP to be if they fronted an actual band, with real drums in place of programmed beats and full guitar during the chorus. The song is quite nonsensical, which I suppose is the point seeing as the title refers to animated trips through the subconscious. The track does rock and features at least one laugh-out-loud line: “If you were Andre the Giant, that shit would be slick. You could finger fuck a girl and she’d think it’s your dick.”
“The Dirt Ball”
From the Psychopathics from Outer Space album, “The Dirt Ball” sees ICP, along with special guests Twiztid, rapping the song through the eyes of alien visitors (the dirt ball in question is Earth). I can’t help but think of Gwar or Ziltoid the Omniscient when hearing this track, though ICP actually bring thought-provoking commentary on Earth’s problems such as racism through an alien perspective. The chorus here is the metal part of the song, with an account of humans shouting to the alien rappers, “This is our world, so get the fuck out!” accompanied by heavy guitars. The chorus wouldn’t feel out of place on heavier albums, which is probably why the track was also added to the Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2 soundtrack alongside bands like Pantera, System of a Down and Monster Magnet.
When you have the dark carnival as an inspirational source, no doubt you’d try to make a song out of every ride found at one. “House of Mirrors” and “Halls of Illusions” came before and were mainly morality tales of those not living a righteous life getting mutilated on the ride. “Tilt-A-Whirl” is fairly straightforward as far as songs go, being closer to the rock side of rap rock. Vocally, the wicked clowns act like those ride MC’s beckoning chickens who have beat their kids to get on. As the verses go on, more sinners are encouraged to hop on, which is typical in ICP “ride songs.” No matter who it might be, as the clowns say in the rocking chorus, “They all die.”
“Rainbows & Stuff”
ICP do their own version of Julie Andrews’ “My Favorite Things” with this Bizaar track. “I like ice cream, cherry pie and lemonade with summer breeze. I like rainbows, leafy trails and puppy dogs with bumblebees” croons Violent J, who perhaps should be called Gentle J here, before getting straight to the hate with the chorus: “Something tells me that I hate you. Something tells me I must kill you.” The song fits the standard soft verse/hard chorus rock radio format, and if this were any other group, it could have been a hit.
“Let’s Go All the Way”
Before System of a Down put out Mesmerize and Hypnotize, the wicked clowns put out their own double-album deal with Bizzar and Bizaar, released on the same day in 2000. Both albums feature a number of rock-based tracks such as the gloriously dumb “Rainbows and Stuff” and “Tilt-A-Whirl.” “Let’s Go All the Way,” a Sly Fox cover, is certainly a stand-out; the song exemplifies the Juggalo ideology best with rich kids, poor kids, scrubbies and the like all coming together to be part of the family. The video sees ICP on parade in a suburban neighborhood, with some citizens gawking in disgust and others joining the fun. ICP’s cold war with MTV came to a head on December 8, 2000, when the band asked fans to request the video on their TRL show. Nearly 400 ICP fans showed up outside the studio and were subsequently removed from the premises. Calls to play the video were ignored by MTV.
The Wraith: Shangri-la was a monumental album in ICP’s discography, the final in the band’s series of original joker’s cards. Juggalos waited with bated breath to find out the secret message of the Dark Carnival, which would finally be revealed to mixed reactions on track 17, “Thy Unveiling.” The album, while not going as hard as the prior Jeckel Brothers, does have its share of bangers like “Hell’s Forecast” and this cover of Above the Law’s “Murder Rap,” a prime example of the wicked clowns of old delivering a song that is unabashedly street. The term “death rap” would later be used by rappers like Necro (who also has ties to metal with his album The Pre-Fix for Death), but when the wicked clowns decide to get their hatchets out, few hack and slash better.
“Leck Mich Im Arsch”
Insane Clown Posse, Jack White and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. When was the last time a holy trinity of musical genii came together like this? The original canon by Mozart was written in 1782, and as it refers to rim jobs, was thought to be a party piece for his friends. Fellow Detroit native White contacted ICP to help modernize the track, with the wicked clowns rapping over his guitar work , “He wrote this, don’t sugar-coat this: ‘To get your ass licked off is the dopest. Call it a fetish, call him a freak. Call him in need of a tongue on his butt cheek.’” Truly a timeless message 230 years in the making.