In their decade of debauchery, the Insane Clown Posse have been anything but predictable. Just when fans thought they'd seen Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J in every imaginable situation — from feuding with Sharon Osbourne to dissing Eminem to giving thousands nationwide reason to assemble in one place for the annual Gathering of the Juggalos festival — the clown-faced couple are poised to once again shock and startle by forfeiting their "to hell with it all" attitude and actually being ... positive.
"Maybe I'm getting old, but everything is just the bomb," Violent J beamed. "It's raining nothing but diamonds all over my face."
The sea change that swept over the homicidal harlequins comes on the brink of what J refers to as "the end of everything, but also the beginning," ICP's latest album, The Wraith: Shangri-La, the sixth and final Joker's Card, due November 5. An outward display of the transformation is evidenced by the clowns' new face paint. Colorful rather than the standard black and white, the cosmetic design will change to suit whatever outfits they're wearing.
"What I realized was that I'm a success," J said. "My boy Shaggy is a success. The dreams we had in school, we did and we succeeded. I'm so sick of complaining that MTV doesn't play my videos. I'm so sick of bitching that radio don't play my songs. What do I give a f--k? Look at all the sh-- we have."
Indeed. The clowns' accomplishments are no joke, and many artists sputter out before realizing even half of their accomplishments. Hanging on the walls of their Psychopathic Records imprint are two platinum and five gold certifications for sales in excess of 1 million and 500,000 copies, respectively. Tours are generally well attended and the plethora of ICP merchandise available is rivaled perhaps only by that of Kiss and the Rolling Stones.
"We might be a joke, but over on my end, I'm buying my mom another house. Over on my end, we do a show and I look out and see 1,000 painted faces, anywhere in the country."
"OK maybe not, but we can play Fargo and draw 500."
For those unfamiliar with ICP lore, from their inception the over-the-top horror rappers have prophesized that six Joker's Cards would arise, each with its own apocalyptic bend, with the final one signifying the arrival of Judgment Day. Although ICP released 10 full-length albums overall, only five were classified Joker's Cards: 1992's Carnival of Carnage, 1994's The Ringmaster, 1995's The Riddle Box, 1997's The Great Milenko and 1999's The Amazing Jeckel Brothers.
J announced at the last Gathering of the Juggalos that the sixth card would come in two parts, with The Wraith: Hell's Pit positioned to follow Shangri-La by exactly one year, though that's no longer the case. Now that he's seen heaven, J's not about to even consider the flip side.
"Shangri-La is the end of the road," he explained. "It's the end of the Joker's Cards. After this I could do anything I want, for the rest of my life. The positivity was so unbelievable."
J's pleasure principle doesn't stem from ICP realizing their financial well-being. While that certainly is not overlooked, it's the community of Juggalos — as ICP fans are called — that the group has fostered that makes him view ICP as a success. The impact his group has had on their lives is the most rewarding thing for J.
J said he finally sat up and acknowledged his surroundings while on last year's Dark Lotus Tour with protégés Twiztid and rapper Marz. For the first time he was able to see past his dissenters and appreciate the fruits of his labors.
"Not only did we find light at the end of the tunnel," he said of his epiphany, "but we found naked chicks, the finest Faygo products, homies ... everything!"
While the rapper is secretive when it comes to what The Wraith sounds like, he did hint that it's a shift musically as well as thematically. J and Shaggy won't be getting as drastic as leading a polka resurgence or twanging their banging with a banjo, though J expects fans to take in their sound with jaws agape.
"There's no way I can be a badass 52-year-old gangsta rapper," he reasoned. "That ain't gonna happen. What the world is going to see now is the ICP with no limitations or expectations. People didn't notice, but we can sing. And we sing on this new record, and I don't give a f--- what people say — it don't matter. [The Wraith] is so dope it made my ma cry."
While Ms. J reaches for the Kleenex, ICP fans may shed tears of joy when they finally understand the meaning of the number 17, references to which are peppered throughout the lyrics of ICP's discography — the clowns are kicking it with 17 friends, 17 hotties are hanging out backstage, J was shot 17 times, he's got 17 dead homies, etc. Naturally, the answer lies in track number 17.
"Everything is answered on track 17," he said, before warning, "you could just skip to track 17, but that's just stale. You've got to listen to it all then hit track 17.
"Besides," he added, "you've waited 10 years, you could take the hour to hear the whole record."
Although J can see beyond his critics, when it comes to reviews of The Wraith, he's doubtful music journos will reciprocate in kind.
"They'll just hear the 'f---s, bitches and sh--s, like they always hear, and assume it's another clown record," he said. "But to the Juggalos, when they listen to what we say on track 17, and they realize how the whole 10-year saga ends, it's going to make them break down and cry just like it did for my mom and half the other people I've played it for ... mostly women."
The release of The Wraith will be preceded by fanfare to match its anticipation. Beginning Friday (October 4), ICP will embark on their Haunted House Tour that stretches throughout the month to culminate in their ninth annual Hallowicked shows, October 30 and 31 at the Royal Oak Music Theatre in Royal Oak, Michigan. On the Haunted House Tour, ICP will play frightening fixtures in the houses, scaring visitors and passing out sampler CDs.
After Hallowicked, there's no rest for the wicked clowns. In two days, November 4 and 5, 18 in-store record release parties are planned. ICP themselves will appear in Boston on November 4 and Los Angeles the following day, while other Psychopathic Records MCs will host the other fetes. A complete schedule of record release parties can be found at www.insaneclownposse.com.
Haunted House Tour dates, according to Psychopathic Records:
- 10/4 - Foxboro, MA @ Spooky World
- 10/5 - Philadelphia, PA @ Terror Behind the Walls Eastern State Penitentiary
- 10/7 - Virginia Beach, VA @ The Haunted Fun House
- 10/9 - Norcross, GA @ Chambers of Terror
- 10/11 - Fort Worth, TX @ Hangman's House of Horrors
- 10/12 - San Antonio, TX @ Nightmare on Grayson
- 10/13 - Lewisville, TX @ The Phantom's Haunted House
- 10/15 - Phoenix, AZ @ Alice Cooper's Nightmare
- 10/16 - Henderson, NV @ The Castle
- 10/18 - Colorado Springs, CO @ Halloween Fest
- 10/19 - Kansas City, MO @ Main Street Morgue
- 10/20 - St. Louis, MO @ The Darkness
- 10/21 - Louisville, KY @ Baxter Avenue Morgue
- 10/22 - Indianapolis, IN @ Demon's Funhouse
- 10/24 - Kalamazoo, MI @ Phobia House
- 10/25 - Melrose Park, IL @ Dream Reapers - Haunted House
- 10/26 - Columbus, OH @ Three C- Body Shops Shocktoberfest Polaris Amphitheater
- 10/27 - Pontiac, MI @ The Erebus Haunted House