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What’s behind the method, and the madness, of the Insane Clown Posse?

Times have not always been so juicy for the Insane Clown Posse. Sure, these days they are enjoying the success of mainstream acceptance, skyrocketing album sales, their own comic book and a running gig in professional wrestling on cable TV. But there was a time when public opinion of the rap group was downright frosty. Even by the standards the hip hop community has set for dreadlocked white boys in name-brand apparel.

The group, comprised of rappers Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, was originally dubbed the Inner City Posse and spent the late ’80s cranking out run-of-the-mill hard-core rap in Detroit. After their first indie release Dog Beats failed to create anything beyond a moderate local buzz, ICP decided it was time to draw up a new play.

They officially changed the name to Insane Clown Posse, which conveniently allowed them to keep their logo and the ICP moniker. The new gimmick was fleshed out with menacing, jester face-paint and a whole new, albeit muddled, ideology.

The makeover came complete its own lingo: Clown Posse CDs became “Joker Cards” and “juggalos” their fanatical fans. ICP began to cultivate a campy mysticism, lacing their songs with vague supernatural references and what Anthony Burgess referred to as a bit of the ultra-violence.

The risk paid off, garnering the Clowns a major-label recording deal with Disney’s Hollywood Records. ICP recorded and released their first high profile record, 1997’s The Great Milenko much to the glee of juggalos everywhere. The record company, though, was less pleased, yanking the album off shelves after only six hours due to a torrent of complaints from various religious groups.

In the aftermath, Hollywood released Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope from their contract. The pair quickly inked a new deal with Island records, which re-released Milenko on the national market. The controversy helped ICP nab its first national headlines and sent album sales through the roof. Without warning, the message of the “dark carnival” sprung into the lives of kids all over the country.

Media insiders, critics and bewildered parents still haven’t quite figured out why. Musically ICP fails to break any new ground. The lyrical content is supposed to be inflammatory but comes off more goofy than offensive. But despite any shortcomings in ICP’s methods, or their madness, the group’s popularity can’t be denied. A band, after all, must first gain some notoriety before it announces humble plans to launch a nation-wide “small venues” tour.

The “Wicked Clowns From Outer Space” tour is the group’s way of giving back to the die-hard fans who eventually put them into the mainstream. Limited tickets make sure that only the most loyal juggalos can get in, and the intimate confines give fans the opportunity to get up close and friendly with their heroes.

With a new gimmick and an original angle the Insane Clown Posse have found stardom. Now, they’ll have to do what it takes to stay there.
The Insane Clown Posse plays the UC Commons, Friday, Oct. 15 at 9 p.m. But the show is sold out, so you’ll have to use all your connections to get tickets.

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