Violent J is a hatchet-wielding, face-paint-wearing, wicked-clown rapper character, and one-half of supernatural hiphop-horrorcore duo Insane Clown Posse. Violent J and childhood friend Shaggy 2 Dope formed ICP in Detroit back in the early '90s and have since released 12 studio albums, 21 singles, seven EPs, and eight compilations on their own label, Psychopathic Records. The duo has earned two platinum and five gold albums (!!). They have a large underground following of dedicated and rabid fans known, of course, as Juggalos. I spoke with Violent J about fatherhood, cheap soda, religion, and boobs. He was extremely friendly, and made me miss the no-bullshit attitude of a born-and-bred Detroiter.
You're playing El Corazón May 24 and 25. Why the two ICP Seattle shows?
Well, it's a small club, and it's been YEARS. No one would book us in Seattle for many, many years. Juggalos have a bad reputation, so for a long time, the closest we could come was Portland.
I have to ask. Your songs mention it, your fans guzzle it... why Faygo?
You gotta remember, we started out way back in the early '90s, comin' off the heels of the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC. DMC rapped about Adidas, and that was kinda like their thing, and the Beasties, at least back on their first album, used to mention White Castle hamburgers. Those things would link you to a group back then. When we were sitting around working on our very first songs, we wanted to incorporate who we were. We always drank Faygo.
Why not Vernors? That's from Detroit.
Vernors was expensive! Faygo Cola was only 69 cents for a two-liter. We used to leave the house and walk to the store with no money, and by the time we walked through the alley to get there, we would find at least seven empty bottles on the ground—then we'd walk away with a new ice-cold two-liter of Faygo, for free.
History lesson: Talk about Inner City Posse, as you were originally known, and the wrestling days.
Well, like all kids, we wanted to be "a gang" [laughs], so we formed Inner City Posse—we'd spray-paint "ICP" all over the neighborhood. We were really into watching wrestling, so we wanted to DO it. We built a ring in Shaggy's backyard and became backyard-wrestling promoters. We'd make flyers, get everyone to come, give 'em free hot dogs, and then put on a wrestling show.
Who do you think is Detroit's most underrated musician?
That's easy: Awesome Dre. He was a rapper. He was the one of us who made it on Priority Records, alongside the likes of Geto Boys and Eazy-E. Oh, and Esham, too.
Oooh, when I lived in Detroit, I was afraid of Esham!
He was scary. ICP wanted to scare people just like he did. It was so cool to feel scared. Back then, Alice Cooper with all his snakes and KISS with all the face paint—that scary stuff hit hard in Detroit. They were both HUGE there—KISS used to sell out Cobo Arena before they sold anywhere else out. Detroit was into the wicked shit since the '70s.
When did you and Shaggy 2 Dope first put on the clown makeup?
We looked at the two rappers who were making the most noise here. One, again, was Esham, and he was comin' out onstage in a coffin—rappin' about the devil. The other was Kid Rock—way back in the early days, he was driving around on tractors in his videos, like a hillbilly, and rappin' about being from Romeo, Michigan. We just figured Detroit was really all about being a character, not unlike someone in a comic book.
Are you really a born-again Christian?
I'm not afraid to say that I believe in God. But me and Shaggy, we don't go to church, and we've never read the Bible. We just know a basic principle of a guardian angel on your shoulder—you know, that little voice that tells you when you're doing something that you shouldn't be doin'. If we do anything preachy at all, it's that we tell our fans to live by that voice in your head—I mean, you KNOW when you're doin' somethin' evil. If there really is a heaven or hell, we wanna see Juggalos in Shangri-La. We don't know the specifics of any religion—that weird shit like not eating meat on Friday or the "commandments" or any of that.
Where does the word "Juggalo" come from?
On our first album, Carnival of Carnage, there was a song called "The Juggla," and I think it just evolved from that. The most fascinating and best thing about ICP is the Juggalos—they're amazing! There's never been anything like our fans in the history of any kind of music.
How many Gatherings have there been?
It's the 14th annual Gathering of the Juggalos this year—14 years!
How come so many Juggalettes at the Gathering flash their boobs?
'Cause they know so many Juggalos wanna see 'em! They're nice like that! We're thankful for all the Juggalettes [laughs].
I was surprised how safe it was at the Gathering the year I went.
There's never any danger at the Gathering—nobody's on any negativity shit, everybody's on one big family trip. If you're a Juggalo, everyone treats everyone, even strangers, like you would treat a family member. Nobody's there to fight or hurt anyone. It's a beautiful thing, and the exact opposite of being alone. I think when everybody goes home—especially the Juggalos, when they're back at home—a lot of them have to be alone. Outside the Gathering, it's not the most popular thing in this country to be a Juggalo.
What did you think of that short film American Juggalo?
I thought it was AWESOME!
My favorite was the girl halfway through the film who said, "Juggalos are down with the clown..."
"...down with the clown till you're dead in the ground!" That's what they say. Juggalos been sayin' that for years.
What do you want YOUR gravestone to read?
Damn! Never been asked that before. I wanna be remembered, which might be greedy or selfish, but I do want to be remembered for having done something. Everybody gets just a little bit of time here, and I hope I'll be remembered as somebody who kicked ass. I guess I'd want it to say, "Here Lies a Bomb-Ass Father. A Dad." That's most important. Then underneath, I'd want it to say, "The Duke of the Wicked." That's what I go by, in the Juggalo world—I am the fucking Duke of the Wicked.