Nobody does Halloween quite like the Insane Clown Posse. Often dismissed by the regular hip-hop community as being a novelty act, yet publicly embraced by artists such as Post Malone, Skepta, Coolio, Ice T, and R.A The Rugged Man, for their theatrical appearance and violent but catchy lyrics. You either love them or hate them, there’s no middle ground.
The horrorcore hip-hop duo has entertained casual listeners and die-hard Juggalos alike since they first started turning heads in the early ’90s. Originally told ‘they would never make it big because of the face paint’. However, after two platinum and five gold albums (all without any mainstream TV or radio play), signing some of the biggest acts in horrorcore to their label, hosting an annual Gathering of the Juggalos music festival, selling out venues and forming at least four supergroups, they were told ‘they only made it because of the face paint.’
ICP have always been artists who believe in realism in terms of how they interact with fans and the content they produce. What you see is what you get and it has taken a long time for them to be perceived as more than a passing fad for suburban emo kids trying to shock their parents.
A lot of lyrical content is provided as a metaphor for events in the lives of Joseph Bruce and Joey Ustler. Look a little deeper into their early tracks and you can find tales of righteous anger against hypocritical officialdom, corrupt police officers and those who prey on children, with drug dealers and paedophiles punished graphically in fictional eternal damnation. These tales draw on personal experience and a desire for divine justice. It’s easy to dismiss the theatrics and shock horror of their performances as simplistic on the surface, something many critics have alluded to.
Not that they have ever really wanted mainstream acceptance. ICP have proudly headlined the underground music scene for many years. The underdogs are now part of pop culture, from face painted Juggalos appearing in Grand Theft Auto V to appearing on TikTok with several of their hits, to featuring in an upcoming Netflix animation and even trending during the BLM movement with the reemergence of their 1992 ‘Fuck Your Rebel Flag’ track. The underground is taking over and they’re not being quiet about it.
Insane Clown Posse, consisting of Detroit artists Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J, are preparing for the release of their next album on their independent record label, Psychopathic Records — Yum Yum Bedlam. Set for release Christmas Day 2020, this is the fifth Joker’s Card of the second deck of a series of albums based on characters from the Dark Carnival. J and Shags have been spending October by welcoming (paying) Juggalos into their world with a series of month-long live broadcasts, promising to give the fans an intimate insight into the world of the men behind the music.
In an interview with ICP, Journalist Martin Bashir described their music as “nursery rhymes laced with murder” and with a career spanning over three decades of blood and Faygo soaked lyrics, we decided to embrace Bashir’s words and list ten of their most cinematic horror tracks just in time for Halloween. So, paint your face like a clown, grab some Faygo (any cheap supermarket pop will suffice,) and get ready to be schooled in some classic ICP tracks.
‘Night of the Chainsaw’ (The Mighty Death Pop)
Produced entirely by Psychopathic Records’ in-house production department, the ‘Night of the Chainsaw’ music short, harks back to low budget horror flicks. It’s dripping in visceral imagery and is not for the faint of heart, (although green blood was used to get past the censors). The lyrics and catchy chorus bring back the nostalgia for earlier ICP, with J and 2 Dope sounding as fresh as they have ever been.
“PCP! Meth, mad anti-depression pills. / Everything spills into one pot, on top of that I smoke rock, / I hear that shit, but I won’t stop. / Last time on the spot, choked a cop. / Stopped and had a Faygo soda pop. / In the back of my trunk, Chuck the chainsaw. / Usually chop wood, but that ain’t all. / It’s a bit strange, all up in your mid-range. / Cut a hole in your head ‘til I hit brains. / Left a cop in a pile while maybe. / It’s the night of the chainsaw, baby!“
‘Fonz Pond’ (Bang Pow Boom)
Reading like one of those unsettling 1970’s public information adverts, Violent J warns children from straying too near the murky black waters of the Fonz Pond: a haunted area in the woods, in which many children do not return.
“Off Lickity Trail, there’s a pond / Where many a children perished / The water is black, even in the sunlight / Deep and dark, nightmarish / Some believe the bodies surface / And bask underneath the moon / Others say they seen a headless boy / Stumbling around the lagoon.“
ICP play on the fear of drowning and subterranean spectres mulling under the surface in wait for their next victim. The music video is as simple as they come, with J and Shaggy rapping in a wooded area while we see kids react to unseen horrors off-camera as their friends are pulled under the water after a dare goes wrong.
‘Mad Professor’ (The Amazing Jeckel Brothers)
Unfortunately, there isn’t an official music video to this quirky Frankenstein parody, which is a shame as it remains one of ICP’s best tracks. You’ll have no trouble visualising the imagery though, as Violent J guides us through his attempts to create a friend for himself using body parts sourced from the people he has murdered. The violence is light and interspersed with comedy skits of J’s interactions with his victims. The movie samples used within, furthermore add to the classic Hammer Horror vibe.
“I was never popular, this I’ll admit, fuck school, / School never liked me, Cool! / All the kids would always beat me, until I’m half-dead / Make fun of the size of my forehead / But that shit never bothered me, Mama and Mother / They owned a lot of property / They had a science lab in the basement / And that’s where my free ti… well, my time was spent / I made a mouse with a chicken head / It clucked three times: CLUCK, CLUCK, CLUCK! / And then it was dead / I made a lot of things though, like a frog with a turkey neck / It was the shit.“
‘In My Room’ (Hell’s Pit)
ICP have several alternative ‘love’ songs in their back catalogue, and the Mike Puwal produced ‘In My Room’ is no exception. Violent J takes the lead again as he describes his pallid, lonely existence, longing for the nighttime visitations from a spectral lover and the murderous lengths he will go to keep her happy.
“‘Tap tap’ on the glass go the piece of ass / So young and pretty it’s too bad she past / But she comes to my room and we talk at night, / She’s demonic and bloody, / But she holds me tight / In my bedroom / With her / I’m never alone, / And I kiss her cold lips until morning come. / Then she gone, / I can still hear her voice loom, / But she only exists in the dark of my room.“
‘The Tower’ (The Tempest)
Based on the 1966 University of Texas Tower Shootings, and drawing uneasy comparisons to the Las Vegas shootings in 2017. Here, Violent J neither promotes nor glorifies gun violence as he describes, in the first person, the actions of the shooter. A war veteran feeling betrayed by his country, holed up in the University tower and taking shots at the innocent people below.
“I fought in two wars, my country left me poor and sick / Leg missin’, agent orange and an un-useable dick / So, as I reload, my trigger finger’s frozen cold / From squeezing so hard my reason is no control / Warped soul, look at that, pap-pap-krack / Three frat college boys flat, dead on they back / And the lady tryin’ to hide behind the dead fat guy / Just got one plucked in her eye.“
It’s not the first time the Insane Clown Posse have addressed mental health issues. The Mighty Death Pop featured a song called ‘Chris Benoit’ which was about, you guessed it, infamous wrestler Chris Benoit, who in 2007, murdered his family and then killed himself. The video was directed by the Deka Brothers (previously mentioned in the Hate Her to Death segment,) and although Chris Benoit doesn’t make the top ten as we have already had two Mighty Death Pop cuts, we have decided to include the music video for it anyhow. It’s just too good not to, despite the subject matter being quite uncomfortable.
‘Mr. Johnson’s Head’ (Ringmaster)
Coming two years after the Carnival of Carnage, 1994’s Ringmaster was ahead of its time and was a step towards the classic sound of ICP. Featuring 16 tracks of carnival-based horrorcore, it is hard to choose a single song for this list. Mr. Johnson’s Head stands out with its thick beats, staggered syllables, and violent lyrics as J describes how he cut off the head of his bigoted teacher and carries the disembodied remains around in his book bag.
“Next thing I know walking in the crowded hall / So many different faces that I throw up on the wall / Some are yelling ‘sick’ and the others stop and stare / But I don’t care, / I’m in a hurry going nowhere / See, my head is spinning cuz I’m lonely and I’m twisted / But I have a secret everybody missed it / Just a nobody and I think it’s a drag / But I got Mr. Johnson’s head in my bookbag.“
‘Dead Body Man’ (Riddlebox)
Produced by ICP and Mike E. Clark, this track from the third Joker’s Card, tells the story of a disturbed man who collects dead bodies and eats them, even going to far as to ride around the neighbourhood with the corpses in the back of his van, while seemingly making a lyrical statement about hunting and animal cruelty. Originally featured on The Terror Wheel EP and re-released in a slightly higher key for the Riddle Box, ‘Dead Body Man’ was covered by ex-Psychopathic Record’s artist Blaze Ya Dead Homie and reimagined by the label’s artist Ouija Macc.
“If you think I’m sick take a look at yourself / You got dead deer heads up on your shelf / On your key chain is a little baby rabbit’s hand / I’m just the dead body man.“
‘Hate Her to Death‘ (The Mighty Death Pop)
‘Hate Her to Death’ is a harrowing track about obsession. The criminally underrated Violent J pours his tormented soul into the lyrics about the narrator’s perfect woman. Declaring: “She’s funny / She’s shining / She’s happy / I fucking hate her to death / She’s caring / She’s fun / She’s smiling / I fucking hate her to death.“
Directed by French horror movie favourites the Deka brothers and produced by Michael Manasseri, the accompanying music video tells the story of a high school outsider’s fixation with a cheerleader. During an incident of bullying, a notebook filled with drawings depicting the subject of his obsession is revealed. His secrets suddenly laid bare, the student is driven to desperation. The video charts his descent into madness and climatic revenge aided by the powers of psychokinesis.
‘Bowling Balls’ (Hells Pit)
Directed by Psychopathic favourite Paul Andresen, this horror-comedy short has a lot squeezed into its 22-minute run-time. It doesn’t stray far from popular horror movie tropes as it tells the story of a group of generic teens stumbling across ICP’s surreal bed and breakfast located in the middle of nowhere. Expect B-movie performances, lots of R-rated gore and a plethora of disembodied heads, all created by special effects veteran Gabrial Bartalos. The Madonna sampled beat is quite catchy too, as B&B owner Violent J describes his obsession with bowling balls (the severed heads of his victims.)
“I keep heads on shelves everywhere in my cellar / I even own the melon of a dead fortuneteller / The rotted ones I keep ’em up in fat pickle jars / And the new ones we lay on the lawn and look at stars / It’s illegal, I know, but so is smoking weed / And who the fuck, gives a fuck, when you have a need / I collect human heads fresh up off the neck / Face, lips, hair, nose, ears, gimme dat.“
‘Ding Ding Doll’ (Yum Yum Bedlam)
The latest release from ICP tells the story of a macabre cursed doll from the sinister perspective of the doll itself. It almost plays out like a Child’s Play script and features a light and airy melodic beat that is in stark contrast to the dark lyrics. It’s obvious that the Insane Clown Posse still have a lot to give us in terms of entertainment and with the newest offering and the promise of a new Joker’s Card. I can’t wait to see the newest character in the Dark Carnival develop.
“I feel the cloth, it wraps all across my face / It goes all around my body, tied tight with lace / I’m packaged in darkness, but in what am I encased? / Is it a coffin or a gift box in which I’m placed? / Just then, swiftly, I feel myself lift / And hear the voice of my owner: I’m openin’ this shit.“