Fun tidbit: Back in the late ’90s (yep, I’m old) young buck me somehow stumbled onto the Insane Clown Posse and spent my precious dial-up bandwidth downloading a few of their songs. And I thought that shit was great. This was before Eminem took over the world, and I was under the impression the Gravediggaz cassette I copped from a friend was an anomaly. The fact that ‘horrorcore’ was a whole genre would go unbeknownst to me for years; all I knew is that as an adolescent male the dark and often vulgar content was right up my alley.
Now, I’m familiar with ICP tunes from about two albums around that time and can’t claim to know a hell of a lot about their new music – except, of course, the meme-creation monster that was “Miracles.” Still, I never really got all the vitriol and hate directed at Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope. I certainly get their music not being for everyone (or even most people), but they always struck me as two genuine dudes whose love for making music is only eclipsed by the love for their army of fans known as Juggalos. So when AUX’s editor asked if I wanted to interview the group (me being ‘down with the clown’ had come up previously) I said ‘Absolutely.’
What did I find out? Well, that they’re two very different guys (J is gregarious and prone to hyperbole, while Shaggy is more introverted but intense when it comes to a topic that’s important to him such as their fans). I confirmed that they passionately love Juggalos and feel blessed by their success; that they’re keenly aware of the negative opinions (it can get under their skin a bit), and that they’ve been down with Canadian hip-hop from day one. And bad news for the haters – I found out now that they can finally get back into The Great White North, we can expect to see a hell of a lot more of them.
AUX: So, it’s your first time back in Canada – I thought it was 10 years but apparently it’s a lot longer?
Violent J: 16! 1999.
Shaggy 2 Dope: We didn’t realise that either till we checked.
AUX: And that’s because you had some issues with the infamous Canadian border, right?
Shaggy: Well, we don’t feel that bad anymore because everybody we talked to says a lot of people get that.
J: We lost some of our crew at the border though, so our show’s a little smaller than it’s supposed to be.
AUX: Coming up to the border, were you worried at all that after putting all this together you still wouldn’t get across?
J: Of course man! We were all scared!
Shaggy: I wasn’t shook or nothing but it was always in the back of my head. Plus they had us at customs for like two hours too so I was thinking “What they got us here so long for?” I wasn’t sweating me or [Violent J], I was more sweating one of the [vital crew members] that are with us.
J: But we got through. We’re doing this!
AUX: The last time you were here, did you do the whole cross-country deal?
J: No… when we came here in ‘99, all we played was Toronto. Before that we toured as the opening act for Onyx and Das-EFX around 1995 and got booed off the stage. We played Montreal and got murdered.
Shaggy: They especially hated us in Montreal. They had rottweilers on stage and shit.
J: Nobody knew who we were, they were expecting some hip-hop – we came out with clown paint and they were just like “get out of here.” Then we came back later when we had some success and had a great show in Toronto. Now, we’re doing the whole country, and here’s the deal. To be in the game as long as we’ve been in the game – 26 years – and to be playing for Juggalos that have never seen us live but have supported us for 15, 16 years is a blessing that’s unbelievable. Usually every time we play a show, everyone’s seen us five, 10 times. With these shows, they might not be as wild, but there’s a lot of people just taking it in.
AUX: That actually brings me to my next question; do you expect there’ll be a crowd in all of these other cities that been waiting on pins and needles to see you?
J: It’s been so long – I wish it hadn’t been so long – but there’s a lot of Juggalos still waiting, still down with the clown, it makes all the world of sense to be here and now that we’re in to keep coming here. Everytime we come on tour now there’ll be a Canadian leg, we’ll make sure of it.
We’re just honoured to play for people that have supported us for so many years and have never felt the Faygo hit their face! They might have looked at it on YouTube all night, every night – but to be there, smell the fog machines and sweetness of the Faygo… to me, it’s like watching fucking on TV. They’re having sex… is that anything like having sex? It’s the same thing with an ICP concert! It’s nothing like being there.
AUX: I know here in Canada, one guy you’ve collabed and toured with is Madchild from Swollen Members. Are there any other Canadian rappers you’re feeling or would love to work with?
J: Man, we remember Maestro Fresh Wes!
Shaggy: Yeah man, Maestro Fresh Wes was our shit back then.
J: I know it’s a mixed reaction because he’s so popular, but I’m a big Drake fan. If you say that in the States, some people look at you like “Ah, he’s a big mainstream artist.” Talent is talent.
Shaggy: He’s that big because he’s good like that.
J: There’re a lot of Canadian artists that are fresh to me not just in rap – believe it or not our whole crew was and still are huge Alanis Morissette fans.
AUX: You can’t say no to Jagged Little Pill, man. That’s serious business.
J: I used to listen to that record and think to myself – because we run a record company – “imagine getting that demo in the mail with all those hits on it!” Even the underground in Canada… there’s the So Sick Social Club, I like them a lot. I also like J Reno from Windsor.
AUX: Your first Canadian show of this tour was Amnesia Rockfest in Quebec. How was that?
J: You wanna tell him?
Shaggy. It went great man… it was fucking awesome. We were talking about this not 15 minutes ago. Whenever we do festivals in the States, which isn’t often, there’ll be maybe 1,000 Juggalos right in front acting crazy but the rest of the 20,000 fans will just be like “Hurry up and get the fuck off” so Limp Bizkit or whoever can get up there. [At Amnesia] of course the Juggalos were up in front but everybody else, and it was an ocean of people, were giving nothing but love. Too bad all festival’s ain’t like that.
[J and Shaggy simultaneously]: It felt good.
J: We thought it’d be like our past experiences. They had us on at 1 p.m.; we thought there’d be a couple of drunks walking around pissing from the night before making their way to the Porta Potty and that’s who we’d be playing for but naw, it was on jam. There’s a huge ICP chant, we’re looking at each other backstage like: “This is the way to debut in Canada after 16 years.”
AUX: So as for your own festival, The Gathering, I checked out this year’s line-up and it’s pretty wild: among others you’ve got Slick Rick, popular rock bands like GWAR and Asking Alexandria and your main guys Kottonmouth Kings and Twiztid. People say, however, that the experience is the most special part of the festival.
In a piece for AUX, So Sick Social Club’s roadie described The Gathering as “the coolest nightmare come to life.” I know it’d be hard to describe it in a few words, so I’ll ask: what does it mean to you every year when you step into those grounds for this huge thing you started?
Shaggy: It’s pure love.
J: It’s our Wrestlemania, it’s our Super Bowl, it’s our everything, you know what I mean? But the most important show at The Gathering, what makes it different from all other festivals is the Juggalos. That’s the show, that’s the magic. It almost doesn’t matter who’s on the stage once they’re dope because it’s the Juggalos that make it magical.
You might remember how good a band was, but the real fun you’re going to remember is the Juggalos. The experience, the camaraderie, the friendship, the brotherhood, the love. You’re going to leave there with new numbers and new friends that are real and are like you, because if you went all the way to The Gathering, you must be a certain type of individual. You’re meeting the same type of individual and it’s just awesome.
AUX: You guys are huge wrestling fans – you initially aspired to be professional wrestlers before getting into hip-hop. What do you think about wrestling today? With hip-hop, lots of people will insist the ’80s and ’90s were the glory days, and some wrestling fans have the same opinion.
J: I love all wrestling.
Shaggy: You just watch it go through phases like everything else. The ’80s was one style, then came the Attitude Era and now it’s back into a family type deal. On a whole, it’s about what’s going on in that ring.
J: This is what I believe. Whatever you as a person are into when you’re first stepping into adulthood [12 – 18], that’s when you’re deciding who you are. I’m going to hang out with this crowd, I’m gonna dress like this, I’m going to listen to this. So during that process, whatever you’re into at that time, that becomes your favorite shit for the rest of your life. So of course, ’80s and ’90s wrestling to us is our era. Hulk Hogan etc, that’s our favorite time for wrestling – but we love all of it. Just like rap.
We love all of hip-hop, but you know, NWA, Ice Cube, Geto Boys, that’s always going to be our fucking shit because that’s when we were becoming who we are and it was so magical. I think that’s why so many Juggalos love our old shit because that’s when they were at that point in their life. And we know that there are people today that are buying our new stuff and these albums are going to be those magical albums that they’re going to love for the rest of their life.
Shaggy: It’s every parent through history’s philosophy: “Oh my days was the good shit, all this garbage you listen to now.”
J: We never thought we’d sound like our parents and grandparents. That’s just the way it works.
AUX: We have to touch on the FBI thing, where their National Gang Intelligence Center classified Juggalos as a ‘loosely organized hybrid gang.’ Your initial lawsuit against the federal agency was dismissed, but that decision was overturned on appeal and a Michigan court will have to hear the case. You’ve said repeatedly that this is more about how it affects your fans than how it affects you guys.
Shaggy: No question. How it affects us the most is just financial, which is whatever. Who gives a fuck, it’s not like we’re hurting. How it’s affecting other people is insane. People losing their jobs, people losing their kids. People getting kicked out of the army, people going to jail. Just people getting fucked over left and right.
J: It used to be the ‘Juggalo flag’ to have one of these stickers [the ‘Hatchet Man’ logo] in your back window. You don’t see that nowhere no more. Because now you’ll get pulled over, you’ll get fucked with. You could have gotten this tattooed on your arm when you’re 19 hanging out with all your Juggalo homies in remembrance of those days.
Now you’re 42, driving home with your family from Bennigan’s and you get pulled over for speeding. That cop sees that fucking thing on your arm, he puts you in the gang file. The gang file! Everybody remembers when NWA got a letter from the FBI over ‘Fuck the Police.’
Shaggy: Give us a letter!
J: Give us a letter over calling our fans a gang and making it criminal to represent our shit. The only reason people aren’t up in arms over it is because it’s us. Imagine if they came down on Kanye like that – the world would go nuts. Now they stopped making the top gang list for whatever reason since this happened in 2011, but it fucked [us and our fans] for ever. What we want is a public statement saying Juggalos are not a gang.
Shaggy: Not just sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened.
AUX: One more question to wrap up. There are people that think the whole ICP thing is a gimmick that hit and you guys ran with it. From listening to you guys talk, it’s pretty clear you come from a genuine place. How much of a driving force is it to have passionate and supportive fans like yours that are continually touched by what you do and also, how much of a motivation are the naysayers?
J: There are no words to properly tell you what it’s like to be told the things Juggalos tell us. Just saying it is insane. But they tell us that the music has saved their life. I’m not talking about three or four people, I’m talking about every day. With genuine tears coming out of their eyes. The music saved their life, or helped them get off ‘this,’ or gave them the encouragement to do ‘this.’ All kinds of wonderful, amazing, unbelievable [stories].
When they’re telling you things like that, who gives a fuck what they’re saying elsewhere? When it’s so warm on the inside, who gives a fuck how cold it is on the outside. There’s so much love here in the Juggalo world, we’re having so much fun with each other – I think that’s what’s pissing everybody else off! We don’t come to town open for your favourite group. You don’t have to sit through our show and get a Faygo thrown in your face if you don’t want to. You don’t have to watch our videos our listen to us on the radio because we’re not on there.
The only way you’ll ever find ICP is if you come get us. So why does everybody have such a problem with us and our success? It’s pure player-hation [laughs].
Shaggy: We have no bridges to burn, they don’t exist because we don’t depend on nobody but us. We don’t need a fucking record label, we don’t need a video channel, we don’t need shit. All we need is us.