“We love being who the world despises,” Violent J raps on “Skreem” – the eleventh track on Insane Clown Posse’s newest LP The Mighty Death Pop! This echoes the stubborn “come as you are” sentiment that ICP and their famously enthused Juggalo fanbase has garnered in pushing out the outside world – a sentiment that has gained ICP a lot of respect in the rap game (Scarface recently called them “one of the most underrated groups in hip-hop history”) but has also pigeonholed the group into a repetitive aesthetic.
The Mighty Death Pop! is a return to the Joker’s Card series which established their odd mythos of Juggalo justice and redemption. When the first series of Joker’s Cards – which ended with The Wraith: Shangri-La in 2001 – ICP fell into a strange middle ground. A group that shares an unrivaled level of intimacy with their fans was suddenly through with the message that had brought them together. At this point in their career, it would’ve been impossible to implement any sort of drastic change or evolution – after being in the game for 23 years, as any established group will tell you, musical evolution often comes hand in hand with abandoning lifelong fans.
The Mighty Death Pop! has all the trappings of the original Joker’s Cards – hard-edged raps that border on screaming, sexually-violent themes, surging gang vocals and lots of references to Faygo. It is very much an ICP album – which is what the Juggalos want. Dark Lotus (a Psychopathic Records supergroup consisting of ICP, Twiztid and Blaze Ya Dead Homie) is more of Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope’s space to experiment – ICP is a stalwart. ICP isn’t allowed the same freedom.
“Chris Benoit” is a prime example of their tried-and-true efforts to be consistently edgy. “Juggalo Juice” pays homage to the cheap soda Faygo that Juggalos tend to spray all over each other – homage which has been paid ritualistically since the early days of ICP and on every record since. The corpse rape and hitlist raps are still as terse and visceral as they’ve ever been, however, at this point, the shock value is starting to wear. “Kickin’ Kickin’” has the same effect – it would wow because of its controversial one-liners but, man, this is ICP so what’d you expect?
“Shooting Stars,” in which the duo goes to the Grammy Awards to gun down the likes of Chris Brown and Bruno Mars, injects a level of comedy that the group is known for but in a pretty unique way – setting it head and shoulders above the rest of the tracklist. A nice change of pace is “Hate Her to Death.” Producer Mike E. Clark (who has been backstopping the duo their whole damn career) strums a dark guitar and J and 2 Dope air out their grungy vocals, sweetly singing a bitter song about being jealous of someone else’s happiness. It’s the first song on the record that has real feeling. That feels like it was made from artistic ambition and not simply because it was what they do.
In the end, the self-proclaimed Most Hated Band in the World opts to keep with the style that made them so hated. A style which has isolated them from most rap fans but endeared them to a far more important demographic. Juggalos will surely be pleased with this album and even more pleased with the tradition it revives. Outside listeners will be searching for more – and will almost get it – but will ultimately never see what Juggalos see in The Mighty Death Pop!
Which might be the point, after all.
- Jerard Fagerberg
I can’t take this shit seriously. Since The Gathering of the Juggalos has become the white trash version of Burning Man, the irony in appreciating ICP has ranged somewhere between Limp Bizkit and Vanilla Ice. Insane Clown Posse began in that same arena that spawned Fred Durst , aimed at the aggressive trait prevalent in male Millennials. Their music, instead of being analyzed within the larger music community, has become an occult genre that ranges between facepaint, slower-than-Hell flows and anything anti-establishment. That latter notion is what has allowed for them to last past 2002 and built a following, nay, gathering.
Ed. note – Vanilla Ice is signed to ICP’s Psychopathic Records and one of the bonus CDs distributed with The Mighty Death Pop! contains a song that features Durst so, yeah, that’s pretty dead on.
“Those orders are for pussies. Heroes like me do their own thing/I’m heading up that fuckin’ path guns blazin’.” – Kickin’, Kickin’
Perhaps the one most noticeable quality in The Mighty Death Pop! (aside from the fact that they made up another genre to qualify their tastelessness) is that the album overall is really underwhelming. Even with the saturated rhetoric of violence it still is about the least intimidating music imaginable, which puzzles me. Juggalos are not few and far between, depending on geographic location. I’ve met people who have been seriously victimized by insane people under the guise of Juggalo or Jugglette and even knew a man known as “Hatchet” who use to live in a park nearby my home and who constantly wielded a hatchet strapped to his thigh. When I listen to “The Blasta” with its repetitive chorus and cheap lyrics, its attempt to gather the compassion of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, I just think of what a huge disservice they’re contributing lyrically.
Life is full of disappointment; this is a constant. Some people choose to articulate this anguish in ways that not only allow others to understand, but to think more intensely or analytically. This is called artistic expression. Instead, The Mighty Death Pop! chooses to focus on intensity and inside jokes, and everything falls away. Hatchet may have been the most intimidating bath salts enthusiast I’ve ever met, but what I failed to mention is that he was constantly caring for a small stray kitten. This album is about as tame as that aesthetic.
- Mark Nowak