Violent J explains the Juggalos, the Gathering of the Juggalos, why they’re not a joke, and the Faygo.
If you’re not actually familiar with Insane Clown Posse’s music, you’re certainly familiar with their image. The Detroit rap duo, comprised of Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, is known for wearing black-and-white face makeup and fanatic fans who call themselves Juggalos. The band runs its own record label, Psychopathic, and hosts a massive festival every year called the Gathering of the Juggalos, which has been famously parodied by Saturday Night Live. Today the band unveils The Marvelous Missing Link: Found, the sequel to The Marvelous Missing Link: Lost, released earlier this year. This marks ICP’s 14th studio album, which means they are officially veterans of the industry. But as they and their fans remain something of a pop-culture punchline, Esquire gave the duo a chance to explain themselves. Violent J (the guy on the left above) took time to answer some common questions outsiders like us have about Insane Clown Posse. He talks about their love for Faygo soda, the makeup, and why they don’t see themselves as a joke at all.
How did ICP’s fans get the name Juggalos?
It was a developed by the fans—that’s the big mystery. We had a song called “The Juggla” [Carnival of Carnage, 1992], and that might have had something to do with it way back in the early ’90s. We had never had no idea to name our fans. That’s the difference between us and other bands who name their fans: We never named the Juggalos. The Juggalos named themselves. It developed itself. We watched it happen just like the rest of the world and it’s amazing that this Juggalo culture has chosen our music to use as a soundtrack.
By definition, is a Juggalo exclusively a fan of ICP’s music?
There’s a lot more to it. Juggalos also like other bands. Other bands have Juggalo followings, like the rappers Tech N9ne and Hopsin. We focus on Juggalos. We’re the only band who says their name in our music repeatedly and has our festival the Gathering of the Juggalos. Juggalos don’t just like ICP. They’re bigger than that. They’re an actual movement. There aren’t millions of Juggalos—they’re a small movement. They’re small, but they’re loud and they’re heard and they’re seen and they’re noticed. One Juggalo is worth 50 regular fans.
Where do the names Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope come from?
When we were kids driving around southwest Detroit thinking of rap names. I thought of Violent J. I thought, “Man, that would be cool.” I wish I had a better story for you. I made it up. And when we first started, I was the main rapper and we had two dancers—this is going way back—2 Much and 2 Dope. I don’t know where 2 Much is today, but Shaggy 2 Dope is my partner now. He’s my life partner, if you will.
How did the makeup you wear onstage start?
That was 1991. That was the first time we ever painted up. We did it at a concert at a college and when we got out there, it was too late and the show had already happened. So we performed anyway on the dance floor. Everybody was dancing on the dance floor and we convinced the DJ to play our music and we just started performing in the middle of the dance floor. Everybody was like, “What the fuck is this?” We drove three hours through a blizzard to get there so we were going to perform one way or another. That was our first concert and it was terrible.
What type of makeup do you use?
That’s a Juggalo secret! You either see us with the paint or you see us without, but there’s no photos of us applying the makeup. We don’t like to share how we apply it or anything like that because we’re either in it or out of it. We used to never want to be seen without it, but the Internet changed all that and made it impossible. How we apply it—nobody sees that. It’s our secret.
When do you wear the makeup generally?
We go out in public with it on every day. There’s something going on every day. Even if we’re just making a message for Instagram we paint up. We have some reason or another to paint up mostly every day. We go everywhere. Anywhere. I’ve walked into a bank and cashed a check in makeup before. We’ve done everything you can do in clown makeup, but we’ve never been on an airplane in it. You can’t do that.
Do you actually drink Faygo?
Oh yeah. I like Orange Faygo. My son likes Rock N’ Rye. I like Root Beer. Their root beer isn’t the best. I’m played out on their cola because I’ve been drinking it my whole life. But I still like Faygo Orange and Faygo Rock N’ Rye.
Do you get free Faygo?
No, they don’t send us shit for free. People think we’re sponsored by them and stuff, but we don’t get shit. You’d think so. They still don’t work us. They could do a Clown Cola. That would be awesome. They could do a limited-edition batch with our logo on it and we could sell it for them on tour. But they don’t even want to do that. But it’s still cool. It’s authentic that way. We’re not sponsored by anyone and that makes us more authentic.
What genre is ICP’s music?
The wicked shit. We called it the wicked shit. It’s like Stephen King on a record. What we provide is mostly horror, the scary kind of music. We tell tales. People like our stories. Our music is an escape. Like a movie or a book, we like to take you somewhere else.
If someone isn’t familiar with your music, where should they begin?
The music is so wide in variety. We have songs that my mom does love and we have songs that would make my mom have a panic attack. I would just go with the new albums. The Marvelous Missing Link: Lost is about not having faith. And faith can be anything. It doesn’t have to be religion. To live without faith, if you’re missing faith, you might be miserable. You might be lost. The Marvelous Missing Link: Found [the second part, out today] is the opposite. That has uplifting songs, funny songs—the other side of ICP.
How did the promo videos for Gathering of the Juggalos become a thing?
We were looking for a way to publicize the craziness of the Gathering. What better way than an infomercial? And when you look at it on an infomercial, people don’t know if you’re serious or not, but that’s really what’s going on at the Gathering. Those infomercials are our best way of explaining what’s happening. Hell yeah, it’s real. And it’s awesome. It’s everything the infomercial says it is—the camaraderie, the feeling of love in the air, the chance you might get laid, the old-school bands we bring in, the new-school bands, the comedians, all the different contests, the fun of the night parties. That’s what Juggalos do when 10,000 Juggalos get together literally in the middle of nowhere and have the freedom to run wild. That’s what they love to do.
Did you like the Saturday Night Live parodies of those infomercials?
Those are amazing. That was great, man. Saturday Night Live is the ultimate freshness. To be parodied by Saturday Night Live, that was the ultimate compliment. We did a concert in New York and the whole staff of Saturday Night Live came down and said what’s up to us. It was surreal. We couldn’t even believe it. That’s just one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to us.
What is the biggest misconception about ICP?
That we suck. That we’re just a joke or a punchline. We have people who love us, people who tell us we saved their life, people that tell us that our music has gotten them through this or that. Our music has helped people. Not just one or two people have told us that. Thousands of people. Juggalos are people, they’re human beings. No human being is more important than another human being. I met a burn victim last week who said our music got him through and helped him cope with everything. That’s the biggest misconception—that we’re a joke. What’s funny about us? We live the fucking dream. We’ve been rocking the mic for 23 years. I got a family at home. I got a wife with a 10-year-old and an eight-year-old at home. I get to go on tour whenever I want. People laughing at ICP are stupid because they don’t know how happy we are and how awesome our lives are. If they did, the joke would be on them.