It’s easy, if all you’re familiar with is the shtick, to form a negative opinion of Violent J, one half of the Insane Clown Posse. Rarely seen in public without his trademark makeup, the man plays the role in which he’s cast himself like the most committed of Method actors. There are people who think he’s one or all of the following: thug, buffoon, white trash and run-of-the-mill idiot.
Yeah, we can feel you nodding. But scratch the makeup away, just a little, and you may be surprised by what's revealed. Violent J, real name Joseph Bruce, plays the role of the every-Juggalo so well that people don’t quite realize how smart he is. He’d have to be; alongside his business and musical partner, Shaggy 2 Dope, J has made the Psychopathic Records label into a worldwide success. Maybe not quite on the Kiss scale, but the ICP boys have found their market, tapped it and know how to maintain it so that it’s mutually beneficial for them and their fans.
He’s also a doting father, loyal to a fault to the people he cares about and, perhaps most surprising of all, very modest. Violent J is about to embark on a short solo tour to raise money for the St. John’s Children’s Hospital of Illinois; Shaggy recently had some pretty serious surgery on his spine and is recovering. J’s not entirely comfortable with the whole thing.
“I’ve got my hype man, Young Wicked, and he knows all my music, but still, getting up onstage without my brother — it’s like forgetting to put your fucking pants on,” J says. “It’s an unusual thing. Shaggy did it before — he put out a solo album and did a whole nationwide tour, and I wanted to experience it. While he’s down with the surgery, I figured I’d do some dates for charity. I don’t see myself as worth coming to see, so by giving the money to charity, it makes it a better reason to buy a ticket. I’m part of Insane Clown Posse — that’s my destiny. Me doing a tour by myself is a rare occasion for charity and fun. I don’t think I’m worth the price of admission, though.”
Now, who saw that coming? His brash exterior would suggest self-confidence bordering on narcissism, but nothing could be further from the truth. Of course, it could be that recent trials and battles have taken their toll. For the past two years, ICP has been embroiled in court drama after the FBI officially labeled the Juggalos a “criminal gang.”
The ACLU stepped in to help the group because, no matter how you feel about Juggalos, the move by the FBI was ludicrous, akin to placing Parrotheads on a no-fly list.
“The first judge threw it out,” J says of their lawsuit filed against the FBI. “He said we had no basis. That was a blow. That crippled karma here at the office. The ACLU told us to hang on — they’re appealing. The second time we went up, the judge said that it’s definitely cause for a hearing and took the trial. Now it’s going to trial. We don’t have a date yet. Everything’s on and popping. This shit is slower than a tortoise full of rigor mortis. You’ve got to wait it out.”
After this mini-tour, when Shaggy is back on his big clown feet, ICP will pick up with a tour to celebrate the 20th-anniversary reissue of the Riddle Box album, a tour that will see them play countless dates all over the world. But for now, J is focused on his solo tour. it is. In order to bulk up the bill, he's pulled Lil Eazy-E, son of N.W.A’s Eazy-E, onto the bill, as well as young rapper Nova Rockafeller.
“How cool is that?” J says. “Lil Eazy-E looks just like his dad, and he does his dad’s hits. He’s great — we just did a song with him called ‘Sick Kids’ that we’re all gonna perform together at the end of the show. N.W.A is me and Shaggy’s biggest influence. I actually want to go to New York for the Hall of Fame to see N.W.A perform, because that’s the only place they’re doing it with Dr. Dre. Nova Rockafeller is an amazing talent. too.”
Violent J plays with Lil' Eazy-E and Nova Rockafeller at Los Globos on Thursday, March 24. More info.