I wouldn’t call myself a Juggalo, but I love Insane Clown Posse and I appreciate the Juggalo subculture. It’s not just that I think they’re responsible for innovative, interesting and hilarious rap. It’s hard to ignore the fact that they’ve created one of the only vibrant and original subcultures in the last 30 years or so.
Listen, I get it: The Juggalo subculture is the near-exclusive domain of working-class white people in the Rust Belt and secondary cities — in other words, the only people it’s still acceptable to hatefully mock in polite society in 2016. But while you were thinking the 100th iteration of punk or indie rock was hot shit, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope were making something fresh and new. Sure, you mock the Gathering, but as far as I can tell, the Juggalo subculture is all about horror movies, professional wrestling and fat girls. So what’s not to like, exactly?
The repeated jokes about their makeup are always strange to me. The same people shitting themselves over “edgy” Norwegians who paint themselves up like fat Hamburglars and bewildered pandas giggle over actually scary dudes wearing makeup that makes them look even scarier. Unlike wraiths or liches or whatever black metal bands are trying to look like, psychopathic serial-killer clowns are real.
My favorite album of the boys' is probably the most accessible to outsiders, The Great Milenko. If you’ve got even the slightest curiosity, start there. The album was released by a major label, then pulled, which I personally think is pretty great.
Around this time, the duo also made Shockumentary, which MTV refused to air, backing down only after the group’s label pulled strings. Spin magazine also took to attacking the group and their fans around this time, which is braggable. In short, ICP and their fans established themselves as something actually outside of the mainstream.
Which I think hits on a big part of why “respectable” middle-class white people love to hate ICP and Juggalos. First of all, they hate that anyone is having more fun than they are. Secondly, they hate that anyone is still capable of having fun without 10 layers of ironic separation. Perhaps most important, somewhere in the mid-'90s, alternative honkies switched from being the class rebel to being the class tattletale but remain blissfully unaware of the transition. Thus, they prefer the socially acceptable, faux-edginess of the Brochella lineup to anything that might actually offend a rich, cool person who goes on television regularly.
The Great Milenko features appearances by Slash and Steve Jones, two guys who have forgotten more about what rock & roll means in a single alcohol binge than you’ve ever known in your whole life. Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J are also apparently big fans of Gong, which might be one of the weirder musical factoids on record. On the hip-hop side of the aisle, they’ve worked with Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Ice T. “Fuck the Beastie Boys and the Dalai Lama”: If there’s a single rap lyric in the world I approve of more, I’ve yet to hear it. And the next time you crack wise about the Gathering, know that it’s good enough for Ice Cube.
In short, Juggalos are the kid in class cutting up, having a blast and, at least on some level, cognizant of the fact that none of this matters. The mainstream alt-rock crowd are the ones shushing him so they can write down the homework accurately. Yawn.