Every Halloween, ICP (what Insane Clown Posse is more commonally known as) has a huge party/concert, called Hallowicked, where they play tons of songs and basicly go f'ing crazy. If any Juggalos go to this concert with their faces painted like ICP (they use black and white clown makeup), they get a free EP of songs. Usely they are centered on Halloween, but sometimes it's just scary or spooky stuff. Namely, their albums are known as "Jokers Cards", which are inspired by The Dark Carnival, and are released about every 2 years. Any albums released between Jokers Cards, or are basicly bootlegs, are simply called EP's.

To clarify just when Inner City Posse was around... they first formed as a gang back in 1989, and made a short EP of tracks called "Inteligence & Violence". Then, it was Violent J's brother Jump Steady and Violent J. This EP is better known as "Basement Cuts" because it was made on a karoke machine in one of Jump Steady's friend's basement. Later, they made "Dog Beats" in 1990, which then included Shaggy 2 Dope, then called 2 Dope. There were 3 rappers, and about 10 other people who were just along for the gang part. Some of the other 10 made some "beef" with another gang, and that gang put out a kill hit on the whole gang. Also, Jump Steady couldn't cough up the dough to pay for the EP's, so they broke up as a gang and Violent J and Shaggy made Psychopathic Records, hiring most of the old gang, and the group Insane Clown Posse. They released a version of "Carnival of Carnage" in 1992, and another in 1993. They released other albums along the way...

A (somewhat) current list of ICP albums includes (in order of release) :

There have also been such things as promo releases, rare relatively short EP's, and an album called The Pendulum which is released song by song with each of their comic books, which are distributed by Chaos! Comics.

Summer 2000. Cincinnati. I'm sitting at Buzz coffeeshop and CD o'rama on Short Vine Street. It's one in the morning. The ICP show let out two hours ago, and the painted freaks are still running amok in the streets. I need to go home, but my car's two blocks away. I don't feel like parting the painted crowd. So I sit and talk to Tori, an acquaintance of two hours who is by all appearances a seasoned lush. She's only had three 40s since 5 o'clock, and I'm impressed by her fuzzy coherence. She agrees to walk me to my car, and we hightail it out of the coffeeshop.

One block up, we pass Skincraft, Cincinnati's finest body mutilation parlor. As we reach the corner, a huge man pops his potato-shaped head out of Skincraft's door and asks us inside. Tori and I look at each other. Skincraft should have closed hours ago. Tipsy Tori asks him what the hell he's doing in there. His chest puffs. He gains six inches in height.

"I'm Violent J. They stayed open for us. Get in here, girls."
Me: "Violent J?"
Potato man: "ICP, woman. Damn."
Tori: "OoooOOOoooh! ICP! You're famous people!"

Quicker than I can say "stupid bitch," she's inside. I don't like this one bit. But the place is well-lit, there's quite a few people inside, and I recognize the guy doing the tattoo work. I feel safe. I don't think it's safe to let fuzzy-brained Tori go in there alone. And I follow.

I stand there, blinking under the flourescent overheads. Tori is bouncing from stranger to stranger giggling at trite drivel and picking imaginary lint off of collars. This looks bad. I introduce myself and attempt to engage in an intelligent conversation with the man who insists on being called Violent J. He glowers at me, picking his teeth between drags off his cigarette. When he asks, I tell him with complete honesty that I'm not familiar with his music. His facial expression tells me that I was supposed to lie. He grunts and walks away.

I move to the lobby, feeling like a chaperone at a high school dance. I talk to a member of the group's entourage about David Bowie and Iggy Pop. He offers me a Black and Mild, which I accept happily. Violent J walks into the lobby asking everyone for $1 bills. "I want a Coke and all I have's a damn $20!" He points at me. "You. I'll give you $20 for a single." I make the trade and sit there with one eye on Tori and one eye on the door. There is just too much testosterone in the room.

Violent J pulls a chair in front of me and straddles it backwards. He thrusts a fat finger into my face. "I want you to leave."
My eyes meet his and don't flinch. "Why?"
"Because you're a stupid bitch."
A half-smile plays at my lips. "OK. Would you like to elaborate?"
His face darkens. "Since you walked in here, you've insulted me exactly six times, and you didn't even realize it."
"Enlighten me."
"WHEN did I insult you? I want all six incidences."

He sputters and curses and calls me a slut. He never does come up with a single concrete insult I've dealt him. I am disgusted. Tori seems to have found a comfortable lap, though, and I am sick of babysitting this stranger. I thank the flashily dressed man to my left for the cigar and walk to my car alone.

Celebrity is not deity. I wish I'd told Violent J that.

February 10th, 2001. Dallas, Texas. Joe, my good friend and fellow juggalo, and I had driven up, from San Antonio and Austin respectively, to see the Insane Clown Posse play a show at Deep Ellum Live. When we pulled into the parking lot of the downtown Ramada where we were staying, the first thing we saw was the huge ICP Bizaar, Bizzar tourbus parked alongside the hotel. We could not help but feel that this was a good omen, and we were totally correct.

We also came to find out that the hotel was also hosting a large get together for the Velvet Curtain Club, a local wife-swapping and swingers organization, but that is not really relevant to the story.

After a day of frantically driving around Dallas for several hours searching for a place to buy face paint, we were chilling in the hotel lobby waiting to catch a bus over to the club. As we are sitting, A very large individual comes in the front doors with a cute blonde girl on his arm, and we realize it is Violent J. The large guy that is, not the girl. By the time we realized who he was, (he was sans clown makeup) he was almost out of sight, so we just waved to him, and he nodded towards us and got on an elevator. We both thought that was pretty cool, and headed on over to the club.

Details of mind-blowingly good concert, and our struggles to get back to our hotel afterwards omitted for brevity

So, we finally make it back to the Ramada, and are just chilling in the lobby again, talking to the security guard on duty. We are both drenched in Faygo, half drunk, with the remnant of our once beautiful paint jobs running down our faces. The elevator comes down, and lo and behold, here comes J again, with the same blonde. We decide not to accost him, instead simply calling out "J, that was an awesome show!". Much to our surprise he tells his woman to go on out to the bus, and he walks over and says "Oh yeah? Did you guys have a good time?"

He actually just stood around with us and shot the breeze for about 15 minutes, as the conversation wandered from the topic of the concert, to local wrestling federations and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He was extremely polite, and well spoken, and we both thought it was amazing that even though he was tired as hell, and probably just wanted to go chill out with his woman, he took time to stay and talk to scrubby-ass juggalos like ourselves.

Finally we shook hands, and after asking us both to "keep up with the clown love", he departed for parts unknown, and we headed back up to our room for more Rum and Coke.

P.S. Later that night we saw a female member of the wife swappers mentioned above wandering the hotel halls wearing ass-less leather pants. That pretty much says it all.

Sadly, a true story....

The bus was soon to be choked with kids from the "alternative" school. The school where kids go when the state demands that they be educated, but for disciplinary reasons above and beyond what the school board can handle, they're farmed off to squat, temporary metal buildings somewhere in the vicinity of the moribund K-Mart at which I caught this godforsaken mode of transit. Once again I cursed the snapped cable that kept me from being knees in the wind and away from all of this. The racking cough of the elderly woman in pyjama-like track pants was as constant as the droning of the engine. The miasma of stale cigarette smoke hung from a dock worker like an obnoxious fart. A single mother with two small kids in tow counted her change over and over again but the numbers wouldn't add up right. A kindly elderly black man gave her the required quarter.

Then the bus stopped in front of a boisterous crowd. Two worlds intersected. The bus had contained one world: the usual elderly, homeless and young poor folks who often pay the fare in pennies and mark their lives with intersecting timetables, and the rabble who poured onto the bus, state-issued free bus passes in hand, with designer labels on their backs.

"Yeah! She allergic to like perfume and shit."

Some fifteen year old, full of age-appropriate braggadocio, all baggy clothes and macho pose, a gangly black kid with a smart mouth, splayed out to take up as much room as he possibly could in a tangle of bony angles and urban designer labels.

"Yeah, she like, "Don't wear no cologne in my class." Fuck that bitch."

"Yeah, but she like, sick an' shit. She got cancer."

Young, cute girl. Smooth, flawless toffee coloured skin, nice teeth with a beaming smile. White puffy coat that made her look like the Michelin Man. It almost hid her pregnancy. Almost. At this point the baby was just something that was going to happen in the future. It had not taken the girl out of this to-be woman yet.

"Well fuck that, she shouldn't be teachin then! Ain't my problem stupid bitch can't smell no perfume."

"Hey, didn't you slap her?" A large kid, rotund but not jolly, his gigantic pants threatening to ride below his mid-thigh.

"Hell yeah I slap her. Ain't no bitch gonna raise no hand to me."

"Yeah, she got cancer though." The girl again. She didn't really care, it was academic.

"I don't give a fuck. No bitch raise no hand to me. She push me, yo. Like git outta my class, you're wearing cologne", eliciting laughter from the others with his impersonation of her voice "and she push me. So I cuffed the bitch. Imma sue her, get me some money, stank ass ol' white bitch."

The large kid was laughing. The whole thing seemed amusing to him. "But you got thrown out, yo."

At this point, seeing some of the bus riders furtively glaring at him, the tone of his voice got louder.

"I don't give a fuck. I'se a TRUE NIGGA. Put the handcuffs on me, put me in jail, I don't care! I DON'T CARE. I don't give a fuck. I ain't no punk, havin no white stank ass cripple bitch touch me. I'se a TRUE NIGGA."

The bus driver completely ignored the outburst, and most looked away. A twentysomething hesher with a cheap CD player, whose earphones played more to the rest of the bus than into his ear, looked at the bus driver's head and chuckled sarcastically to himself. The driver had been VERY aggressive in insisting that he turn down his barely audible Led Zeppelin. Got out of his hydraulic shocked seat and walked up to him, waggling finger in his face, threatening him with being thrown off.

The bus drove on, the driver oblivious.

The girl in the white coat made a shushing motion with her hand, laughing at the same time. The boy, spurred on by her response, made one last declaration. "FUCK all a y'all, I'se a TRUE NIGGA."

A quiet voice to the left of me said, sotto voce, "Yeah, you're a nigger all right." I was the only one that heard. I did NOT dignify it with a response.

Then the shouter noticed a silent figure standing by the back door, minding his own business. He'd been on the bus before it picked up this crew, and he'd been even quieter and more invisible after. About sixteen, chubby, late to lose his baby fat, staring at the floor. Also baggy panted, but not the FUBU jeans from the B&I - these were Hot Topic pants with D-Rings. And his beanie cap bore the letters ICP.

"Yo, ICP."

The kid pretended he didn't hear, wishing his stop were a lot lot sooner.

The big kid joined in. This was going to be a feeding frenzy. I'd seen enough fights go on in the 'hood to know that a lot of African Americans of the lower social classes wait for a sign of weakness, and attack en masse. Once one man goes down, people will race over from half a block away to get in a free kick on the back of someone's defenceless head, and then skip down the road, whooping in triumph. I reached surreptitously in my pocket and felt my keys slide through the fingers of my fist, my hand now a mass of bone and metal shards. Fuck this shit. This kid was minding his own business.

"Hey, yo, ICP."

The bus tensed. Something was going to go down.

"What's the chain for, ICP."

I then noticed that around the kid's waist was a length of hardware store chain, accessorized as some kind of belt. Well spotted, I thought. I'd have not noticed it, riding low on the kid's hips, almost obscured by his belly.

"ICP"'s voice was so low as to be almost inaudible. He wouldn't make eye contact. Already beaten. Even one-on-one, he didn't have what it took to take on even one of them.

"Nothin. It's just somethin' to wear."

"Is that right, ICP?"

"Yeah." The white kid reached for the bell, and pulled it. All of us knew this was nowhere near his stop.

"That's good, ICP." The kid glared, never blinking, mad dogging someone who was clearly wanting no trouble.

The juggalo kid ducked off the bus, looking over his shoulder to make sure he wasn't about to be followed and jumped. But his tormentors were too lazy to follow, or too uninterested in doing anything but proving something to someone they considered inferior.

My fingers unsnaked from around the keys, and I left the little punks to their braggadocio. But I saw, as the bus wended its way from the concerned and round-shouldered ICP fan, the palpable relief in his face at having escaped the situation.

I then understood the allure of the band to kids like that. Cartoon figures with hatchets, unstoppable axe-wielding ninjas with occult forces at work - their violence courageous, outrageous and relentless, but outside the realm of reality. A comforting, powerful and "don't tread on me" tough pose, but one that didn't have any resemblance to the reality of sidewalk beatdowns and back-alley gunfire. A fantasy world of might and power, but not one that could ever resemble the very tangible and grim reality of violence. It spoke to something deep down and very male in me.

But, I thought to myself, at some point this kid will be old enough to go to a convention. He will watch pro wrestling, watch the opening bands, and then his heroes, the Insane Clown Posse. He will wear clown makeup, drink Faygo and chant rhymes with legions of kids just like him. Kids who, for one day, will not be the runt of the litter, the butt of the joke, an "out" fan of a band Spin called the worst of all time.

He will be among his peers, not the only one. Safe, he will be happy, and he will be with his tribe. It may not be mine, but long may they prosper.

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