Insane Clown Posse is an American hip hop duo from Detroit, Michigan. The group is composed of Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler, who perform under the respective personas of the wicked clowns Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope. Insane Clown Posse performs a style of hardcore hip hop known as horrorcore and is known for its elaborate live performances. The duo has earned two platinum and three gold albums. According to Nielsen SoundScan, the entire catalog of the group has sold 6.5 million units in the United States and Canada as of April 2007.
Originally known as Inner City Posse, the group introduced supernatural- and horror-themed lyrics as a means of distinguishing itself stylistically. The duo founded the independent record label Psychopathic Records with Alex Abbiss as manager, and produced and starred in the feature films Big Money Hustlas and Big Money Rustlas. They formed their own professional wrestling federation, Juggalo Championship Wrestling, and later collaborated with many famous hip hop and rock musicians.
The themes of Insane Clown Posse and other acts on Psychopathic Records center on the mythology of the Dark Carnival, which the duo claim is a spiritual force that has revealed a series of stories known as Joker's Cards. These stories each offer a specific lesson designed to change the "evil ways" of listeners before "the end consumes us all." Insane Clown Posse has a dedicated following, often referred to by the group as Juggalos and Juggalettes.
Early history (1985?1994)
Formation of the group
Joseph Bruce (Violent J) and Joseph Utsler (Shaggy 2 Dope) met in Oak Park, a suburb on the North border of Detroit, Michigan. Along with Utsler's brother, John, and friend, Lacy, they wrestled in backyard rings that they had built themselves.
In 1989, Joseph Bruce, as Jagged Joe, Joseph Utsler, as Kangol Joe, and John Utsler, as Master J, released the single titled "Party at the Top of the Hill" under the name of JJ Boys, but the group did not pursue a serious career in music. Poverty and a difficult home life drove Bruce to move in with Rudy "The Rude Boy" Hill in River Rouge, a city near the industrial southwest side of Detroit.
Feeling a sense of home and belonging, Bruce formed a gang called Inner City Posse, which was composed of Joseph Utsler, Rudy Hill, other friends of Bruce, and a number of other connections he had made in Southwest Detroit. Bruce was jailed for ninety days in 1989?1990 for death threats, robbery, and violating probation; this experience convinced him to reduce his involvement in gang life. Bruce began his professional wrestling career after getting out of jail, and it was at his first show that he met Rob Van Dam and Sabu, two other first-timers with whom he became very good friends. During this time Bruce brought Utsler backstage with him, and all four became close friends.
Bruce became frustrated with the backstage politics of the wrestling business and began searching for another career. Back on the streets, Bruce began listening to hip hop with Utsler and with Utsler's brother, John. The trio performed at local night clubs, using the stage names Violent J, 2 Dope, and John Kickjazz, under the name of their gang, Inner City Posse. Seeing a need for a manager, Bruce's brother Robert recommended his friend and record store owner Alex Abbiss, who established the Psychopathic Records record label with the group in 1991. Later that year the group released the self-produced EP entitled Dog Beats. Growing popularity in the local music scene turned negative for the group's gang, which became the target of growing violence. After receiving jail sentences, the group members abandoned gang life.
In late 1991, the group invested more money into production than was covered by returns. The group decided that its gangsta rap style was the cause of the problem: Most emcees at the time used similar styles, making it difficult for Inner City Posse to distinguish itself stylistically. Referring to local rapper Esham's acid rap style, Bruce suggested the band adapt this genre, in a bid to have Detroit represent acid rap, much as Los Angeles represented gangsta rap. The group agreed, but not to copying the style of Esham closely. Instead, they suggested using horror-themed lyrics as an emotional outlet for all their negative life experiences. They were also unanimous in deciding not to rap openly about Satan, which Esham often did.
After the change in musical style, the group decided it needed a new name. Utsler suggested keeping the "I.C.P." initials to inform the community that Inner City Posse was not defunct, an idea to which the group agreed. Several names were considered before Bruce recalled his dream of a clown running around in Delray, which became the inspiration for the group's new name: Insane Clown Posse. The other members agreed, deciding that they would take on this new genre and name, and would all don face paint due to the success of their former clown-painted hype man.
Upon returning home that night, Bruce had a dream in which spirits in a traveling carnival appeared to him?an image that would become the basis for the Dark Carnival mythology detailed in the group's Joker's Cards series.
Carnival of Carnage and Ringmaster
The group began recording their debut album, Carnival of Carnage, with producer Chuck Miller. After recording only three songs for US$6,000 with Miller, Alex Abbiss made his first major managerial move by finding another producer, Mike E. Clark. The group finished recording the album with Clark, who continued to work with them throughout their career. The album featured appearances from local rappers, including Esham and Kid Rock. Just weeks prior to the release of their album, John left the group because he felt that it was "taking up too much of life." When Bruce and Utsler attempted to call a meeting to talk about the issues, John did not attend.
"Ghetto Freak Show" (sample)
"Ghetto Freak Show", from the group's 1992 album Carnival of Carnage.
Carnival of Carnage was released on , 1992, with distribution within a 120-mile (190 km) radius of Detroit. Allmusic reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine compared the group's performance on the album to "a third-rate Beastie Boys supported by a cut-rate Faith No More, all tempered with the sensibility that made GWAR cult heroes?only with more sexism and jokes that wind up sounding racist." The follow-up EP, Beverly Kills 50187, sold well and gained a larger audience. During a live performance of the song "The Juggla", Bruce addressed the audience as Juggalos, and the positive response resulted in the group using the word thereafter. The word has been the subject of criticism from both Ben Sisario of Rolling Stone and Allmusic's Erlewine, who suggested the term is similar to the racial slur jigaboo.
The group's second studio album, Ringmaster, was released on , 1994, and its popularity enabled the group to sell out larger nightclubs across Detroit. Because Bruce and Utsler made reference to the Detroit-produced soft drink Faygo in their songs, they "figured it would be cool to have some on stage with ." During a concert in 1993, Bruce threw an open bottle of Faygo at a row of concertgoers who were giving them the finger. After receiving a positive response, Bruce and Utsler have since continued to spray Faygo onto audiences. A subsequent national tour increased sales of the album, earning Ringmaster a gold certification. The group's second EP, The Terror Wheel, was released on , 1994. One of the songs from the EP, "Dead Body Man", received considerable local radio play. The same year marked their first "Hallowicked" concert, which has since continued annually on Halloween night in Detroit.
Major releases (1995?1997)
In 1995, Bruce and Utsler attempted to obtain a contract with a major record label. The duo eventually signed a contract with the short-lived Jive Records sub-label Battery Records, which released the group's third studio album, Riddle Box, on , 1995. After Battery/Jive Records showed little interest in promoting the album, Insane Clown Posse funded the promotion of Riddle Box independently. This effort led the group to Dallas, Texas, where it persuaded several music retail stores to stock the album. Sales averaged 1,500 copies per week as a result.
The Great Milenko
Manager Alex Abbiss negotiated a contract with the Walt Disney Company-owned label Hollywood Records, which reportedly paid US$1 million to purchase the Insane Clown Posse contract from Battery/Jive/BMG Records. The group started recording its fourth studio album, The Great Milenko, in 1996, during which Disney requested that the tracks "The Neden Game," "Under the Moon," and "Boogie Woogie Wu" be removed. Disney also asked that the lyrics of other tracks be changed, threatening to not release the album otherwise. Bruce and Utsler complied with Disney's requests, and planned to go on a national tour with House of Krazees and Myzery as their opening acts.
During a music store autograph signing, Insane Clown Posse was notified that Hollywood Records had recalled the album within hours of its release, despite having sold 18,000 copies and reaching #63 on the Billboard 200. The group was also informed that its in-store signings and nationwide tour had been canceled, commercials for the album and the music video for "Halls of Illusions" (which had reached #1 on The Box video request channel) were pulled from television, and that the group was dropped from the label. It was later revealed that Disney was being criticized by the Southern Baptist Convention at the time because of Disney's promotion of "Gay Days" at Disneyland, in addition to presiding over the gay-themed television sitcom Ellen. The Convention claimed Disney was turning its back on "family values." Although Abbiss told the press that Disney had stopped production of The Great Milenko to avoid further controversy, Disney claimed instead that the release of the album was an oversight by their review board, and that the album "did not fit the Disney image" because of its "inappropriate" lyrics, which they claimed were offensive to women.
After the termination of the Hollywood Records contract, Insane Clown Posse signed a new contract with Island/PolyGram Records, which agreed to release the album as intended. Entertainment Weekly music critic David Browne gave the record a C-minus rating: " its puerile humor and intentionally ugly metal-rap tunes, the album feels oddly dated." The Great Milenko was certified platinum with over 1.7 million copies sold. One of the group's first projects with Island Records was an hour-long documentary titled Shockumentary, which aired on MTV. The station initially refused to play the documentary, but Island Records persuaded them to air it as a personal favor. Shockumentary helped increase album sales from 17,000 to 50,000 copies per week. Island also rereleased the group's first two albums.
Nationwide tour with House of Krazees and Myzery
Two days after the ECW program, Insane Clown Posse began its rescheduled nationwide tour with House of Krazees and Myzery. Their first concert, held in Orlando, Florida, was hand-picked by Insane Clown Posse and free to the public. Halfway through the tour, Brian Jones of House of Krazees had a falling out with his band members. Jones left the group, forcing House of Krazees to quit the tour.
The success of the tour enabled Bruce and Utsler to purchase new houses both for each other and for their families. Bruce even told his mother to quit her job because he would pay her expenses.
In late 1997, Bruce took Myzery to St. Andrew's Hall. Eminem, then an unknown local emcee, approached Bruce and handed him a flyer advertising the release party for The Slim Shady EP. The flyer read, "Featuring appearances by Esham, Kid Rock, and ICP (maybe)." Bruce asked why Eminem was promoting a possible Insane Clown Posse appearance without first contacting the group. Eminem explained, "It says 'maybe.' Maybe you will be there; I don't know. That's why I'm asking you right now. You guys comin' to my release party, or what?" Bruce, upset over not being consulted, responded, "Fuck no, I ain't coming to your party. We might have, if you would've asked us first, before putting us on the fuckin' flyer like this." Eminem took Bruce's response as a personal offense, subsequently attacking the group in radio interviews. Bruce and Utsler responded later in 1999 by releasing a parody of Eminem's "My Name Is" entitled "Slim Anus". Barbs between Insane Clown Posse and Eminem continued.
The House of Horrors Tour
One month after ICP's Strangle-Mania Live, Insane Clown Posse began their second nationwide tour, "The House of Horrors Tour", with Myzery added as one of the opening acts. While searching for the second opening act, Bruce received a telephone call at his home from former House of Krazees members Jamie Spaniolo and Paul Methric, who told Bruce that the group was officially disbanded and asked to be on the tour. Spaniolo and Methric provided a demo tape containing three songs: "2nd Hand Smoke", "Diemotherfuckdie", and "How Does It Feel?" Bruce was extremely impressed, and immediately had a contract drafted with Psychopathic Records for the new group to sign. Bruce, Spaniolo, and Methric agreed on the band name Twiztid. The House of Horrors Tour thus featured Insane Clown Posse, with opening groups Twiztid, Myzery, and Psycho Realm.
On , 1997, Bruce was arrested on an aggravated battery charge after allegedly striking an audience member thirty times with his microphone at a concert in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Bruce was held for four hours before being released on US$5,000 bail. The January 1998 issue of Spin magazine ran a four-page cartoon lampooning Insane Clown Posse and Juggalos, claiming that the group was offensive "not for their obscenity, but for their stupidity." Spin likened Insane Clown Posse's stage act to "a sort of circus karaoke" and portrayed the group's fans as overweight suburbanites. On the group's website, Bruce responded to the article by stating, "I could give a fuck less."
After a show in Indianapolis, Insane Clown Posse's tour bus stopped at a Waffle House in Greenfield, Indiana. When a customer began to harass Spaniolo and Bruce, a fight broke out between the customer and all of the bands' members. Months later on , 1998, Bruce and Utsler pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges (reduced from battery) in an Indiana court and were fined US$200 each. Members of Twiztid, Myzery, and Psycho Realm were charged with battery. The group's tour was briefly derailed in January 1998, when their tour bus drifted off a highway and down an embankment, leaving Frank Moreno of Psycho Realm with a concussion. As a result of the accident, Insane Clown Posse postponed two shows scheduled for Cleveland, Ohio, on and , but honored their promise to perform on and .
Mainstream success (1998?2000)
On , 1998, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Bruce suffered a panic attack during a performance and was carried off stage. Bruce, who later recalled being completely "out of it", found scissors and cut off his dreadlocks. After suffering another panic attack once he returned home, Bruce opted to spend three days in a Michigan mental health program. Insane Clown Posse later cancelled the last two weeks' worth of dates on its United States tour, but subsequently launched their first European tour.
The Amazing Jeckel Brothers
By late 1998 over one million copies of The Great Milenko had been sold, and Insane Clown Posse was ready for its fifth album, The Amazing Jeckel Brothers. Working with Mike E. Clark and Rich "Legs Diamond" Murrell, Bruce and Utsler developed their album with the highest of hopes. The group was known nationally, but were not taken very seriously. Hoping to receive the respect Bruce and Utsler felt they deserved, they planned to feature well-known, respected rappers on their album. Bruce stated outright that he wanted to involve Snoop Dogg and Ol' Dirty Bastard. They paid Snoop Dogg US$40,000 to appear on the song "The Shaggy Show." Snoop Dogg also helped them contact Ol' Dirty Bastard, who was paid US$30,000 for his appearance. Ol' Dirty Bastard recorded his track in a matter of two days; however, his recording consisted of nothing more than him rambling about "bitches." It took Bruce and Utsler a week to assemble just four rhymes out of his rambling, and had to re-record the track and title it "Bitches." Finally, Insane Clown Posse contacted Ice-T, who charged them only US$10,000. The group felt that Ice-T's song did not belong on the album, and was instead released on a later album, Psychopathics from Outer Space.
To help increase their positive publicity, the group hired the Nasty Little Man publicity team. The team set up a photo shoot for Insane Clown Posse that was to appear on the cover of Alternative Press magazine in Cleveland. On the set of the photo shoot, a member of the publicity team approached Bruce and explained that in the song "Fuck the World", the lyric that stated "Fuck the Beastie Boys and the Dalai Lama" needed to be changed. Insulted, Bruce exclaimed that his music would not be censored again?referring to Disney's previous requirement of censure. Nasty Little Man told Bruce that the Beastie Boys were not only clients of the company but also personal friends, and the Beastie Boys told the company to make Bruce change the lyric. In response, Bruce fired Nasty Little Man and asked its team to leave the photo shoot.
The Amazing Jeckel Brothers was released on , 1999, and reached #4 on the Billboard album charts, and has since been certified platinum by the RIAA. Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave the album a "four out of five stars" rating, stating that " actually delivered an album that comes close to fulfilling whatever promise their ridiculous, carnivalesque blend of hardcore hip-hop and shock-metal had in the first place". Rolling Stone writer Barry Walters gave the album a "two out of five stars" rating, writing that "no musical sleight of hand can disguise the fact that Shaggy and J remain the ultimate wack MCs." At the same time as The Amazing Jeckel Brothers' release, Island Records merged with Def Jam Records. It quickly became apparent to Bruce and Utsler that Def Jam Records had no interest in them. Eminem, who had begun to gain mainstream success, insulted Insane Clown Posse in interviews, tours, and the song "Till Hell Freezes Over."
Big Money Hustlas
On Insane Clown Posse's previous tour (The House of Horrors Tour), they had watched the movie Big Ballers. The group as well as Twiztid loved the video. After Insane Clown Posse finished its The Amazing Jeckel Brothers album, Bruce and Utsler decided to create their own movie, Big Money Hustlas, with the same low-budget comedy style as Big Ballers. Island Records gave them US$250,000 to begin work on the movie. Bruce and Utsler were contacted by John Cafiero, who said that he was a fan of Insane Clown Posse, and offered to direct the movie. Insane Clown Posse asked Mick Foley to appear in the movie as "Cactus Sac", a parody of his "Cactus Jack" persona. Cafiero retained the Misfits, Fred Berry, and, at Bruce's request, Harland Williams. The script was written by Bruce, and filmed in New York City. Bruce played a crime boss and Utsler portrayed a police detective. The stage crew members, which showed their dislike for Insane Clown Posse, were a source of contention. Despite the crew striking twice, the movie was filmed in two months.
While on "The Asylum In-store Tour", Bruce and Utsler were informed by Abbiss that they were offered US$100,000 to perform at Woodstock 1999. They were excited about the offer, as it indicated their impact on the music industry. Some people perceived participating in Woodstock 1999 was a sell-out for the group; however, Bruce and Utsler disagreed. As Bruce explains, " sold out the mainstream style for us! Woodstock never came to us and asked us to change one fuckin' thing about us or our show! They wanted ICP just as ICP is, and nothing else. If that ain't fresh, then I don't know what the fuck is!"
Amazing Jeckel Brothers Tour troubles
After Woodstock 1999, Insane Clown Posse began its "Amazing Jeckel Brothers Tour", along with musicians Biohazard, Krayzie Bone, Twiztid, Mindless Self Indulgence, and Coal Chamber. Biohazard, Mindless Self Indulgence, Krayzie Bone, and Twiztid were well-received by audiences; however, Coal Chamber was not. Insane Clown Posse fans were not purchasing tickets, as they did not like Coal Chamber. For the three shows that Coal Chamber played, there were multiple ticket refunds. Bruce and his brother, Rob, made the decision to eliminate Coal Chamber from the tour. After doing so, there were no tickets returned for the remainder of the tour dates. Bruce and Utsler claimed that Coal Chamber had been removed from the tour because of equipment problems, but later revealed the true reason for their actions on The Howard Stern Show, which aired , 1999. Bruce continued by saying, "Nobody will tell you that, because everybody's afraid of your crumpet-ass bitch manager." Later that night Stern contacted Bruce and Utsler, asking them to appear on his show the following day to talk with Coal Chamber's manager, Sharon Osbourne.
Before the show went on air, Osbourne bet Bruce and Utsler US$50,000 that Insane Clown Posse's next album would not even sell 200,000 copies?a bet that Bruce accepted. On air Osbourne informed Bruce and Utsler that Coal Chamber filed a lawsuit for breach of contract. Osbourne stated that her group was to receive US$12,500 per show for a scheduled two-month package tour. Bruce reiterated that Coal Chamber's music did not appeal to Insane Clown Posse fans, and that ticket refunds decreased after Coal Chamber had been removed from the tour. Osbourne then made public the bet with Bruce about Insane Clown Posse's next album, also stating that the duo would be subsequently dropped from their distributor. In Osbourne's words, "You're dead. Your career is over." Bruce predicted that the group's next album would sell at least 500,000 copies; however, the bet officially stood at 200,000 copies as agreed by both Bruce and Osbourne backstage.
Bizzar and Bizaar
On , 2000, Utsler collapsed on stage during a performance at the House of Blues in Chicago and was rushed to Northern Hospital. He was diagnosed with flu-related symptoms and abnormally low blood sugar. As a result of the incident, the following week's concert dates were rescheduled. In June 2000, Eminem physically attacked Douglas Dail, an Insane Clown Posse affiliate, threatening him with a gun in the parking lot of a car audio store in Royal Oak, Michigan. Eminem pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for two years probation and a US$10,000 fine. In July 2000, Bruce and Utsler staged the first annual Gathering of the Juggalos at the Novi Expo Center in Novi, Michigan. Described by Bruce as a "Juggalo Woodstock", the Gathering of the Juggalos was a three-day music festival that featured wrestling, games, seminars, contests, sideshows, and performances by all Psychopathic Records' artists. Also featured at the event were Vampiro?who both wrestled and performed?Project Born, and Kottonmouth Kings. On , 2000, Big Money Hustlas was released direct-to-video.
After the Gathering of the Juggalos, Insane Clown Posse set out to release its sixth and seventh studio albums?Bizzar and Bizaar?as a double album. While recording the albums, the duo had a fallout with long-time producer Mike E. Clark. Bizzar and Bizaar were the last complete albums Clark would produce with Insane Clown Posse until his return in 2007. Bruce and Utsler flew to Denver, Colorado to add the finishing touches to the albums. Bizzar and Bizaar were released on , 2000, peaking at #20 and #21, respectively, on the Billboard 200. In The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, Ben Sisario wrote that the albums "qualify as ICP's masterworks of both merchandising and music." Both albums were given a "three out of five stars" rating. The combined sales were around 400,000 copies, exceeding the bet placed previously with Sharon Osbourne; Osbourne did not come through with payment for having lost the bet.
Two music videos were released from the albums: "Tilt-a-Whirl," from Bizaar, and "Let's Go All The Way," from Bizzar. MTV agreed to play "Let's Go All The Way" on their network, airing it once in the late evening. Bruce and Utsler decided to bombard Total Request Live (TRL) with requests for the video. While on their "Bizzar Bizaar Tour," Insane Clown Posse posted on its website that December 8 was the day for their fans request the video. Bruce and Utsler named that day "The Mighty Day of Lienda," meaning "The Mighty Day of All or Nothing." On , Rudy Hill, Robert Bruce, Tom Dub, and six other Psychopathic Records employees and friends drove down to New York City. They were met by nearly 400 Insane Clown Posse fans standing outside in front of the TRL studio window, all with signs supporting the duo. Thirty minutes before the show began, Viacom security guards and New York City police officers were dispatched to remove all the fans from the sidewalk. When some fans, including Robert Bruce, refused to move because it was a public street and no other individuals were asked to move, they were assaulted. All telephone requests for the video to be played were ignored, and Insane Clown Posse was never mentioned during the show. MTV later informed Island Records that the heads of the network must choose the band first before it can become eligible to be featured on TRL.
Independent releases (2001?present)
Bruce and Utsler left Island Records, signing a contract with D3 Entertainment to distribute every release on Psychopathic Records, which would remain independently funded, produced, and recorded. Insane Clown Posse had their own studio built, called "The Lotus Pod." In the spring of 2001, Insane Clown Posse's road manager William Dail was arrested in Omaha, Nebraska for allegedly choking a man who waved an Eminem t-shirt in front of the band. Dail was charged for misdemeanor assault and battery. The charges were reduced to a US$100 fine after he plead guilty to a lesser charge.
The second Gathering of the Juggalos was held from July 13?July 15 at the SeaGate Convention Centre in Toledo, Ohio. The event featured the same activities as the first Gathering of the Juggalos, as well as guests such as Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Vanilla Ice, and Three 6 Mafia. On , 2001, Bruce was arrested in Columbia, Missouri for an outstanding warrant in St. Louis stemming from an incident in February 2001. That incident involved Insane Clown Posse allegedly attacking employees of a St. Louis radio station over disparaging remarks that a disc jockey made on the air. The police used several squad cars to detain Bruce, Utsler, and two associates a few miles from a venue where the group had completed a concert. Bruce was transferred to St. Louis the following day and released on bail without charge on June 18.
The Wraith: Shangri-La
The face of the sixth Joker's Card is "The Wraith"?or simply, Death. The card featured two "exhibits", Shangri-La and Hell's Pit, which would each be given its own album. On , 2002, Insane Clown Posse released their eighth studio album, The Wraith: Shangri-La, where it is revealed that the hidden message of their music was always to follow God and make it to Heaven. Ben Sisario criticizes the series' ending in the Rolling Stone Album Guide, writing "the whole thing was some bland divine plan Is this man's final dis of God, or His of us?" Some critics perceived the spiritual element of the storyline as a joke or a stunt. Allmusic writer Bradley Torreano wrote that "Even if it is a joke, it isn't a funny one, or even a clever one." According to Bruce, "We went on an in-store tour right when the sixth Joker Card came out. It was the most moving thing we ever went through in our lives. All across the country, it had such an effect. People would come to the in-stores crying, thanking us. A very, very emotional time. Some people might've been upset by that, but through our eyes all we did was touch a lot of people. We definitely wanted it to be something everlasting. Maybe a 19-year-old might not understand or like that ending now. But later, when he has four kids, he might think, 'That was the shit.'"
The Wraith: Shangri-La debuted at #15 on Billboard's Top Independent Albums. In September 2003, Insane Clown Posse was voted the worst band of any musical genre in Blender, with The Wraith: Shangri-La named as the group's worst album. The magazine also gave the album a positive review for its "charming, good-natured idiocy."
Insane Clown Posse went on the 75-date "Shangri-La World Tour", where they performed across the United States, Australia, and Europe. Bruce and Utsler signed a new contract with Sony BMG's RED Distribution, and launched the Psychopathic Europe record label.
Hell's Pit and post "Joker's Cards" era
Following the release of The Wraith: Shangri-La, Bruce admitted that he was considering not completing the production of Hell's Pit. He is quoted as describing Shangri-La as "the end of the road. It's the end of the Joker's Cards. After this I could do anything I want, for the rest of my life. The positivity was so unbelievable." On , 2004, Insane Clown Posse released their ninth studio album, Hell's Pit, the second exhibit of The Wraith, intended to warn listeners of the horrors of Hell. Bruce described the album as the darkest, most painful work he had ever done. Two versions of the album were released, each containing a different DVD. One release featured a live concert and a twelve-minute music video for the song "Real Underground Baby", and another featured a short film for the song "Bowling Balls", which was the first 3-D film shot in high-definition video. In 2005, D12 and Insane Clown Posse ended their feud, with the help of member Proof. Attempts to officially end the feud between Eminem and Insane Clown Posse have been unsuccessful, but Bruce states that the rivalry has ended.
On , 2006, Insane Clown Posse fan Jacob D. Robida attacked individuals in a gay bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts with a handgun and a hatchet?a weapon featured in the logo of the group's record label, Psychopathic Records. Robida had a swastika tattoo and flaunted Nazi insignias and paraphernalia on his website. On February 5, Robida shot and killed a traffic officer during a routine stop. When police pulled Robida over during a later stop, he killed his girlfriend, Jennifer Bailey of Charleston, West Virginia, then opened fire on the police. Robida was shot twice in the head during the shootout with the police, and later died in the hospital. On , Insane Clown Posse released a statement on the Robida attacks. The group's manager Alex Abbiss extended Bruce and Utsler's condolences and prayers to the families of the victims, stating that "It's quite obvious that this guy had no clue what being a Juggalo is all about. If anyone knows anything at all about ICP, then you know that they have never, ever been down or will be down with any racist or bigotry bullshit."
On , 2006, Insane Clown Posse performed at one of twenty benefit shows organized by MySpace as part of the "Rock for Darfur" campaign to raise awareness of the War in Darfur and funds for the region's aid. On , 2007, Insane Clown Posse released their tenth studio album, The Tempest, which debuted at #20 on the Billboard 200 and sold nearly 33,000 copies in its first week. In 2008, Bruce and Utsler starred in the film Death Racers. It was released direct-to-video on , 2008 by The Asylum. In December 2008, John Antonelli filed a lawsuit against the group after being struck by an unopened two-liter of Faygo during a performance at the Fargo nightclub The Hub, formerly known as Playmakers. Antonelli is seeking at least $50,000 in damages. The lawsuit also names the venue, Playmakers, as a defendant. An attorney for Playmakers states that only Bruce should be held liable.
A prequel to Big Money Hustlas, entitled Big Money Rustlas, has begun filming, and will be in the western genre. Bruce and Utsler plan to tour theaters around the country to screen the film before its DVD release. Insane Clown Posse's eleventh studio album, Bang! Pow! Boom!, was released on September 1, 2009. It debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top Independent Albums chart and #4 on the Billboard 200. The Detroit News music critic Adam Graham gave the album a B rating, describing it as "the best material the Clowns have touched since 1999's The Amazing Jeckel Brothers."
Lyrics and music
"Jake Jeckel" (sample)
"Jake Jeckel", from the group's 1999 album The Amazing Jeckel Brothers.
Insane Clown Posse's performance style is often described as horrorcore hip hop, which "utilize shocking (and blatantly over the top) narratives to give an over-exaggerated, almost cartoon-like version of urban deprivation in Detroit", according to author Sara Cohen. The group's early work features a raw, minimalistic sound, which later evolved into a more rock-oriented style. The group's lyrics serve as morality tales, with songs focusing on subjects such as cannibalism, murder and necrophilia. Insane Clown Posse's debut album, Carnival of Carnage, features a politically-oriented focus, criticizing elitism and prejudice against those who live in the ghetto, while the album's liner notes criticize the Gulf War. The group's lyrics have opposed racism, bigotry, domestic violence, and child abuse.
Insane Clown Posse has covered songs by Geto Boys, Sly Fox, and Above the Law. Bruce and Utsler refer to the acid rap style of Esham as an influence on their own music, while Bruce has expressed admiration for Pearl Jam and Michael Jackson. Kimberly Chun of the San Francisco Chronicle described Insane Clown Posse's musical style as a mixture of "dub, goth, metal, shock rock and hip-hop, with a WWF announcer's delivery and shuffling stoner beats thrown in for good measure." Mike E. Clark's production for the group incorporates elements such as "carnival organ riffs, power chords and shotgun blasts banjolike plucking and Van Halen-esque guitar squeals," while Bruce and Utsler sometimes alternate between rapping and screaming. In his review of The Tempest, Allmusic's David Jeffries writes that Bruce and Utsler " in a carnival barker fashion that fits with their circus motif, their Insane Clown disguises, and Mike E. Clark's big top-inspired production." Insane Clown Posse has influenced similar acts, such as Axe Murder Boyz, Blaze Ya Dead Homie and Boondox.
Faygo is often used in the group's concert performances.
Insane Clown Posse is known for their elaborate concert performances. In Marley Brant's Tales from the Rock 'n' Roll Highway, Bruce described a typical performance: "We toss out, kick out, and shoot out into the crowd about three to four hundred two-liters of Faygo at every show. We bring with us monsters, dancing clowns, girls, trampolines, and pure and absolute madness to the stage. Shaggy and I know that without all that crazy shit going on around us, we'd just be two more idiots walking back and forth, rapping on stage. ICP's motto has always been 'Fuck keepin' it real: we just keep it entertaining.'" Performances feature backdrops including, among other settings, a game show set and a cemetery. Bruce stated, "We always have a different set, not only for Hallowicked but every tour we go out on. We've been around so long that we get to dig up the many cool sets that we used back in the day and then get to use them again on a national level. Something we might've done once in '94 at St. Andrew's Hall, we can go back again and now do it nationwide-style."
On tour following the release of Carnival of Carnage, Insane Clown Posse was scheduled to perform at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. After the group was announced by their manager, Alex Abbiss, Bruce remembers that "e came out with no microphones or nothing; we were just right up in the people's faces. Shaggy and I were just fuckin' yelling over our own cassette. The people were staring at us in amazement and bewilderment. They must have been in shock and awe. We finished our two-song set, and the crowd didn't cheer or boo. They just stood there, stunned."
The group was unable to bring the large amounts of Faygo needed for their concerts to their European tours without a sales permit visa because customs believed that the group had intended to sell the soda at their concerts. As a result, the group's European record label purchased similar quantities of another soda and created fake Faygo stickers to label the bottles. According to Bruce, "The craziness was this: they were not the regular two-liter bottles we're used to; they were some other amount maybe one-and-a-half-liter bottles. Over there, they make their plastic bottles taller and thinner. when you're doing what we do with them?that makes a world of difference." During a performance in England, Bruce recounts that he "rocketed one of them bottles off my foot and that motherfucker shot straight up and out like a guided Patriot missile, right towards the disco ball high above the crowd. The bottle nailed the disco ball, and came falling down on top of some English kid's head. We must've knocked fifteen or twenty people flat-out cold on that tour Shaggy and I both had black eyes and several injuries and bruises ourselves from them things hittin' us."
Bruce and Utsler did not expect many of their fans to attend Woodstock 1999, and were surprised when thousands of people chanted "I-C-P! I-C-P!" as they waited for the group to perform. Bruce told his stage crew that he would pay US$2,000 to each person who ran around the stage naked, and two people took up his offer. Insane Clown Posse also brought naked women on stage. Bruce and Utsler felt that because the tickets to the event were over-priced, they needed to "give something back." According to Bruce, "We brought along these big beach balls. We announced to the crowd that they each had a hundred dollars taped to them, and then we proceeded to kick about thirty of them into the crowd. Then we rolled out these bigger giant-ass beach balls and announced, 'These ones have five hundred bucks taped to them!' We booted a gang of them into the human sea." Bruce also recounts that their set had multiple technical problems, and the audience was not allowed to get close to the stage, which made the duo feel less connected with them.
Insane Clown Posse
Shaggy 2 Dope
6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) - Violent J
6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) - Shaggy 2 Dope
510 lb (230 kg; 36 st)
ECW, WWF, WCW, JCW, TNA, and various independents
Extreme Championship Wrestling (1997)
In August 1997, Bruce received a telephone call from friends Rob Van Dam and Sabu. They asked if he and Utsler could appear on Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW)'s second pay-per-view (PPV) program, Hardcore Heaven. Bruce and Utsler were already fans of ECW, as Van Dam had been sending videotapes of the show to them since its first airing. They agreed to appear and went to Florida to discuss the ECW program's content with Van Dam, Sabu, and Paul Heyman. Heyman was pleased that Bruce and Utsler were former wrestlers, which meant that they could surprise the crowd by taking bumps. Heyman also favored the idea of using Insane Clown Posse, because it was unlikely that anyone knew of the relationship the group had with Van Dam and Sabu. Heyman presented his idea to Bruce and Utsler, who agreed to participate. Insane Clown Posse opened the ECW program by performing songs and exciting the crowd. Then Van Dam and Sabu, the main villains at the time, attacked Bruce and Utsler. The top fan favorite, The Sandman, came in and saved them by chasing away Van Dam and Sabu with his signature Singapore cane.
ICP's Strangle-Mania Live (1997)
Being avid wrestling fans, Bruce and Utsler owned, and were fascinated by, the death match wrestling collection Outrageously Violent Wrestling from Japan. The duo decided to create a compilation of their favorite matches, recording their own sports announcing under the personas named "Handsome" Harley Guestella a.k.a 'Gweedo' (Utsler) and Diamond Donovan Douglas a.k.a. '3D' (Bruce). The compilation video was released nationwide under the title ICP's Strangle-Mania. The video's success allowed Bruce and Utsler to host their own wrestling show, ICP's Strangle-Mania Live, to a sold-out performance at St. Andrew's Hall. The main event featured Insane Clown Posse versus The Chicken Boys, who were played by two friends of Bruce and Utsler. With local wrestling booker Dan Curtis, other wrestlers such as Mad Man Pondo, 2 Tuff Tony, Corporal Robinson, King Kong Bundy, and Abdullah the Butcher were also booked on the show to wrestle in the same death match style as shown in ICP Strangle-Mania.
World Wrestling Federation (1998)
In the summer of 1998, Insane Clown Posse received a telephone call from Jim Johnston of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). The WWF heard that Bruce and Utsler were fans of wrestling and asked them to perform the entrance theme for the wrestling group Oddities. The WWF also wanted Bruce and Utsler to appear on their SummerSlam pay-per-view (PPV) program in August 1998 and rap live while The Oddities entered the ring. Insane Clown Posse composed the song "The Greatest Show" and agreed to appear on the program. Once the duo arrived at the arena, they realized their wrestling dreams had come true; they had been contacted by wrestling's top company and were now set to appear on their PPV program at the company's most historic venue, Madison Square Garden. Bruce and Utsler met backstage with various wrestlers, including the owner of the WWF, Vince McMahon, and his son, Shane McMahon. Bruce and Utsler paid Mick Foley, a wrestler with the WWF, his royalty payments from the ICP Strangle-Mania DVD, as Foley appeared in almost every match, and a friendship began among the three. Bruce and Utsler were assigned to the locker room with Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Undertaker, who were to wrestle during the main event that night. The duo immediately felt the animosity of the locker room that had previously driven them away from wrestling. Insane Clown Posse performed and were asked to return for the live broadcast of Monday Night Raw the following night. At the broadcast, Bruce and Utsler requested for more than just a rapping role; they wanted to wrestle. McMahon favored the idea and allowed them to participate.
Insane Clown Posse was put in a feud with The Headbangers. In the first wrestling match, The Headbangers were stiff, throwing real punches and kicks. In the rematch, a move was planned where The Headbangers would be flipped over by Bruce and Utsler. When the time came to flip over, however, The Headbangers refused to move, forcing Insane Clown Posse to genuinely flip them over and begin throwing punches. Realizing that the match was getting too heated, McMahon ended the feud after that match. Bruce and Utsler were put into other matches along with The Oddities. Vince Russo told Bruce and Utsler to "make it seem like you don't know anything about wrestling, and you guys keep choking and digging into their eyes". During this time, Bruce and Utsler had no contract with WWF. They, however, did have an agreement that the WWF would occasionally play Insane Clown Posse commercials, and in return, Bruce and Utsler would wrestle for free. Bruce and Utsler knew that airtime cost significantly more than any monetary compensation they would receive and were thus satisfied with the agreement. Bruce and Utsler were told they were to suddenly turn on The Oddities in their match against The Headbangers, then join them in beating up the group. They were also informed that their commercial would air the very next week, which had still not aired after three months of being involved with the WWF. The next week Insane Clown Posse and The Headbangers had a match with Steve Austin. Backstage, Austin made it clear to Bruce and Thrasher that Thrasher would receive the first Stone Cold Stunner, after which Bruce would turn around and receive the second. During the match, Austin gave Bruce the Stunner first, catching him off guard, thus having Bruce sell the move awkwardly. Although disappointed over the events during the match, Bruce and Utsler continued in hopes that McMahon would air the commercial as promised. Bruce and Utsler contacted Abbiss to inquire about the commercial and were informed that it was not aired. Given that McMahon failed to uphold his promise to air Insane Clown Posse's commercial, Abbiss recommended that Bruce and Utsler terminate their agreement with the WWF.
Hellfire Wrestling (1998)
While involved with the WWF, Insane Clown Posse brought Dan Curtis with them. After leaving the WWF, Curtis suggested that Insane Clown Posse start its own promotion while continuing with its music. He came to Bruce's house each night to discuss ideas about the promotion. Curtis convinced Bruce to coordinate another Strangle-Mania Live show, to be followed by an eighty-city "Hellfire Wrestling" tour. Curtis booked the talent and wrote the scripts. Strangle-Mania Live sold out the Majestic Theater in Detroit. Two days after the show, Curtis was found dead in his apartment, due to a sudden diabetic problem. The "Hellfire Wrestling" tour was subsequently canceled.
World Championship Wrestling (1999?2000)
Insane Clown Posse went on to wrestle a long stint in World Championship Wrestling, starting in 1999. The duo formed two stables. The first stable, The Dead Pool, consisted of Insane Clown Posse, Vampiro, and Raven; the second consisted of Insane Clown Posse, Vampiro, Great Muta, and Kiss Demon, known as The Dark Carnival.
On August 9, 1999, Insane Clown Posse made their WCW debut on Monday Nitro in a six-man tag team match. Insane Clown Posse and Vampiro defeated Lash LeRoux, Norman Smiley, and Prince Iaukea. At Road Wild 1999, Rey Mysterio, Jr., Billy Kidman, and Eddie Guerrero defeated Vampiro and Insane Clown Posse. Insane Clown Posse continued to wrestle on Monday Nitro, defeating Public Enemy one week, and losing to Konnan and Rey Mysterio, Jr. another. At Fall Brawl 1999, the tag team of Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, and Billy Kidman again defeated Vampiro and Insane Clown Posse. On , Insane Clown Posse defeated Lenny Lane and Lodi. Shaggy 2 Dope then went on a solo run for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship.
On the August 23, 2000 episode of Thunder, Great Muta, Vampiro, and Insane Clown Posse beat Tank Abbott and 3 Count. Five days later, on Nitro, Insane Clown Posse and Vampiro defeated 3 Count, and the following week, Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Juventud Guerrera beat Insane Clown Posse. On September 25, Mike Awesome defeated Insane Clown Posse in a Handicap Hardcore match.
Juggalo Championshit Wrestling (1999?2006)
On December 19, 1999, Bruce and Utsler created their own wrestling promotion, Juggalo Championshit Wrestling (now known as Juggalo Championship Wrestling). That night, the duo defeated the team of two Doink the Clowns to become the first ever JCW Tag Team Champions. The event was taped and released as JCW, Volume 1. Commentary was provided by Bruce and Utsler under their '3D' and 'Gweedo' announcing personas. In 2000, Insane Clown Posse and Evil Dead defeated The Rainbow Coalition, and the match was featured on JCW, Volume 2. In 2003, Insane Clown Posse defended, and retained, their JCW Tag Team Championships against Kid Cock (a parody of Kid Rock) and Feminem (a parody of Eminem). The match was featured on JCW, Volume 3.
The duo continued to wrestle for JCW, which could only be seen at live events until the 2007 start of JCW SlamTV!.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2004)
On January 21, 2004, Insane Clown Posse appeared on an episode of the weekly NWA Total Nonstop Action PPV. The duo were shown partying in the crowd alongside the juggalos in attendance. In the main event of the night, which featured Jeff Jarrett going against El Leon, Jarrett and El Leon were fighting in the crowd when Insane Clown Posse sprayed Faygo in Jarrett's eyes. The following week, Insane Clown Posse were interviewed in the ring by Mike Tenay. The duo explained that they were fans of TNA, and that they wanted to be a part of the promotion themselves. As they started making (kayfabe) negative remarks toward Jeff Jarrett, Glenn Gilberti and David Young interrupted. When Gilberti tried to convince the duo to apologize to Jarrett, Insane Clown Posse chased Gilbertti and Young out of the ring before challenging the team to a match for the next week.
On February 4, Insane Clown Posse defeated Glen Gilbertti and David Young. Later that night, Scott Hudson interviewed Insane Clown Posse, and the duo announced that they would face whoever Jeff Jarrett threw at them next in a "Juggalo Street Fight". Insane Clown Posse won against the team of Glen Gilbertti and Kid Kash on February 18. Two weeks later, Insane Clown Posse announced that they would take part in a "Dark Carnival Match" the next week against Glen Gilbertti and any partner he chooses. The following week, Insane Clown Posse and 2 Tuff Tony took on Glen Gilbertti, Kid Kash, and David Young. "The Alpha Male" Monty Brown made his TNA return, and cost Insane Clown Posse and 2 Tuff Tony the match. During their stint in TNA, Insane Clown Posse brought the company its largest paying crowds in history. After the duo left, they remained close with the company.
On March 17, 2006, Insane Clown Posse hosted and booked TNA's first ever house show, which took place in Detroit, Michigan. The duo defeated Team Canada members Eric Young and Petey Williams.
Independent Circuit (2004?present)
Insane Clown Posse continues to appear at various promotions in the independent circuit such as the now defunct Xtreme Pro Wrestling and Firestorm Pro. From 2005-2007, Utsler was unable to compete due to surgery. During this time, Bruce would normally be seen teaming with Corporal Robinson and 2 Tuff Tony, collectively known as The Hatchet Boys.
Juggalo Championship Wrestling (2007?present)
In 2007, JCW launched SlamTV!. With it came the first broadcast of JCW since the three initial DVDs. Bruce returned to commentary as Diamond Donovan Douglas, and Utsler returned as "Handsome" Harley Guestella. 3D and Gweedo announced in an episode of SlamTV! that Insane Clown Posse had been stripped of the JCW Tag Team Championships due to them not defending the title. At the first annual Bloodymania, JCW's premier wrestling event, Insane Clown Posse teamed with Sabu to defeat Trent Acid and The Young Alter Boys w/ Annie Social the Nun.
Juggalo World Order
Main article: Juggalo World Order
Evansville Invasion also marked the debut of the Juggalo World Order (JWO), consisting of Corporal Robinson, Scott Hall, and Violent J. At that years Hallowicked After Party, on October 31, Shaggy 2 Dope was introduced as a member of the group. After the main event of the night, special guest referee Nosawa ripped off his referee shirt to reveal that he too was a member of the JWO. At Bloodymania II, Kevin Nash teamed with Scott Hall, and proclaimed himself a member of the group. The 2008 Hallowicked After Party saw the JWO induct its newest member, 2 Tuff Tony.
On November 9, the Juggalo World Order (Scott Hall, Shaggy 2 Dope, Violent J, 2 Tuff Tony, and Corporal Robinson) "invaded" Total Nonstop Action Wrestling's Turning Point PPV by purchasing front row tickets to the event. They proceeded to promote their faction by flashing their JWO jerseys, which each member had on, before being removed from the building. The group expressed interest in "invading" WWE at its 2009 Royal Rumble PPV, but were unable due to filming commitments for Big Money Rustlas in Los Angeles. They have also shown interest in "invading" Ring Of Honor and Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Flapjack by Violent J into a cutter by Shaggy
Moonsault by Violent J followed by the Diving leg drop by Shaggy
Belly to back suplex (Violent J) / Neckbreaker (Shaggy) combination
Double front dropkick to a seated opponent's head
"Oddities" by Insane Clown Posse (WWF; 1998)
"Take It" by Insane Clown Posse (WCW; 1999-2000)
"Chicken Huntin' (Slaughterhouse Remix)" by Insane Clown Posse (ECW / JCW / TNA / Independent circuit; 1997, 1999?present)
Championships and accomplishments
Juggalo Championship Wrestling
JCW Tag Team Championship (2 times)