Insane Clown Posse

The Circus Is In Town

BY Thomas QuinlanPublished Nov 17, 2016

"All I can tell you, brother, is it was like catching the Holy Ghost," says Violent J of The Dark Carnival, the one thing that sets his group Insane Clown Posse apart from the rest of the hip-hop universe.

ICP (Violent J and partner Shaggy 2 Dope) are a duo of wicked serial killer clowns who act as prophets of The Dark Carnival. When they entered the hip-hop world in 1990 as Inner City Posse, with the gangsta sounds ofDog Beats , they encountered numerous beat downs by the real gangster cliques of Detroit. During a brief stint in prison, J and Shaggy envisioned The Dark Carnival and their lives were forever changed. The move from gun-toting gangsters to axe-wielding clowns began.

"It happened really gradually," says J. "Just as we were recordingGangster Codes , we started rapping more about carnivals and clowns and shit, and it just seemed like it made sense. And our lyrics got less gangsta rap and more horror-related, more scary."

Gangster Codes ended up morphing into 1991'sCarnival of Carnage , a sort of Halloween-at-the-circus that became the first in a series of Joker's Cards - albums featuring black covers and clown faces. "Every Joker's Card is a reflection of yourself," Violent J explains. "It's all a look at yourself through a different mirror, a different lens." And there will only be six Joker's Cards "until the end."

Violent J explains the Carnival of Carnage as "this nightmare carnival that I believe one day is going to sweep across the world." After theCarnival of Carnage , the characters that frequented the Carnival began to emerge as the rest of the Joker's Cards: The Ringmaster (1993) and The Riddle Box (1995) on Psychopathic/Jive, and The Great Milenko (1997) and the new The Amazing Jeckyl Brothers on Island/Universal.

"What the whole Dark Carnival is saying," says J, "is you get six chances to look at yourself and six chances to correct something about you before you die. You've got to correct all that shit before you die or you'll be part of this Carnival, or whatever Hell is."

Count closely and you will notice that The Amazing Jeckyl Brothers is Joker's Card number five. That means only one more lesson left before the end. Then what?

"I don't know what's going to happen," admits J. "I know we're here for life. As long as I'm alive I'll be making records. I may get old and shitty like Billy Joel or something - I don't give a fuck, I'll still be in the house." A haunted house, no doubt.

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