'Fucking magnets! How do they work?'
After the release of the Miracles video, I ended up reading a lot about the Insane Clown Posse. They're a Detroit based rap band with their own involved mythology. I listened to them a lot about ten years ago. Most of the songs are boorish and dull, but others have a spark of something wonderful.
For a band that are ignored and mocked by the mainstream, they've done an amazing job of building a following, making a virtue of not being played on the radio. The band have legions of devoted fans called Juggalos who wear the same black and white clown make-up as the band. Often mocked by society, the fans follow the band, not so much as musicians but as a lifestyle. One article describes the extent of the band's networks: "a huge and more or less self-sufficient underground with its own distribution network, porn, churches (seriously), charities, file-sharing services, anti-drunk-driving coalition (JADD), initiatory secret society, GLBT activist, pro- and backyard-wrestling circuits, and two MySpace variations (ninjaspace.net and the possibly defunct myjuggalospace.com).". Although, as some people point out, when you go around wearing clown make-up, you're probably going to need an alternative social structure. The Juggalos are sometimes treated as a gang, as in this 'expose' by Martin Bashir
For the last ten years the Insane Clown Posse has hosted the Gathering of the Juggalos, which features a series of guest acts as well as a whole constellation of rappers in black and white clown make-up. There was an infomercial produced which spends ten minutes detailing what visitors have in store, including "Magicians and hypnotists walking around that bitch."
One thing I love about the Internet is the detail which you can find on obscure subjects. Following the Miracles video and the infomercial, a series of spoofs appeared on the web. Providing a key to these skits is the article Fool's Gold: An Oral History of the Insane Clown Posse Parodies. The article contains an in-depth discussion of recent ICP parodies and the revelation that the Juggalos are studied in American college anthology courses.
Nobody is sure how seriously the band take their music. There is something to be said for artists not being ironic. David Foster Wallace once quoted Lewis Hyde as saying that irony 'has only emergency use. Carried over time, it is the voice of the trapped who have come to enjoy the cage.' Or, as Violent J says, "I’d rather be the dumbed-down guy appreciating everything than the guy who knows everything and doesn’t appreciate anything."
The Fool's Gold Article also quotes the ICP on the magnets issue: "I mean, yeah, we know how magnets work. But they’re still incredible. You can push something across the table without touching it. And as a kid, I found that fascinating. I still find that fascinating." – Violent J. "Come on, a rock that pulls metal towards it or pushes it away? Yeah, it has to do with the magnetic polar caps and [stuff]. But for real? Come on, man. You’re just holding a U-shaped thing that pushes metal away or attracts metal or something. The North and South Pole makes a rock magnetic, and if you touch a piece of metal with it, that becomes magnetic? That’s crazy." – Shaggy 2 Dope
In that same article, Mr 2 Dope also describes the giraffe as "some crazy-looking animal that only lives in Africa and Detroit"
Vice magazine sent an embedded reporter to the Gathering of the Juggalos, which is described as 'like the horror-rap equivalent of the Hajj' It's a fantastic article and well worth reading. The most interesting section is where they describe the game of Morton's list, one of the mystical aspects of the Juggalo lifestyle:
"Eventually I crossed paths with Daff, who … wanted to introduce me to a Tennesseean ninja named Brad who was deeply involved with another of the Juggalos’ more cerebral offerings, Morton’s List. The way Brad broke it down for me, ML is basically a mystical fraternal order as determined by an RPG-version of truth or dare. You roll a thirty-sided die three times, match your numbers to an entry in a big book of quests, and then have one hour to complete your assigned quest or at least give it a decent effort. If you’re successful you ascend to different degrees, like in Freemasonry. Brad had a bunch of the degrees he’d earned tattooed on his arm, and was going to do the rest as soon as he got the money together."
And this is the thing that fascinates me most about the band: Morton's List. The game is simple. You roll a dice and devote yourself to a randomly chosen quest, which you work at to the best of your ability. The quest, apparently, could be something like baking a cake, improvising a bowling alley, jousting with cardboard weapons – or even volunteering for a charity. There's a full description of the game here. It's basically a way of finding Things To Do. The Morton's list website has a free cut-down version of the game. And, um, instructions for making a T-shirt into a ninja mask.
Every time I write the ICP off as stupid, I discover something odd or subtle about them. There's a fine line between clever and stupid. The Insane Clown Posse can be daft and boorish, but they also seem to be smart. Like Jordan, I find it hard to believe you can be as successful as they've been without some level of cunning.