‘Flip the Rat’- Review

Last week, we reviewed ‘Fearless Fred Fury’, the fourth Joker’s Card of the Second Deck by the Insane Clown Posse. This week, we are exploring its companion EP, ‘Flip the Rat’.

Flip feeds off the fear instilled by Red Fred, and opens with a series of songs describing Fred’s character, and the destructive power of violent fury. These were perhaps attempts at album openers, eventually replaced by ‘Red Fred’ and ‘Fury’ as the Joker’s Card’s introductory songs.

They feature varied and interesting rap-styles, and one of the biggest disappointments of either album is that ‘Revenge’ was not a 6-minute song.

The middle section of the album features many of the ICP standards one might expect on a Joker’s Card—sex songs, shit-talking songs, and guest features.

‘Friend Request’ depicts terrible people reaching out for connection, putting a comical spin on the darker aspects of our world before calling these into a clearer focus and calling them out directly.

The fact that these standards appear on Flip is an obvious result of the more focussed nature of Fearless Fred Fury in both sound and tone.

-Click Here to Purchase the Album-

Moving into the final third of this impressively lengthy EP, ICP deliver some long and very interesting songs, exploring new territory and key connections to the main album alike.

‘Hawking’ in particular is an fascinating piece. Covering every imaginable conspiracy theory about controlling groups and lack of hope—this song takes the idea behind FFF’s ‘Satellite’ and Flips it on its head. The songs compliment each other well, showing us that when looking at the big picture, the lens makes all the difference. While ‘Satellite’ looks at the wonder of being alive and gives a sense of unlimited potential, ‘Hawking’ looks at the paralyzing fear of feeling out of control and victimized.

‘Tha Dogg’ is a gritty rocker of a song, telling the story of an abused child growing up to seek violent revenge on his parents, and anyone else in his way.

Either of these two songs may have found a place on the main album—perfectly capturing the precipitous balance between taking actions to change your life, and losing yourself to violence and self-loathing.

The EP closes with ‘Be Safe’, a love song to Juggalos and to each other. It’s an anthemic ode to friendship, love, and togetherness, stressing the importance of key connections in life, and driving home the wisdom of eschewing the dangers and violence depicted throughout the preceding albums.

In a particularly moving moment, J gives a shout out to Cannibal, a Juggalo who died in 2015 defending a mother and her infant child from a violent mugger.

It’s a testament to the beauty of life, and all the things that can keep us from the self-loathing and desperation the rest of the albums take aim at. It’s a fitting ending to the series, and show the importance both of Flip the Rat as a balancing companion to Fearless Fred Fury, as well as the import of the decision to close FFF with ‘I Like it Rough’ rather than ‘Be Safe’.

Taken as a whole, ‘Fearless Fred Fury’ and ‘Flip the Rat’ cover a lot of ground, and work in tandem to present a compelling perspective on self-efficacy and empowerment, contrasted with the desperate, violent, and loathsome results of a failure to appreciate them.

It’s a powerful Joker’s Card and EP combo, and heralds a thrilling era that brings back much of the anger and hard-hitting tracks that some Juggalos have felt were lacking on previous albums. It goes all-in, and gets pretty dark at times, but as is the case with most Joker’s Cards, it has a crucial thread of positivity and appreciation sewn throughout for those who care to search.

665!

-Brad OH Inc.

(Schisobe)

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‘Fearless Fred Fury’- Review

When I was just a young Juggalo, there was one expression beyond all others I truly could not stand. “Life’s not fair,” would be my father’s familiar refrain whenever I fell into complaining about some perceived slight or rejection. When I grew older however, I understood the wisdom behind it. There’s no use complaining about things beyond our control—better to focus on the things you could change.

Sometimes life was unfair—would that make you bitter and hateful, or would adversity help you grow stronger?

The same questions are the driving force behind ‘Fearless Fred Fury’ (FFF), the new album from the Insane Clown Posse, and the Fourth Joker’s Card of the Second Deck. FFF is a being of toxic anger, punishing souls who fail to live with dignity—those who put off all responsibility for their life, and feed on blame and resentment.

Fred’s job is to avenge the bitter dead—doling out punishment to the recently deceased who have wasted their lives with impotent complaining to the chagrin of the dead who had no more opportunities to waste. The message behind this Joker’s Card is ‘Fite Back’—but how to do that is a concept explored throughout the card and its companion EP, ‘Flip the Rat’—which we’ll review next week.

Fred’s targets are those who blame fate, whine about poor luck and unfair circumstances, and take no control over their own lives. The dead are angry, and Fred is ready to punish such people. Flip meanwhile, feeds off the fear instilled by Fred. Together, they encourage the living to fight back against whatever is holding them back and find their true power and passion.

Anger is a funny thing however, and with the Wicked Clowns established approach of showing the good by shining a light on the bad, we are left with a strange dichotomy between wasting your life in sorry resentment, and the equally dangerous path of falling into toxic anger and destructive rage.

-Click Here to Purchase the Album-

This balance is defined clearly in the intro song for the character, ‘Red Fred’, which describes Fred’s anger towards those who never took control of their own lives, and the destructive power of fury.

… YES! Fred’s the revenge you never got…
NO! Fred’s all your dignity shot…
YES! Fred’s all the drive you didn’t know…
NO! Fred will burn these into your soul…

The album has an unusually personal aspect to it, as its long production time was marred by delays, and fuelled by the toxic anger of Violent J as he dealt with the loss of album mates and betrayals he struggled to process. There is a sense that the album started off as a pure revenge piece—focussed on violence and hatred, but morphed into something more nuanced and deep as J himself slowly processed his anger and put it in its proper place.

While songs like ‘Fury’ and ‘West Vernor Ave.’ tell stories of violent revenge and fury turned into violence, others stand on somewhat higher ground. ‘Satellite’, for instance, starts off with the quote,

“Your life sucks, is that what you said man?

Try and tell that to a dead man.”

The song is an important reminder of the better things in life, and the beauty of simply being alive. It encourages us to putt off bitterness and revenge, trading those for an appreciation of life and a determination to make the most of our opportunities.

The song creates a fascinating contrast with a song from Flip the Rat, ‘Hawking’, but we’ll talk more about that in next week’s review.

This sentiment repeats in songs like ‘Freedom’, which reminds us that we are free to live any way we want—that the world is truly ours.

These are exceptions however, and the majority of FFF is spent on toxicity and the impacts thereof. ‘Game Over’, ‘Low’, and ‘Hot Head’ tell the stories of people lost to the world due to their own resentment and fear, while ‘Nobody’s Fault’ drives this theme home by describing the horrendous impacts of such withdrawal from society, while reminding us of the source of this suffering: ‘it’s nobody’s fault but mine’.

‘Night of Red Rum’ provides a murder-fuelled horror story that may settle among some of ICP’s best of that particular topic, while ‘Shimmer’ is a ghost-story that may claim the same.

The penultimate song on the album, ‘Beware’ is a warning—a disclaimer of sorts about the disturbing content of the final song. It challenges the listener to make a choice whether to proceed or not. It’s a bit of a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ approach, and sets up a fascinating ending to the album.

Not unlike the choice between the 6th Joker’s Cards of the first deck, ‘The Wraith’, which encouraged us to choose between ‘Shangri-la’, which was for the special few, and ‘Hell’s Pit’, which was for the many.

FFF closes with ‘I Like it Rough’, a depraved exploration of sexual violence and control—the noxious ending of a life defined by bitterness, rage, and resentment for society coupled with a lack of personal agency and responsibility.

It’s a dismal ending, focussed on mutual pain and suffering, with no hope at all offered within. This is an interesting and novel approach by ICP—as the vast majority of their albums end on a positive note encouraging us to appreciate what we have, love those deserving, and move beyond that which hurts us.

Nothing of the sort here—suffering and pain are the only offerings of the closing track, which is a fitting cap on an album driven primarily by themes of toxic anger and isolation. The right choice—perhaps, would be to obey the warning, and stop the album at ‘Freedom’—a more classically fitting end-point.

Of course, then we’d miss out on this powerful statement on toxicity—which the album did so much to establish.

Ultimately, the album makes it clear that life truly isn’t fair. There are moments when we’ll feel betrayed, forgotten, or unappreciated, and most likely, they’ll happen again and again.

It also tells us that it is only ourselves who can dictate our reactions to these setbacks—and reminds the listener to avoid falling into isolation and resentment, all while displaying the dangers of toxic anger and violence.

It’s a more layered theme than many of their efforts, and pays off with a strong sense of style and consistency. Ultimately, ‘Fearless Fred Fury’ is a terrific addition to the Dark Carnival saga, and Juggalos around the world are slathering over this new era of energy, empowerment, and a return to the classic ‘wicked shit’ of old.

Fite Back!

-Brad OH Inc.

(Schisobe)

The Real Magic of ‘The Gathering’

The Gentleman Juggalo LogoAmong the greatest experiences of my life, many have come at the infamous and maligned ‘Gathering of the Juggalos’ (Link), which I have had the privilege of attending three times so far (2002, 2010, and 2012).

The Gathering of the Juggalos (GOTJ) is the annual festival held by the Insane Clown Posse (Link) and their record label, Psychopathic records. It features all the artists of the Psychopathic label, as well as hundreds of other bands. But music is not the only draw for potential GOTJ attendees—wrestling shows, talent competitions, auctions, merchandise booths, autograph tents, band seminars and carnival attractions represent only a small fraction of the entertainment to be had at one of these strange and wonderful events, which historically range from 3-5 days, and tend to occur at the most isolated campgrounds to be found in the American Midwest.

The event has become something of an internet phenomenon of late, with countless articles (Link) being written each year by media interlopers hoping to drop in for one day and capture the essence in a way that can be packaged and explained to the world at large.

As yet, few have come close to accomplishing this goal—at least in its truest sense. Given, these articles have been successful in whipping up the group-think frenzy which the internet makes so common-place, placating the masses with pictures of exposed breasts, faces deranged with excitement, and other unusual sites suitable to inspire the condemnation and ridicule of those who have never experienced the true magic of the GOTJ.

And that journalistic failure is unlikely to be corrected anytime soon. Because the truth is, the Gathering isn’t something that can rightly be comprehended by the curious voyeur, and photographs or video taken at The Gathering capture its essence with no greater efficiency than they would that of a mountain vista or a roaring crowd. That is to say, not at all.

The Gathering isn’t meant to be read about (and the irony of this typed statement is not missed by the author), it’s meant to be experienced. And while I make no claim that an open-minded visitor would be unable to have an incredible time there so long as they were willing to cast aside their biases and take it in with a fresh and open mind, the Gathering of the Juggalos—as implied by the title—is truly meant for the Juggalos alone.

This isn’t to say that there’s any hostility to a well-intended outsider—quite the contrary in fact—but the true magic of this strange event is not in the entertainment scheduled, or the sights to see, but rather in the nuance of the people, and the incredible, tribal culture in which to revel.

At its heart, each GOTJ is nothing more than a campground laid out into sections, with myriad sources of entertainment interspersed among the wooded confines of whatever campground it presently occupies. But within this spread of humanity, an amazing cultural phenomenon can be observed—if one knows where to look.

Really, each Gathering can be viewed almost as a series of tiny villages—microcosms of various aspects of the Juggalo world living in harmony under the greater whole. A quick walk through the grounds, and a trained eye can pick them all out. There are the more old-school Juggalos—with their painted faces, dreadlocks, and Milenko jerseys. Across from them are the ‘Techalos’—juggalos who are primarily inspired by the works of Tech N9ne (Link)—all with their hair waxed into sharp spikes, and white contacts in their eyes. In another direction you might find a group of new generation Juggalos, decked out in more of a ‘scene’ style, and sporting the latest ‘Hot Topic’ shirts of their favourite artists. There are the wrestling kids, the drug crowd, and plenty of Juggalos motivated by the commonly held and generally apt rule that at the GOTJ, there is plenty of ‘love’ to go around.

Despite the differences however, the Juggalos of GOTJ are united under a common identity—that of the former misfit who has learned through adversity and inspiration in equal measure to appreciate the world for their own take on it, rather than forcing it (and themselves) into the pre-defined moulds prescribed by an often uncaring society.

Meeting any of these strangers is no difficult task, and it will soon become evident why so many Juggalos consider the Gathering to be a homecoming. Everyone you talk to is friendly, and all are overwhelmed with a sense of resplendent joy simply for having the privilege to be there. Talk to someone, and they will inevitably invite you to hang out at their campground—leading you through strange twists and turns to their own little tribe among the masses. Personally, I’ve never travelled to the Gathering with anyone beside myself, but I’ve never for a moment felt alone at one. This is the hidden pearl of the GOTJ that inexperienced reporters so often miss out on—as the name implies, it’s really about the people.

So the question becomes—if the GOTJ is such a friendly and welcoming place, a place of open minds and hearts, where does the pervasive feeling of fear and loathing so often associated with the event come from? With no corporate sponsorship or police presence, the Gathering represents a true sense of freedom—a utopian getaway where attendees can truly do as they want and be what they please. As such, it’s only natural that a quick glance around the grounds will reveal an incredible variety of predilections, vices, and lifestyles on offer. It’s a true smorgasbord of people—from every possible walk of life.

You’ll see drunks and druggies, sex and nudity. You’ll hear every curse known to man, as well as every imaginable profession of affection. People will stroll through the grounds naked, filthy, and not giving a damn. You will see madness you’ve never dreamed of—after all, when left to our own devices, us people (and this is by no means limited strictly to Juggalos) are a wild, sordid bunch, capable of great and terrible things.

Of course, the most common reaction to this for internet tourists is abject disgust. People love to look at this free and arguably utopian society and stand in hateful judgement of all they see. They’ll call names, and criticize choices. They’ll eagerly cast aspersions at an entire group of people for not fitting into their own insular worldview. But what does this really say about the person judging? If they find themselves in a place where they have the ability to be anything at all, and end up only being angry, judgemental prudes, then truly what has been revealed is not about the majority of Juggalos in attendance, but rather what rests deep within themselves.

If you can be anything at all—don’t settle for merely being hateful. This isn’t the high goal held for humanity, and it isn’t the intention of the Gathering. Like Yoda’s cave, what you find at the Gathering is more often than not only what you bring with you. That’s the magic that few beyond the Juggalos can ever fully comprehend, and that’s why the Gathering will and must always be, above all else, the true home to those strange, unwieldly, open, caring, earnest, and unusually strange men and women who proudly call themselves Juggalos.

-Brad OH Inc.