There Are Clowns?

The Gentleman Juggalo LogoThere are Clowns,

Among the trees,

In fields and bushes,

Where nobody sees. 

There are Clowns,

Out for the young,

Bent on killing their songs,

Long before they are sung.  

There are Clowns,

Outside of the school,

Their hellish grins asking,

Just who is the fool?

But there are Clowns in police cars,

And Clowns in the courts,

Clowns on the TV,

Reading news reports.

There are Clowns on the left,

And Clowns on the right,

Clowns that will lie to you,

Or tell you to fight.

 There are Clowns in the papers,

And Clowns at the prow,

Of our ship as we ponder,

Where we’re to go now.

There are Clowns who will promise,

Everything is fine,

And Clowns who will tell you,

Not to waste your time.

Clowns that will claim,

It’s all under control,

But those Clowns are demure,

When it’s time to console.

There are Clowns on the streets,

Clowns under our beds,

Clowns running our countries,

Clowns filling our heads.

Yes there are Clowns,

In all sorts of places,

But the Clowns I fear most,

Do not paint their faces.

 

This poem was inspired by the recent ‘Time’ Article by Violent J, which you can read here (Link).

 

-Brad OH Inc.

The Juggalo Gang Designation

The Gentleman Juggalo LogoThe Insane Clown Posse (ICP) (Link) are no strangers to hate and controversy, and have even gone so far as to proudly wear the label of ‘World’s Most Hated Band’ (Link) like a badge of honour. But recently, things were taken in an unimaginably strange direction, when the FBI took the absurd action of labelling the Juggalos (the dedicated followers of ICP’s music) as a hybrid gang (Link).

The move was a very serious one, and has needlessly affected countless Juggalos since (Link). By labelling the Juggalos a gang, the FBI and United States government have created a near insurmountable obstacle for many law-abiding music-lovers. At present, having a ‘Juggalo’-related tattoo, merchandise, etc. could prevent a person from joining the military, could be considered a breach of probation terms, has been cited to affect custody agreements between parents, and extend sentences for minor crimes—reclassifying them as gang-related crimes (Source).

Even the self-styled ‘Most-Hated Band’ sees this as a step too far. While they’ve borne the brunt of media scorn with an optimistic grin, the ICP have taken the FBI Gang-ruling to court. Backed by the ACLU (Link), and toting a long list of grievances reported by Juggalos to stem from the ruling, ICP have invested a great deal of time and capital into suing the Federal Government to justify or overturn the ruling.

…Not bad for a couple of Clowns.

Thus far, the lawsuit has met with little success, initially being thrown out of court, and continuing to languish under delays and red-tape. But say what you will about ICP’s music, their fight against this ruling is entirely justified, and potentially one of the more important debates of our time in the realm of art and music.

You see, a gang is something which essentially functions to create meaning for an individual who suffers a desperate lack of such. It can provide a place of belonging, an identity, even a sense of purpose and community. Unfortunately, these perceived benefits tend to come—in the case of organized, criminal gangs—with their share of drawbacks—ranging from risk of injury or death, to the harm of others, and of course criminal charges.

But gangs aren’t the only way for a wayward person to find meaning. As discussed in our article, ‘The Metaphorical Imperative’ (Link), stories and art can also serve this function. By finding a sense of acceptance, guidance, and structure in the confines of a well-constructed metaphor, people throughout history have escaped from the dismal confines of their daily life and been elevated to something far greater.

In the case of ICP, this is quite literally what happened. As discussed in our article, ‘Circular Journey’ (Link), Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope initially founded ICP (then ‘Inner City Posse’) as a legitimate (if somewhat unimposing) street-gang. Rapping was just a small part of that identity. But as Violent J shares in his book, ‘Behind the Paint’ (Link), the Inner City Posse quickly fell prey to the more dangerous gangs of inner city Detroit at the time, experienced myriad legal conflicts, and all but fell apart. Violent J, ultimately finding himself in a jail cell, came to the epiphany that the gang life was not for him, and resolved thereafter to focus his efforts on music.

The Inner City Posse soon became the Insane Clown Posse, and the rest was history. ICP’s musical career is what raised them out of the gang life and gave them purpose. Likewise, many of their colleagues at their self-founded ‘Psychopathic Records’ came from similar backgrounds, and as such ICP stand as a true bastion against the gang life in Detroit. They have been a source of reprieve for anyone seeking something more meaningful for their lives. In fact, they have created purpose and employment opportunities in the poverty stricken city of Detroit, where the government has only lamented for the lost.

This effect continues today. When asked exactly what ‘Juggalos’ are, the most common answer you can expect to get is ‘family’. ICP have created for their fans a sense of unity and belonging rarely achieved—whether in music, community organizations, or even religious institutions. They have fostered a sense of meaning and purpose for countless youth—often as disenfranchised and wayward as the two Clowns were in their early life.

It is true that throughout their music, there have been themes of violence, misogyny, and even gang affiliation. In point of fact, in the song ‘Gang Related’, Violent J states it in unambiguous terms: ‘Do you rep the Hatchetman—you’re in a gang!’.

Now surely to the wise men and women of the US court system, this is as clear a confession as you could ever ask for. But the funny thing about art is that what is said is not always meant to be taken literally—that’s the beauty of metaphor after all. This point is not some foreign notion, nor is it a stretch to expect the good people of the judicial system to maintain this basic understanding of the creative process. In his song ‘Nebraska’, Bruce Springsteen admits to the mindless killing of ten individuals, but it’s unlikely he will ever be summoned before a jury on those charges, isn’t it?

Ultimately, the ‘Gang’ designation placed on the Juggalos is an affront to freedom of expression. What’s more, considering the incredible work ICP have done to improve the city of Detroit, and how their work has saved innumerable people from the gang life, it seems rather akin to striking at the hand that’s doing your work.

If the government had the clairvoyance to provide for its citizens in an informed and just way, it may be we would see far fewer people so devoid of meaning and desperate to belong. As it is however, we must simply embrace the power of music (and all metaphor) to provide these intrinsic human needs, and fight doggedly against any judicial ruling which seeks to punish the well-intentioned for fear that their decency would unveil the system’s own complacency.

So fight on ICP! The Juggalos—and the artistic world moreover—are behind you. The Wicked Clowns will never die!

-Brad OH Inc.

Advance Album Review: Kottonmouth King’s ‘Krown Power’

The Gentleman Juggalo LogoWhen I checked my inbox a few days back, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised to find an invitation to review an advance-copy of the Kottonmouth Kings new album- ‘Krown Power’. A chance like this after only a few months actively reviewing albums? Nice work Fam!

The decision to seize the opportunity was immediate—after all, I’ve been a fan of the band since being introduced to their 2000 album ‘High Society’ via the ICP guest spot. Since then, I’ve followed the band’s unique sound—a psychedelic mix of hip-hop and punk rock—throughout their career. I’ve even had the pleasure of seeing them live on a number of occasions, including the Gathering of the Juggalos 2010 and 2012.

So there was no question about it—if I had the chance to review their new album ahead of its release date, I was jumping on the opportunity.

‘Krown Power’ will officially drop on August 28th, marking the band’s 14th studio album (EP’s and compilations bring the total significantly higher), which is a testament to their staying power to say the least. But that’s not all that’s interesting about this album.

KrownPower‘Krown Power’ will be available on August 28th.

Back in 2013, the band split from their long-time record label ‘Suburban Noize’ due to internal conflicts. A devastating challenge for any band, KMK took the split in stride, and went on to found their current label, ‘United Family Music’ in 2014. ‘Krown Power’ will be the band’s debut release on United Family Music, and also their first release since the departure of founding member Johnny Richter, who also left around the time of the Subnoize split.

With so much having changed, it’s only natural to feel some trepidation about what the future holds for this strange and undoubtedly pot-reeking crew of musical misfits. As it turns out, the future is not too dissimilar from the past, and that’s not such a bad thing either!

‘Krown Power’ is laced with all the familiar elements of a KMK release. The lead single ‘Ganja Glow’ would have no doubt sufficed to silence any doubts about the ongoing focus of the band. One thing is beyond question…KMK still love their weed. It’s been a cornerstone of the band since their days as the ‘Humble Gods’, and it remains the most consistent topic on ‘Krown Power’. In fact, they reinforce their heartfelt love of the herb on nearly every song, showing an impressive flexibility of praise that would be the envy of any proper ‘Worship Band’.

This is exhibited most succinctly in the penultimate song of the album, the aptly named ‘Mary Jane’. With echoes of the 2002 song ‘Rest of My Life’, ‘Mary Jane’ is undeniable proof that of all the countless artists who have ever proclaimed their own love to be the only one true and eternal, the love KMK have for the titular Mary Jane has stood the test of time far better than most.

Happily, the rest of the album doesn’t slouch either—despite the influence it was undoubtedly conceived under. Ranging from high-energy party songs like ‘Our City’ and ‘Fill Your Cup’, to the vintage sounding ‘Sink or Swim’, KMK show the sort of consistent diversity their fans have come to expect. ‘Fuck Off’ features the return of long-time collaborators Insane Clown Posse, with an opening verse by Shaggy 2 Dope which is sure to bring a nostalgic smile to the painted faces of any Juggalos listening.

Other standout tracks include ‘Pump up Da Bass’, ‘Don’t Feel Down’, ‘Ganja Glow’, and ‘Good Time Zone’—all but the last of which guest star the incredibly talented Marlon Asher. These tracks–and Marlon’s presence especially—bring a welcome reggae-influence to the album which is so perfectly fitting with KMK’s sound and passions that it seems a match made in reefer-heaven.

marlon-asherMarlon Asher adds to the album with his distinctive Reggae sound.

The kings would do well to hold onto this influence and make the most of his talents. And they may be—rumours circulate that Asher has been signed to the band’s nascent label ‘United Family Music’, but these remain unconfirmed at the time of press. Fear not however, Brad OH Inc. is currently working on an interview with the Kottonmouth Kings, and we’ll be certain to have more information for you about this promising new contributor once that drops.

At the end of the day, when you put on a KMK record you should have a pretty good idea of what you’re getting, and that remains true for their first release on ‘United Family Music’. If their storied love of pot has been of fairy-tale persistence, so too has their dedication to their particular craft. The reggae sound on this album works well for a more mature balance to the familiar themes, and results in an album which gives due reverence to the past, while also managing to remain focussed—albeit through blurry, bloodshot eyes—on the future.

-Brad OH Inc.

Welcome to ‘The Gentleman Juggalo’

The Gentleman Juggalo LogoWelcome to ‘The Gentleman Juggalo’, a brand new post-category (Link) here on Brad OH Inc. Some of you may not be familiar with ‘Juggalos’ (Link), the infamous fan-base of the Insane Clown Posse (Link). Well, it just so happens that one of our dear writer’s here at Brad OH Inc. is a self-professed Juggalo, and has expressed a desire to help educate and enlighten our readers about this strange and maligned sub-culture.

It’s true certainly, that the Insane Clown Posse and their fans have been covered here before—most recently in our review of their album ‘The Marvelous Missing Link: Lost’ (Link). But apparently, that wasn’t good enough for the tenacious, painted bastard at our news desk, and so we’ve been convinced to roll out this sub-category to help distinguish such articles in the future.

For now, and especially for those of you less familiar with the Insane Clown Posse and their Juggalo Family, we’re taking this opportunity to provide a primer in the form of our formerly released essay ‘Circular Journey’ (Link), which is a psychological study of ICP member ‘Violent J’ through the lens of Ernest Becker’s ‘Terror Management Theory’ (Link).

Circular Journey Cover

Now, the mockery and degradation of Juggalos is ubiquitous online these days—hell, the FBI even went so far as to classify them as a hybrid-gang (Link)…but more on that later.

At Brad OH Inc., we are committed to providing fresh content and unique perspectives, and what we find missing in the reporting on Juggalo culture is the sort of unbiased, insightful critique demanded for nearly any other topic in media. We believe you’ll find that here. In fact, ‘Circular Journey’ (Link) should act as a fine introduction to the sort of measured, informed look at the Insane Clown Posse and its fans ‘The Juggalos’ that ‘The Gentleman Juggalo’ (Link) is poised to offer. We certainly hope you enjoy it.

-Brad OH Inc.

Album Review: Insane Clown Posse’s ‘The Marvelous Missing Link: Lost’

The Gentleman Juggalo LogoOn April 28th, 2015 Insane Clown Posse’s Violent J celebrated his 43rd birthday. This is no trivial accomplishment. With a childhood steeped in gang violence and accentuated by poverty, Violent J (aka: Joseph Bruce) may be lucky to have made it even beyond 20.

But something happened along the way which changed Violent J’s life forever. He formed a band. Along with his childhood friend Joey Ustler (aka: Shaggy 2 Dope), J built the Insane Clown Posse from the bones of defunct street gang Inner City Posse.

On October 18th, 1992, ICP released their debut full length album, ‘Carnival of Carnage’. The first in an album series known as the ‘Joker’s Cards’, ‘Carnival’ set ICP onto their lifelong musical odyssey. The Joker’s Cards are a series of thematic albums, each revealing some aspect of the listener’s inner-self—they display moral quandaries and psychic terrors like so many carnivalesque freak-shows.

Since then, ICP’s career has stood as a blazing contradiction to the ‘mainstream’ music industry. With the formation of their record label, ‘Psychopathic Records’, Joe and Joey have created an underground industry for themselves, bringing up countless other acts along the way.

With this sense of purpose, the lives of these two Detroit youth have morphed from nightmares to dreamscapes. Both describe their lives now as being filled with all the happiness and fulfillment they could have ever dreamed of. For more information about the genesis of the Insane Clown Posse, see the Brad OH Inc. article ‘Circular Journey’ (Link).

This all brings us back to April 28th—as this year, Violent J’s birthday also marked the release of the 3rd Joker’s Card of the second deck—‘The Marvelous Missing Link: Lost’.

indexClick image above to buy the album.

‘Lost’ is only one half of ‘The Missing Link’, with the other half—‘Found’—dropping later this year, on July 31st.

Like all Joker’s Cards, there is a very specific theme behind ‘The Missing Link’. As a whole, ‘The Missing Link’ refers to our internal link to belief—our connection to and faith in whatever keeps us on the right track.

Specifically, ‘Lost’ is about the experience of having no belief. Its dark tales tell of loss, death, and torment—the experience of any soul living in such a depraved world without any belief to buffer against the daily anxieties of such a life.

With tracks such as ‘Lost’, ‘Apocalypse’, and ‘Vomit’ painting hellish stories of misplaced anger and suffering, ‘Lost’ is accordingly one of the darkest albums the Clowns have ever released.

Without long-time producer Mike E. Clark at the helm, ICP have instead placed their faith in the talents of Psychopathic collaborators Mike P, Michael ‘Seven’ Summers, Brian Kuma, and one of the label’s up-and-coming stars, James ‘Young Wicked’ Garcia. This results in a daring change to the sound. While every album has certainly represented a significant shift in musical style—ICP have continued to explore their artistic range even after nearly 25 years together—this stands as one of the most radical departures for the group yet.

Marked by the heavy use of DJ scratching and industrial-style bass drops, the backing tracks are fast and heavy—contributing an often frantic pace to an album about the madness of lacking a sense of purpose. The disc plays at times more like a soundscape than an ordered collection of songs, with lyrics often sampled and repeated over and over—the usual raps slipping on many occasions into something closer to a Gregorian chant. In this way, the album is reminiscent of ICP protégé-band Twiztid’s stellar 2009 release- ‘W.I.C.K.E.D.’.

Garcia’s efforts deserve special credit here. Contributing many background vocals and several choruses including on the songs ‘How’ and ‘I See the Devil’, Garcia brings a fresh and welcome sound to the album—acting often as the distant voice of hope amidst the dark rumblings of ICP’s verses.

ICP’s delivery here is significant as well. While never competing amongst the most technically skilled rappers, the Clowns have always turned out crisp lyrics meshing well with their energetic beats. Not here. While frantic at times, the beats seldom flirt with anything close to ‘energy’—opting rather for a more frenetic, plodding, and often vulgar feel.

ICP’s raps follow suit perfectly. When not stuck in repetitive loops, the lyrics often come in disjointed bursts, as if being made up on the spot by a mind too occupied with more pressing concerns. This is especially noticeable in the song ‘Shock’, and fits well with the theme of being unable to control your own deranged impulses, despite how off-putting it can seem at first.

This attention to detail is consistent throughout the record.

While the intro can be somewhat brazen in its repetition, and even disturbingly overt in hammering the point home—it does much to illustrate the earnest message behind this brooding album: Find something to believe in, or risk being lost. Despite this theme however, the album does little to provide any idea of just what one should believe. If internet memes are to be believed, ICP are a couple of evangelical Christians, and thus the easy conclusion would be faith in the Christian God.

But you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet, and this is a perfect example. While the ultimate message of how to find your way will inevitably be addressed on ‘The Marvelous Missing Link: Found’, a recent interview in ‘The Detroit News’ did a good job showing the flexibility of Violent J’s views on the matter:

“Faith, for ICP, isn’t about any particular religion; Bruce admits he’s never read the Bible. It’s about finding something to believe in, whether that’s in one’s relationship with their spouse, their children or with art.” (Source).

But this isn’t to say that ‘Lost’ is entirely bereft of guidance. Several songs cover the issues of false beliefs—Money, Sex, Power, and other such temptations which distract people from finding a true sense of purpose. In ‘Vomit’, ICP tell the stories of two people who used sex and money respectively as their guiding principles, and end up lost in the depths of hell as a result.

Notably missing from the album is the familiar sense of humour so ubiquitous to other ICP releases. The lyrics and concepts are consistently bleak, with only brief glimpses of hope in songs such as ‘How’, which laments the confusion of trying to live a decent life amid such lurid distractions.

The album is moreover barren of any deep metaphor—which of course requires belief, as covered in depth in the former Brad OH Inc. articles on ‘The Metaphorical Imperative’ (Part 1 and Part 2). In an indirectly humourous twist, the song ‘Falling Apart’ accordingly eschews metaphor entirely. It tells the story of a man literally falling apart—fingers and limbs snapping off as he tries in vain to keep himself together. The song is punctuated by a surprisingly earnest chorus, in which Violent J channels his inner Rock Star to ask ‘What’s become of me/ I’m falling apart…’.

It pays off wonderfully.

The rest of the album plays out as a series of macabre stories and scenarios depicting the pitfalls of a life devoid of meaning. In stark contrast to most other ICP albums, the protagonist’s endeavours seldom end well, as evidenced in the song ‘Flamethrower’, where the Clown’s characters are ultimately killed. This subtly negative detail is similar to many songs from the group’s 2004 release, ‘Hell’s Pit’.

To me, one of the especially interesting things about this album is that it’s really not the album ICP probably ‘should’ have made at this point. Based on the huge surge of mainstream attention they garnered from songs like 2009’s ‘Miracles’, contrasted against the comparatively underwhelming reception they’ve received in the last few years, it would have made commercial sense to create a much more goofy album; ripe for public lampooning.

Instead, the Clowns opted to make a brazenly sincere album, focused on earnest meaning with a great sense of personal introspection. In theory, it’s the ‘wrong’ album to release just now, and that’s part of what makes it so damn interesting.

‘The Marvelous Missing Link: Lost’ is a daring album and bold new direction for ICP. Its heavy themes and plodding delivery often make for an uncomfortable listen, but that’s just the point. As is their wont, ICP have focused very intently on creating an LP that fits with their own artistic priorities rather than mass-appeal. This shouldn’t be surprising, as the band itself may be seen as the very ‘Link’ which raised Joe and Joey away from the fate of most children born to inner city poverty and set them on their purposeful path to happiness and fulfillment.

‘Lost’ is a dark, moody album. It’s not going to cheer anyone up, and this era in ICP’s career may be remembered as one of the least traditionally pleasant—challenging us with a barrage of negativity before moving on to the inevitably lighter tone of the ‘Found’ album. But ‘Lost’ does provide an important impetus for all of us to consider what really matters in our lives. It’s imperative that we take the time to recognize and cherish these things. Otherwise, our own Missing Link may never be ‘Found’.

The_missing_link_FOUND‘The Marvelous Missing Link: Found’ is out on July 31st, 2015.

A Note to the Reader: This is the first ever album review from Brad OH Inc. We hope you’ve enjoyed this new avenue, and encourage all of our fans to reply in the comments section with their thoughts on the review, or suggestions for other albums to review in the future.

-Brad OH Inc.