Article by Brandon Save
Juggalos, the notorious subculture of fans and followers of the Insane Clown Posse. They can be described as a mix between scumbag carnival clowns and a homeless community that lives underneath a freeway overpass. Throw in a little bit of horror hip hop and extreme music culture and you have a fan base that’s gained quite a harsh reputation over the years. You might’ve heard about ICP or their Juggalo followers from that weird poor kid back in high school that got suspended for trying to sell Percocet in the school bathroom, or maybe you caught them online rapping about the miracles of magnets and rainbows, but how many of us have actually experienced a Juggalo encounter up close in person? They’re considered a dangerous gang by the FBI and are warned as potentially violent. They have their own lingo that includes using phrases like “down with the clown”, and calling other people Ninjas or Juggahoes, meaning a fake posers. However, my initial outlook on Juggalos were that they’re part terrifying, part confusing, but mostly amusing as long as you keep your distance.
However, I decided to check out what the fuss over Juggalos was all about firsthand. I wanted to find out if they were really a menace to society the way people made them out to be, or was there more behind the clown makeup that those whack-ass Juggahoes at the FBI just couldn’t understand? Were Juggalos just simply misunderstood? To find the answer, I scored some free tickets to their show in downtown LA and got a group of three other friends who were willing (almost a little too willing) to attend the show and investigate.
Earlier, before the big night, my posse had gotten together and decided it would be best to adopt the look of the Juggalos in order to fit in. This included wearing bright colored 90’s hip hop inspired baggy track pants, obscure sports jerseys, and of course, the black and white evil clown makeup that separated Juggalos from your average crack smoking homeless guy on the corner. We then got picked up by our Uber driver, a nice older Hispanic woman who surprisingly was not intimidated by the Juggalo attire at all, and headed towards the venue blasting Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” through the radio (driver’s choice).
Coming out of the van, my posse was greeted with a loud “WHOOP WHOOP!” coming from the long line outside the venue. Meanwhile, a slight shock overtook us when we noticed that not a single other person had painted their face with clown makeup. This caused us to ignore the whooping which led to a drunk ICP fan calling out, “Hey you ain’t real Juggalos! Ya’ll pretending!” Turns out it only took a meager 10 seconds from getting out of our Uber to get discovered. Luckily for us, no one else besides the drunk dude gave a shit, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t even get let in.
So, we made our way inside and found another surprise; the place was not at all packed with Juggalos like how I imagined. In fact, it seemed barely a little over half the capacity was filled, and I could only point out a couple of obvious Juggalos that were standing near the front of the stage, almost hiding from the rest of the crowd. It suddenly made sense to me why they were just giving tickets away for free. Although most people I saw there definitely looked like social rejects or like they’d just come straight off an episode of Intervention, I wondered, where were all the Juggalos? Was the Juggalo way of life dying? Were people washing off their clown makeup and trading it in for a new trashy subculture? Or had the FBI locked up so many Juggalos since declaring them a gang that there weren’t many left to attend ICP shows?
While I stood wondering, the opening act came out and the crowd started chanting “suck my fuck!” over and over. Okay why not, I thought. It was a band of four bro looking dudes with matching New Era hats and basketball jerseys blending together the worst elements of metal and rap. They were pretty much what would happen if Limp Bizkit wrote an album after drinking a shit ton of lean and then taking a hit of bath salts. After continuous pleas from the crowd to please stop and put ICP on stage, the opener’s set finally ended and the real show was set to begin.
Suddenly, I noticed more Juggalos with face paint were stumbling into the venue before the main act was about to start. My posse of undercover Juggalos were starting to blend in the crowd and even getting props from some people for going all out. One group of Juggalos even kindly bought my friend with the heaviest clown makeup a drink. I began to think, hey, these people don’t seem so bad after all. During this, I also noticed that some of the proceeds for ICP merch went to the Humane Society to help animals as well. “Donate and help us save the pets, Bitch!” a sign above said. The place began to actually feel full of fans right before the main act came on, and it looked like ICP and their fan base of Juggalos weren’t slowing down anytime soon after all. I could have figured beforehand that of course they would just show up late.
Then the show started. The place went dark and shouts of WHOOP WHOOP filled the room. When the lights came on, playful circus music started playing and the stage’s background was revealed as two giant Juggalo board game parodies reading Autopsy and The Game of Death. They also had props of giant toys and food, including a popcorn bag that read, you guessed it… poopcorn. Violent J and Shaggy 2 dope made their appearance after ICP roadies wheeled out two large boxes in which the rappers were “wrapped” up in. They then quickly busted out, belting a couple of old school raps that I’m sure were ICP classics; although, it sounded like two drunk guys rapping karaoke on a Wednesday night. The crowd was going wild as both members continuously grabbed from the crates of Faygo, a disturbingly cheap soda that’s popular amongst Juggalos, and sprayed the entire audience for the whole set. The two members would sometimes get help from dancers dressed as clowns and monsters to spray and shoot the 2-liters, sometimes still full of soda, straight into the crowd. I was lucky enough to eventually get hit by one that had a fair amount still inside, really feeling it the next day.
The show was a complete clown party where ICP fans let all their pent up energy go. I imagined some of the guys in the mosh pit thinking of all those hard hours, days, weeks, working overtime at Arby’s for one night of ICP and taking out their frustration of parents and those around them always getting on their backs. There was terrible dancing, Faygo drenched clothes, and some party ribbons flying through the air. All was positive vibes, but after about 25 minutes into the set, it suddenly took a weird turn when the lights dimmed, and Violent J went into a couple sad ballads where he sang about how his life sucks and how he wants to die. It became kind of depressing, and I thought after about how the clown aesthetic of the Juggalos could possibly be linked to famous sad clown in the opera Pagliacci. Was being a Juggalo just a way for these people to express their sadness by dressing like a clown? Were Juggalos not actually inherently violent, but deep down just really sad folks who need somewhere to belong? After Violent J’s cries, I think I gained a new understanding on why a person would choose to put Clown makeup on their face everyday and listen to such god awful music. I understood that Juggalos are made up of people from shitty parts of society, and the guise of their violent reputation is really just a way to keep those who hurt them away, like a shell. It turns out the Juggalos are actually welcoming to anyone who is willing to just give them a chance and listen to their story, sit down, and share a bottle of Faygo with the homies.
After Violent J’s sad songs, the party turned back up and they played a Faygo themed electronic song that had all the monsters, props, and of course more Faygo shot out into the crowd. Shaggy 2 Dope then took to the mic and announced to everyone, “I don’t care who you are, if you came out to support us tonight, you’re a Juggalo!” The crowd enthusiastically responded with an eruption of “whoop whoops”. After a few more ICP songs and perhaps hundreds of empty Faygo bottles later, their set had ended and the words of Shaggy 2 Dope still resonated with me on the drive home. Whether I liked it or not, I had become a Juggalo.
Disclaimer to F.B.I. : Contrary to Shaggy 2 Dope’s statement, the author of this article has has not become a member of the Juggalo gang as classified by the 2011 National Gang Assessment report. Please don’t put him on a list.