In the mid-90s, there was a rap collective called Arrested Development (no, it’s not just a show for hipsters—it once was also music for hipsters!) who made a grand show of defying the worst stereotypes of their genre. They were socially conscious and avoided misogyny and gratuitous violence in their lyrics and took pride in their blackness, but made an effort to be inclusive. In 1993 they won two Grammys and were named Rolling Stone’s Band of the Year. Arrested Development had a few hits you might recognize, most notably “Tennessee” and “People Everyday” (warning: extremely ‘90s content in videos). Their 1994 CD bombed and Arrested Development broke up to little fanfare in 1996.
Around the same time as Arrested Development came on the scene, a very different rap group was coming out of Detroit. This group would not be critically acclaimed. This group would sell a lot of records and attract a devoted following known as Juggalos (and Juggalettes, natch). This group would have a career that will be entering its third decade shortly.
This group is of course, the Insane Clown Posse. They are often ridiculed, because, well, they are two grown men who wear clown makeup (yet keep trimmed facial hair for some reason?), call themselves Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope and take all of the worst stereotypes about hip-hop music to an absurd illogical conclusion.
But well, a must-read of a report from the UK’s Guardian reveals that they may not be exactly who we though they were. So what is it that motivates the men Behind the Paint? Why, evangelical Christianity, of course!
So again, here is what has happened: Insane Clown Posse succeeds with the most reprehensible, violent, misogynistic rap for just under 20 years, then tells its fans it duped them all so that it could spread some Jesus. Again, this is a group who was recently in the news because those ever-devoted fans were pelting Tila Tequila with rocks, bottles and feces that is now trying to sell themselves as Christians.
This transition was underlined by their recent single, “Miracles,” where the two clowns say nothing violent, talk about nice things, are vulgar, yes, but ultimately the song is a well-intentioned (if ignorant) effort. And the result has been what anyone other than the two surprisingly naïve clowns would have expected: unmitigated mockery, most notably in the form of this SNL sketch.
And the clowns reacted to this the way a misbehaving kid would after being mocked for sucking up to the teacher. Here’s Violent J from the Guardian: “I figured most people would say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know Insane Clown Posse could be deep like that.’ But instead it’s, ‘ICP said a giraffe is a miracle. Ha ha ha! What a bunch of idiots.’”
Why did this happen? Why didn’t people take this rapid character change seriously? The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki has a theory about why Tiger Woods won’t be recovering his endorsements that would seem applicable: “[I]t’s hard to think of a scandal that’s more discordant with an image of focus and discipline than this one. Woods’s alleged cavorting with Vegas waitresses and celebrity groupies, his woeful “sexts” and voice mails, his driving his S.U.V. into a tree: all these things make him look weak and discombobulated.” In other words, any break with image can be disorienting and alienate fans or sponsors who believed they knew the celebrities in question.
And what is more disorienting than two clowns who have devoted their lives to violence and hatred deciding that it was all secretly a plan to uplift their thousands of angry fans by discreetly disseminating the message of Jesus and admitting that they have had difficulty with depression?