Inside a brick public housing project in Coshocton, Ohio, an overweight blonde girl with green highlights stands at a recording mic in her living room. She refers to her tiny home studio as the Toxic Factory and covers her walls with styrofoam to soundproof the room. Her name is Miss Cyainide, and she plays in a band called Lethal Injexion with her boyfriend Fat Kid.
"Ten feet tall, can't break me down," she raps. "I bet they're gonna hate me now. There's no safety now. Can't take me down. I bet you're playing this song now."
Cyainide has rhyme and swagger, at worst as much as Lil Mama and at best as much as Eve. You might not expect this from a fat white girl, but Cyainide belongs to the Juggalo family, the super fans of Insane Clown Posse and the subculture they've created. Over the past three decades, ICP's Psychopathic Records has launched the rap careers of underground rappers like Twiztid and resurrected the careers of artists like Vanilla Ice and Cypress Hill. But the record company has yet to establish female MCs. Cyainide plans to change this.
"I spit poison," she tells me in the Toxic Factory while wearing a yellow shirt that says, "Infect Yo Mind."
"She's poisonous," her boyfriend adds.
In performances, Cyainide wears costumes. At a recent show, she tells me, she dressed as Minnie Mouse with Ebola. Her lyrics, though, ignore fantasies; she writes songs about suicide, sex work, and abusive boyfriends.
"A lot of women can relate. They've been in an abusive relationship," Cyainide explains. "I have things to say… My music: realism. I'm not gonna talk about shit I don't have."
She describes Juggalo culture as women and sex positive, but she, like Camille Paglia, believes women need to stay precautious at the Gathering of the Juggalos, ICP's annual music festival, because of rogue male Juggalos. "We're family. We're supposed to be modern-day hippies," she says. "We have rotten apples in the group and it makes us look bad."
Cyainide has lived with her boyfriend, Fat Kid, in a one-bedroom public housing apartment for roughly a year. They have outfitted the tiny home with Batman merchandise: Batman action figures, VHS copies of Tim Burton's Batman and the 1997 flop Batman & Robin, and a baby doll dressed as Batman in a metal stroller. "I'm a big Harley Quinn fan," Cyainide says. Fat Kid thinks it was love at first Batman fandom: "I'm a big Joker fan, and we just interweined [sic] with each other."
When I visit the couple and collaborators at their apartment the night before the Gathering of the Juggalos, Fat Kid's obese, bald brother Lurch walks around the house, silently taking selfies. Tina Turner stares at him from an album cover posted on the wall like a piece of art. Fat Kid wears a lime green bandana and trip pants, like the ones I bought at Hot Topic as a middle schooler in 2004. He's 29.
"I'm old," Fat Kid says. "I feel like I'm 90."
"I've [been] on the music scene since I was 16, but ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to do something," says Cyainide.
The couple has been preparing for the Gathering for several days. They have saved up all year, and they pack up the majority of their apartment into a minivan for the event: pillows, blankets, and chairs. Cyainide also packs lotion to prepare for the "Gathering rash," which she describes as a mix of "chub rub and heat rash." The couple hopes performing at the Gathering's talent contests will help turn their rap ambitions into rap careers.
Cyainide has been the fat girl for most her life. Cyainide grew up poor in Ohio. Looking back, she remembers dressing "gothic and loving "trip pants and dark makeup." It didn't make her popular with her classmates. One day, she discovered Juggalos, and she found an instant family. As an adult, she has struggled to make ends meet. Right now, she works at a fast food restaurant, where she also hocks her CDs to customers. To make money at this year's Gathering, she's selling cotton candy jello shots for a dollar.
Sitting on swings behind her public housing building, Cyainide texts on a government-provided phone. "I took dirty pictures on my Obama phone, and I know [the feds have] seen my dirty photos," she jokes, but she laments the Obama administration's failure to bring jobs to Coshocton, and businesses' conservative social views. After last year's Gathering, she lost her job at a different fast food fest because she tested positive for weed during a piss test.
"I'm on assistance, and that's just the typical," she says. "We're scrubs."
Cyainide's family has supported her Juggalo life. Her mom loves her music, and her stepdad even has a Juggalo name. Thanks to his long grey beard, Cyainide and her pals call him Juggawilly.
As Cyainide, Fat Kid, and Lurch pull off in their minivan, mom and Juggawilly stop by to wish them luck. Cyainide competes at the Miss Juggalette Beauty Pageant at this year's Gathering. Where most beauty contests honor fake tan and anorexia, the Gathering's annual pageant celebrates women of all sizes and races, and places a premium on talents like dancing and rapping. Cyainide says she doesn't care about winning, but she also wants her music to break through and become a certifiable rapper within the Juggalo subculture—the kind of Juggalo rapper who can attract her own crowds and tour with ICP, which so far has included very few women.
"For a long time I've wanted to be something with my life," she says. "I'm a big girl, and I've worked really hard to be somebody."
Check out Broadly's upcoming Miss Juggalette Beauty Pageant documentary to see if Cyainide wins the pageant.