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Music by VICE

Insane Clown Posse's Violent J on the Art of Songwriting

"We have to keep making noise, we have to keep putting shit out on the internet—we have to stay relevant, or we’ll go away. We work every fucking day, except the weekends; the weekends we go home and spend with our families."

by Mitchell Sunderland
Sep 28 2014, 4:00pm

Photo courtesy of ICP

“This is just some sappy-ass, lonely attempt from my big fucking sappy friend Violent J, trying to score some of that Kreayshawn neden [or vagina],” Shaggy 2 Dope says at the start of Insane Clown Posse’s new music video for “The Kreayshawn Song.” “Violent J, go ahead and kick your sappy-ass shit.”

The video then cuts to Violent J in a white suit backed by three blond Marilyn Monroe lookalike background singers and a band of guys dressed as (what else?) scary clowns.

“Crazy, Kreay Kreay,” Violent J raps. “Kreayshawn / it’s on / I won’t front / straight the fuck up / can I hit that… blunt?” 

To the majority of Americans, this video probably seems ridiculous (though you can’t deny it’s catchy as hell), but it’s time to start taking ICP seriously. Since Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J began recording on their Psychopathic Records label, they’ve made their style of hip-hop into a genre all its own and built their cult following into something approaching an actual religion. Before ICP, no artists wore clown makeup while throwing Faygo and rapping about family. Today, 18 likeminded artists belong to the Psychopathic roster, and tens of thousand of ecstatic fans make an annual pilgrimage to the Gathering of the Juggalos.

DJ Paul and Da Mafia 6ix (formerly Three Six Mafia) have recognized the group’s brilliance since their first collaboration over a decade ago, and this fall, Da Mafix 6ix and ICP united to become a supergroup called the Killjoy Club. In early September Psycopathic released the group’s first album, Reindeer Games, and this week the crew embarked on a tour across America. I know a little something about ICP and juggalos, so I called Violent J to talk about the new album, songcraft, and the similarities between his group and John Cougar Mellencamp. 

VICE: What’s your approach to writing and producing a song?
Violent J:
We have a number of producers who we use. Mike E. Clarke is ICP’s main producer. When we do a Joker Card album, which is our heart and soul, we put everything we have into it—we have different producers who we use. We did most of the Killjoy Club record with Seven’s beat because at the time Seven was freed up—he wasn’t working with Tech N9ne—so he was sending over crazy beats. Once we get the [beats], Shaggy and me lay down our idea of what the song’s gonna be about and the concept, and then we come up with a hook, like a scratch hook to use until we get together with them.

How did this process change when you collaborated with Da Mafia 6ix on Reindeer Games?
[Da Mafia 6ix] flew to Detroit and we went to my studio—which is out in the woods, we call it Rusty’s Boom Room—and we spent three days together recording on each other’s songs. They jumped all over our songs, and then we did the hooks up the way we wanted them, and then we jumped all over their tracks. They did the same thing.

We did it real professionally, man. I remember when I picked them up from the airport, I was playing the songs, and they were digging ‘em and telling me which ones they liked and which ones they weren’t really feeling, and everybody just kinda jumped.

How did you end up working with them in the first place?
We’ve known them for years. The coolest thing about them was way back in [the late 90s] they were the first established group to ever reach out to us and ask us to be on a song—pretty much they’re still the only group that’s ever reached out and asked us to be on a song. We get tons of offers from groups who are much smaller than us, but never somebody who was actually out there nationwide like that.

Why did you decide to form a supergroup together?
It was always an idea we had—we were always like, We need to do a whole album together. Always talking that shit. Then I started talking to DJ Paul: “Why don’t we really do it? The way we do will be like this: We’ll make half the record using our tracks in the way we make records with our producers, and you guys make the other half.” And when we did it, it’s really cool. When you listen to the album you hear like the ICP side of production, and then on the next song you hear Da Mafia 6ix side of production.

You’ve got a lot of artists on your label at this point. Do you essentially work two jobs: one as artist and the other as businessmen?
It’s an obsession. It’s our entire lives. I sometimes feel like real big successful bands, like U2, say, “Well, we decided to take two years off,” and they get together and record another album. I can’t even picture taking two weeks off. We have to survive out here in this bitch. We have to keep making noise, we have to keep putting shit out on the internet—we have to stay relevant, or we’ll go away. We work every fucking day, except the weekends; the weekends we go home and spend with our families. We’re like a factory: We’re loading boxes, we’re up here working every day, and we’re unloading trucks—we’re up here every day, and our whole staff is up here every day working.

ICP has been popular for a long, long time at this point. How have you maintained that?
For those who like our music, I think we have been providing good shit. This may be a conceited answer, but I think our product is good, for those who like it—which is an acquired taste no doubt. We have been able to switch up our flavor just enough to keep it interesting and keep coming with the goods. I believe we have a talent for what we do. Now if you’re not into what we do, most people don’t even see it as a talent at all—they see us as a joke. We work very, very, very fucking hard to keep coming up with the flavor—and it’s not just ICP. We have a crew up here who brainstorms with us and comes up with ideas.

Through ICP and Psychopathic Records, you’ve pretty much created a new genre of music. What makes a good artist in that genre?
I’d say what makes a good [Psychopathic Records] group work is character. Like a superhero, [they’ve] got to have a good backstory, a good character—something people can get into besides the music. I think Juggalos want a little more than just the music. For example, Anybody Killa is like a native warrior. He’s Native American and the paint that he wears on his face is war paint, and he has his whole backstory. He has an album called Mudface and his own little story, like a character out of a comic book or a horror movie. You gotta make it interesting. Record labels have been doing that forever.

Yeah. It’s like the old Hollywood studio system.
John Cougar Mellencamp wasn’t really named all that shit, you know what I’m saying? They threw the “Cougar” in there.

Are you down with the clown? Then download The Killjoy Club’s new album and check out ICP’s tour with Da Mafia 6ix.

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