The Juggalo Rapper Who Sang on a Grammy-Winning Children’s Album
Philadelphia rapper Whitney Peyton has headlined the Gathering of the Juggalos, performed on a Grammy-winning kids album, and turned down major label deals. Now she wants to become a star.
Photos by Amy Lombard
Rapper Whitney Peyton sits shotgun in Jelly Roll's golf cart, speeding through the crowd at the Gathering of the Juggalos outside Columbus, Ohio. He's an obese former crack dealer with the name "Penelope" tattooed on his upper chest ("[Penelope was] a fucking cunt," he explains. "I was 17. I thought I liked her a [lot]. Do you know how bad that [tattoo] hurt?") Peyton is a short white girl with pink pigtails wearing a midriff shirt, a naughty/innocent juxtaposition reminiscent of Britney Spears's "... Baby One More Time" music video. Juggalos and Juggalettes love her and jump in front of their moving vehicle to take pictures.
The cart stops at the "Wizard of Dabs" dab tent several yards away from a ferris wheel. Christmas lights hang from the white tent, a remix of the theme song Fresh Prince of Bel Air (Theme Song) plays, and a vendor offers passersby a two-for-five dollars dab special. Juggalos surround the cart like flies surrounding a dead coyote or Beliebers stalking Justin Bieber.
A Juggalo offers Peyton and Jelly Roll to use his slingshot to launch Faygo water balloons. Jelly Roll obliges, while Peyton just wants to watch. "I'm married to music," she says. (She has a music symbol tattooed on her ring finger.) The soda-filled balloon hits the crowd. A few minutes later, a firework explodes near the tent, raining sparks on Peyton, Jelly Roll, and the Juggalos. A Juggalette walks up and rubs a pair of toy teeth on Peyton's ass. "They do it if they like you," Peyton says. A day earlier, a Juggalo's firework hit her body. It's an apocalyptic scene—the destruction of everything mainstream society deems good—but a much nicer end-of-the world scenario than the doomsday two hours north in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention.
Peyton laughs at the chaos. She is 24 and has performed at the Gathering three times, even performing on the main stage. She raps about bullying ("Sticks and Stone") and partying ("Wake the Neighbors"), where most Juggalo rappers write songs about murder and horror scenes. Still, but the subculture has embraced her. "[Juggalos] like anything that they think is authentic," Peyton explains. "That's what they stand for most of all."
Since the fans considered her family, she has rapped on a Grammy-award winning children's album called All About Bullies... Big and Small, and toured for six months out of the year. (She refers to her apartment as a "glorified storage" unit and mostly lives out of rooms at Motel 6.) She will spend the rest of the summer on tour with Jelly Roll. She gives him credit as the top of the bill, but he recognizes her as the tour's main draw: "I'm going out with her," he says. "She's taking me out to the East Coast."
Peyton grew up in the northeast suburbs of Philadelphia. She attended Central Bucks West High School, P!nk's alma mater. "I look up to [P!nk] and Gwen Stefani," she says. "[P!nk] probably got the same thing as a white girl rapping."
Classmates called her a "wigger" when she started rapping. She began rhyming at 16, when she was interested in theatre. The performances started as spoken word poetry. "In Philly spoken word poetry was a big thing," Peyton says. She decided to add instrumentals. She looked to Gwen Stefani circa Return of Saturn for fashion inspiration, appearing in sports bras and with pink hair.
Critics, she says, accused her of having a trust fund, but her dad works as an exterminator and her mom has held a job at Home Depot for several decades. "She sells washer and dryers," Peyton says. "She's killing the game!"
Peyton started going door to door at clubs and presenting them a press kit with demos and promo shots. "You could have the first five minutes before ABK [Juggalo rapper Anybody Killa]," someone told her. She had never heard of him, or his fans, but agreed. "I went on stage and there were all these painted faces," Peyton recalls. "I just started rapping. This was either gonna go really good or really badly."
It was really good. Juggalos loved her and started coming to all her shows, even if she was opening for EDM DJs. She appeared at her first Gathering in 2010, appearing on the second stage. It was a year after Juggalos threw feces and rocks at Tila Tequila. "People were like, 'Do you think what happened to Tila is gonna happen to you?'" she says. She hated people making a fuss about her being a "female" performing for Juggalos. The clowns welcomed her with Faygo bottles and applause.
The next year, she rapped on the anti-bullying kids album, which won a Grammy. "Now when you google me that comes out everywhere, but they think I'm a children's album," she says. She's signed signed with a manager who specializes in helping cult acts like Asking Alexandria, and she played the Gathering's main stage in 2014.
At the 2016 Gathering, she played the Carousel Stage after ICP member Violent J's production of The Wizard of the Hood, a Juggalo retelling of the Judy Garland classic. "Everyone watched Wizard of the Hood on acid or shrooms," Peyton says. "I could see them just swaying. Half the time I didn't know if they were watching me or their own hand."
Before Insane Clown Posse's set, Peyton chills in Juggalo rapper Bukshot's tour bus. Bukshot sits on a bed in the corner next to an oven. White rapper Lil Wyte stands against the door. Jelly Roll lounges on top of a freezer, while Peyton sits up on a couch, showing perfect posture.
Playing Juggalo shows have paid her bills and given her disposable income. She has refrained from signing with a label, a decision Jelly Roll has also followed. He just bought his first "fucking house." "A major label would have to bring major money right now," he says. "We're not radio artists." He looks at Peyton. "She might be."
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