For over twenty years, the face-painting rap duo of Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler—better known as Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, or Insane Clown Posse—have been creating as much controversy as they have music.
In a way that’s a fair assessment—they have been arrested several times, written some very raw lyrics and marketed all of it toward children. In other ways though, the ado surrounding ICP can also be described as a misunderstanding of the pair.
They belay their music with the overarching message that people need to worry about their actions; that there are consequences for doing wrong. And in the event there is a judgment day, they want their fans to be on the right side of that gate.
Still, ICP has been mostly an exercise in “do as I say, not as I do.” And in the last year that’s landed them in hot water with the F.B.I. with the agency classifying not only Bruce and Utsler as a gang, but also their fan base—known as ‘Juggalos’. Currently, the group is involved in a lawsuit with the government to get that designation reversed.
It’s a dark chapter in the career of a rap duo known for building their own merchandising empire, becoming wrestling champs and creating a prolific good-versus-evil concept for each and every one of their death rap hip hop albums.
But the spirits of ICP member Violent J are high and the Source caught up with him last week ahead of their Bend show scheduled for Sunday May 26 at the Midtown Ballroom.
SW: Forget the rap music for a minute; you guys have had a pretty awesome wrestling career too. Anyone you want to square up against in the ring that you haven’t yet?
I got to wrestle so many fresh wrestlers. Guys like Rey Mysterio Jr. and The Road Warriors; guys we idolized. Let me tell you this, Back in ‘95 I was flipping through a magazine and I saw this tiny little black and white ad and it said ‘Japanese Death Match Wrestling’. It was these Japanese wrestlers in rings with thumbtacks, broken glass and exploding rings. I was like, no way, this can’t be real! But I ordered these videos and it was everything they promised. What me and Shaggy did was we did the play by play commentary to it comedy style. We released it as a video called Stranglemania. There was a tag team on that DVD that me and shaggy named The Mushroom Boys. They were 500 pounds each. They were iconic to me and Shaggy, almost like cartoon characters to us. As the years went by and we made more connections in wrestling, we booked them and got to wrestle The Mushroom Boys from those original Japanese videos. It can’t get no better than that for us!
SW: On a serious note, this FBI thing is really dragging out. A trial for next March? Is that correct?
We knew this was gonna happen. We’re going up against the FBI; that’s not gonna wrap up in six months. We knew it was gonna be a long tiresome fucking battle, with them trying to make us go broke. They got the U.S. Government pockets and they’re deep. But if we did nothing and just accepted it than 10 years from now our legacy will be nothing. We’ll be just a gang and Juggalos are not a gang. We know it’s almost an impossible battle but we can’t have this. We’re not a gang; we’re so much more than that.
SW: I’m sure taking on the FBI doesn’t come cheap; do you guys feel that fans maybe now more than ever want to come to your shows and buy your music to support you because of the lawsuit?
I don’t think any more or less because of that. It’s just a case of we’ve been here 20 years so far. Doing it full time for 22 years actually. We look at our lifetime story and what’s come out of it and now that we got something, we don’t want it swept up into a garbage bag as a gang. It’s a living breathing jungle with a lot of life in it.