Juggalos have always had an image problem. Back in the day it wasn't so bad; sure, you might get called a drug-addicted hillbilly with bad taste in music, but that's the kind of casual hatred an Insane Clown Posse fan learns to live with. Those days were annoying, but at least you had your Juggalo family to stand with.
Then the FBI released the National Gang Intelligence Center's 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, and things got ugly. At first it was funny to think about; "Juggalos Considered Gang By FBI" is something that sounds like it came from The Onion.
It's been no laughing matter for those Juggalos who've had their world turned upside down because the cops have been told anyone rocking a hatchet man shirt is a public menace. Psychopathic Records is trying to turn public opinion around, most recently in the form of a Juggalos Fight Back newsletter.
They're going to have to try a lot harder if they ever want to be taken seriously.
The problem here is that for far too long, all ICP and Psychopathic had to worry about was pleasing the Juggalos. That's not to say they're above putting out a song with Jack White or being part-time pro wrestlers, but they're savvy enough to know that they're not putting out a product that appeals to most people. There aren't a lot of casual ICP fans in the world.
You're either down with the clown or you're not.
For years, everything they did was geared toward the Juggalos and they got real good at making them happy, but in the process it's like they forgot how to market themselves to non-Juggalo audiences.
Changing society's perception of Juggalos is going to be hard and it's going to require more than just newsletters and clips shot at the Gathering of the Juggalos. They're taking on the federal government, an organization that's way better at propaganda than a bunch of guys in face paint from Michigan.
Take the newsletter, for example. It's easy to see what they're trying to do with it: put a human face on the Juggalos suffering because of their newfound status as gang members.
And hell, "I'm about as gangster as a care bear" is a pretty good quote. But it's still a newsletter in a digital age, just one step above a piece of spam.
They should be going out and getting these Juggalos to tell their story on camera. More than just their story, we should be getting a better sense of who they are as people. Show society that Juggalos are people not all that different from themselves, with hopes and dreams and jobs and families, just instead of being super into sports or Real Housewives of Atlanta, they're in to horrorcore rap songs.
Also, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope should give serious consideration to booking some high-profile TV interviews where they don't wear makeup. I know that's heretical to suggest, but if they're ever going to get people to take them the least bit seriously, they're going to have to introduce the world to Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler, two guys who like to write about murder and would do anything for their fans.
Also, here's a bit of personal advice for you Juggalos out there: maybe avoid slapping ICP stickers on coffins for a few years. I know the group means a lot to you, but it just looks really weird to people on the outside, people whose support you need if you're ever going to get past this gang thing.
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At the end of the day, ICP and Psychopathic deserve credit for sticking up for their fans no matter how they choose to do it. In my personal experience, I've found Juggalos to be a fun, welcoming group of people who probably don't deserve to be lumped in with the real gangs of the world.
Are there ICP fans with awful tattoos that do terrible things? Yes.
Does that mean they're a gang? Unless they're running the best, most secret con of all time, the answer is no.
They're just the bad apples ruining the already tarnished name of the rest of the family. But to restore the family, it's going to take a lot of work and more than just a few newsletters.