Peek Inside ICP’s ‘Riddle Box’: A Primer on Music's No. 1 Clowns

ICP drenched Houston in Juggalo flavor almost exactly one year ago at Warehouse Live.
ICP drenched Houston in Juggalo flavor almost exactly one year ago at Warehouse Live.
Jack Gorman

You don’t have to admire Insane Clown Posse’s music to respect the duo’s longevity. Nor should you admire ICP’s music, mostly because it’s not very good. Yet despite an utter lack of musical talent and lyrics that can safely be described as juvenile and, on occasion, somewhat disturbing, ICP has been producing music for almost 25 years. And these weren’t just garden-variety mixtapes put out by some underground clown outfit; six ICP albums have gone gold, and two of those have moved more than a million copies.

ICP plays Warehouse Live on Wednesday; the show is all ages, so bring the kids if you feel like scaring the ever-loving crap out of them. Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J will play 1995’s Riddle Box, the album that sorta broke them into the pseudo-mainstream, in its entirety. The Juggalos and Juggalettes will rejoice — to their credit, ICP fans are among the more loyal you’ll find.

And how does a group whose commercial heyday came nearly two decades ago still pack houses from coast to coast? Simply put, we live in a world where Insane Clown Posse is a classic-music outfit of sorts, no different from fellow '90s rap-rockers like Korn and Limp Bizkit.

But who are these demented clowns whom this loyal legion of fans adores? And how have they been able to stick around well beyond their sell-by date? Here are some facts and figures regarding Insane Clown Posse.

Yes, you read that correctly. Insane Clown Posse, they of song titles like “I Stab People” and “I Hate Santa Claus,” have partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union in the name of justice. See, the Juggalos were once labeled a “gang” by the FBI and subsequently placed on a National Gang Assessment watchlist. Feeling they and their fans were being unfairly persecuted, ICP recruited the ACLU in helping them sue the FBI for placing them on said watchlist. The suit was originally dismissed but later reinstated by an appeals court. The case remains ongoing.

To be fair, half the pop-culture stratosphere beefed with Slim Shady between 1998 and 2002. But to earn Eminem's wrath, you at least had to resonate commercially, which ICP most certainly did at the time. The beef began in the mid-’90s when both Eminem and ICP were trying to climb up the Detroit underground music scene. The feud continued into the artists’ respective commercial primes, which began around the same time, and resulted in a number of confrontations and diss tracks. How deep were the diss tracks? Well, let Slim Shady take it from here...

Faygo is a soft-drink company headquartered in ICP’s hometown of Detroit. It’s basically a smaller, Midwestern Fanta and comes in a variety of flavors and colors. Also like Fanta, it’s sugary and sticky as all hell. The soda has developed a cult following of sorts round Michigan way, even receiving shoutouts from artists like Eminem and Machine Gun Kelly, but no one has taken their love of Faygo to the heights of ICP, who not only praise the soda in their music but routinely douse live audiences in “Faygo showers.” So if you’re planning on arriving early and getting a nice stage view of Wednesday's Warehouse gig, best to embrace your love of sugary liquids — and bring a change of clothes.

ICP certainly is a walking contradiction. This is, after all, a novelty act that has lasted nearly three decades, perhaps the only other musical act besides KISS to stake this claim. This is also a pretty terrible musical group that has managed to produce pieces of surprisingly not-terrible music. Most notably, ICP’s commercial breakthrough, The Great Milenko, makes for a pretty decent addition to the horrorcore canon. The lyrics are still vulgar and juvenile (that’s how ICP rolls), but Milenko marked a step up musically for the duo; bringing in rock icons like Alice Cooper and Slash to assist certainly didn’t hurt.

ICP has always had an affinity for professional wrestling and even launched its own wrestling promotion, Juggalo Championship Wrestling, in 1999. But the group’s most notable turn in the squared circle came in the late '90s, when both ICP and professional wrestling were at their commercial peak (it was downright serendipitous in a Southern-fried kinda way). ICP joined up with the then-World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) in 1998 at the height of the “Attitude Era.” They didn’t last long in the promotion, amid allegations that they acted violently and took liberties in the ring. They later went to WWE rival World Championship Wrestling (WCW) just as its ship was sinking; ICP left the promotion in 2000, and WWE bought WCW the following year.

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