British author and journalist Jon Ronson had perhaps never heard of Insane Clown Posse, the rap duo that dropped from widely disdained to nationally mocked with its recent music video for the song "Miracles," before he decided to profile them for The Guardian. In the long and fascinating article, Ronson goes past the clown makeup and violent lyrics to learn about what it has been like for the middle-aged rap stars, who have a small but extremely dedicated fan base, to become such objects of mockery and scorn.
As Ronson chronicles, ICP members Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler have attracted parodies by Saturday Night Live and years of harsh, unrelenting criticism for their behavior and lyrics, which are often described as misogynistic and, in one case, "not only dumb, but enthusiastically dumb, endorsing a ferocious breed of ignorance that can only be described as militant." Leaving aside the merit of the criticism, and also leaving aside the notorious reputation for violence by fans at their concerts, what does it feel like to be in Insane Clown Posse? What does it feel like to be so loved by a small group of fans and so loathed by everyone else? Ronson finds out:
I suddenly wonder, halfway through our interview, if I am looking at two men in clown make-up who are suffering from depression. I cautiously ask them this and Violent J immediately replies. "I'm medicated," he says. "I have a lot of medicine that I take. For depression. Panic attacks are really a serious part of my life." He points at Shaggy. "He's gone through some things as well."
"You do a show in front of how many hundreds or thousands of people." Shaggy nods. "You're giving your full being, your soul, to every person in that crowd, every pore in your body is sweating, you're fighting consciousness, just to get it out of you, and after the show all your fans are partying, 'Yeah! Rock and roll!' And you're just here." He glances around the dressing room. "You're just fucking sitting here."
... Shaggy nods quietly. "I get anxiety and shit a lot," he says. "And reading that stuff people write about us… It hurts."
"Least talented band in the world," Violent J says. "No talent. When I hear that I think, 'Damn. Are we that different from people?'"
He looks as if he means it – as if he sometimes feels hopelessly stuck being him.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.