Exclusive: Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope aren't worried about offending people. Instead, the Michigan rap duo focuses on pleasing its ever-rabid fanbase through its music and its Gathering of the Juggalos festival, which is in its fifteenth year.
Insane Clown Posse knows that many Rap fans don’t respect them. But what matters to Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope is that some of their musical heroes do. Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and DJ Paul are among the A-List acts who have worked with and/or appeared with the Michigan duo throughout its prolific career.
Beyond the admiration of the genre’s elite, ICP has also developed and sustained one of rap’s major, most successful festivals with its Gathering of the Juggalos. The fifteenth-annual edition of the Gathering is slated for July 23-27 at Legend Valley, a 120-acre, privately owned and fenced-in outdoor music venue in Thornville, Ohio. Tech N9ne, Da Mafia 6ix, Cypress Hill, Dizzy Wright, Hopsin, Yelawolf, Ces Cru and Madchild are among the acts slated to perform at the event.
In an exclusive interview with HipHopDX, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope discussed the forthcoming Gathering, the respect they get from their musical heroes, their Insane Clown Posse Theater program on Fuse and why Lil Wayne’s fashion sense is corny.
Violent J & Shaggy 2 Dope Explain The Bond Between Juggalos
HipHopDX: The 15th Annual Gathering of the Juggalos is slated to kick off July 23. Why do you think that the gathering means so much to your fans?
Violent J: Because it’s a chance for them to be together. When people look at ICP, they see J and Shaggy and they don’t exactly understand why Juggalos are so dedicated to us. They don’t understand it. They see J and Shaggy and they don’t understand it, you know. But what they don’t realize is that the real magic of being a Juggalo is the other Juggalos. That’s what it’s all about. Coming to the concerts is really about coming early and waiting in line and hangin out with the other Juggalos and tailgating. That’s what it’s really about. It’s kind of like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, everyone going to be with each other and hanging out. It’s the magic. People go through a lot being a Juggalo, other people give them shit all the time, “Why do you listen to that shit,” and blah, blah, blah…When they come to something like The Gathering, they are surrounded with thousands of people just like them who are in to the same shit they are. It creates a freshness that can’t be described. They’re at peace. It’s such a wonderful thing to be surrounded by people that you already have something so strong in common with them.
When you go to The Gathering, you realize that you are not alone, and that’s what this is really about. Nobody really wants to be alone. When you come to The Gathering, it’s not about, “Are you looking at me mutherfucker?” No shit like that. It’s all, “What’s up? How you doin’?” you know. People share their food, their booze, their weed. It’s all love, so much love for each other. Juggalos have such a love for each other. That’s the magic. That’s what makes ICP cool. It’s the Juggalos. Of course, The Gathering of the Juggalos, for the Juggalos, it’s like going to Mecca. Every Juggalo has to make the pilgrimage to the gathering at one time in their life. Maybe not that strong…It’s being with each other that makes it so special. It’s chanting the song. They throw soda all over the place. They love being with each other. Juggalos gather together even when we are not around. Juggalos put out flyers for mini Gatherings they have in the park or something, just a chance to be together.
DX: What new wrinkles have you added to The Gathering this year?
Shaggy 2 Dope: The fact that the new location is just adding a whole new feel to it. It’s been like seven years we’ve been in the same place, and it was just time to move it. We were just kind of Groundhog Day-ish a little. I couldn’t remember three years ago from four years ago because we were back stage in the same spot. It just kind of blends together. We were getting a lot of good feedback. It seems like every year we do it, you can’t fuck with it, but then the next year seems like we just topped it. You look back and every year is just as great as the past year.
DX: What role has The Gathering had for your careers and building your brand?
Violent J: I think, with the exception of Rock The Bells, The Gathering may be one of the top two or three biggest Hip Hop festivals in the country, every year. It’s four days of Hip Hop and we’re part of that. It’s all kinds of Hip Hop. It’s old school Hip Hop. It’s new school Hip Hop...underground. It’s mainstream and we’re proud of that. We work hard on that. Hate ICP all you want, but the Gathering is worth attending. It’s freedom, and it’s four days of Hip Hop for Hip Hop lovers and a little bit of Hard Rock thrown in.
Shaggy 2 Dope: I think it’s a good thing to do for us connecting to Juggalos and Juggalos connecting with each other and networking. It’s a big family reunion. We love doing it. We do it for the Juggalos.
DX: Speaking of the Juggalos, why do think your fans get criticized so much by others?
Violent J: Because people don’t understand it. When you’re not a part of something, you naturally hate it. It’s just part of life, part of the American way of life. When you don’t understand something, it naturally sucks. I can understand why people look at Violent J and Shaggy and think that’s not cool. We have fucking clown paint on. That goes to say why people diss us. We have always been too Rock for the Rap world and too Rap for the Rock world. If you are part of the Juggalo world, it’s something way cooler, something going on that other people don’t understand. People just knock this shit because they don’t understand it. I’ve always said shit if it works, it shouldn’t be knocked. If people are having fun and enjoying it and enjoying the music at the concerts, how can people knock that shit? It’s not that people don’t like us. It’s that people fucking hate us. I’ve never understood that. If something’s working for people, it should get respect, man.
Insane Clown Posse On Having Respect of Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, DJ Paul
DX: Early in your careers, you worked with several respected artists, including Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Kid Rock and Esham. Given that you don’t seem to get a lot of respect from the mainstream Rap community, why do you think those guys were down to work with you?
Violent J: Esham was way early on, but he was also much later. We signed Esham. From a period of 2004 through 2007, he was on Psychopathic Records. [Above The Law’s] Big Hutch was the shit [and was one the label, too]. This might sound conceited, but I think it was nothing more than game recognize game. They recognized our hustle and they respected. Just like we recognized what they were doing. I think they appreciate it. I think they understand that it might not be for everybody, but it’s for a lot of people. They respect that. Even though our music ain’t on the radio or MTV or any video channels anywhere, they still respect what we are doing, They respect we’re surviving. They respected our independence. They respected our do-it-yourself. Especially somebody in the record industry who was releasing stuff, they especially respected it.
Even in the beginning, we had our own warehouse. We were doing it independently. Back in Detroit, we were shipping a lot of units. They respected it. When we went larger and we went nationwide, those artists respected us. Not all of them, of course. We don’t get to go to any parties or anything like that. We don’t get no awards at award shows. But there are other artists that respect us. Snoop Dogg gave us love. That feels good, man. Our heroes have given us love. We worked with Paris. We grew up listening to Paris. Big Hutch, we grew up listening to Above the Law. Fresh Kid Ice. We grew up listening to 2 Live Crew. That’s all the respect we need. We don’t need any extra respect. Our heroes have shown us love.
DX: On one hand, you don’t have a lot of respect in the Rap world. On the other hand, you have this major Gathering that features major artists. How does that work itself?
Violent J: I don’t know, man. It’s the same answer. I think those guys, when we reach out to the them and ask them to play, I think they respect it.
DX: Why do you think that because you have The Gathering, given the big acts who appear at it, why do you think your notoriety hasn’t increased more?
Violent J: I think it has increased. I think we do get respect. We’re talking to you right now. I don’t know how much more we could get. Like I said, we don’t get invited to the parties, but what other type of respect do we need? I’ve been so used to being where we are at and being the world’s most hated band that I don’t think there is anything else out there. I stopped looking for it. We asked Ice Cube to do a song and he did it for free. I mean Ice Cube rapped on our shit for nothing. I got Ice Cube’s e-mail. That’s all I could say. I got DJ Paul in my rolodex. That’s all I could say. I would love to get more write-ups in magazines, people to review the records and say the records are tight. Usually they slam the shit out of us. There’s a lot of ways to be respected. We don’t mind not having it. We are not looking for it.
DX: A lot of people that matter respect you, though. Why do you think there is a disconnect where people think you aren’t respected, but you can turn around and get Redman, Method Man, Ice Cube and Tech N9ne to collaborate with you and appear at The Gathering?
Violent J: People are misinformed about us. They don’t know that we have worked with those artists. They don’t know what we’ve done because we are not on a major label and we don’t have the connections of a major machine, so people aren’t aware. We don’t have the press machine that they have. We aren’t on the radio. Deejays don’t spin us. We don’t have the coverage in the magazines that they have. It’s the way of the world. Some people are like, “Fuck them clowns.” Other people are like, “Respect, man. They’ve been holding it down for 22 years.” It’s kind of a mixed situation. It’s really weird, and I don’t have my finger on it. I’m thinking that we’re just not part of the machine. We kind of made our own road to success and it’s a tunnel underground. When you take the other route, people see you, but when you take our route, it’s underground and it’s dirty. We took our own path through the woods. We didn’t take the paved highway.
DX: What did you learn from your time on a major label?
Violent J: We learned that we don’t like to be told how to do things. It’s so weird, our relationship when we were on the majors. The first group we signed with was Jive. We told them we’d never do another album with them. At the same time Hollywood Records was trying to sign us and we had signed to Jive, and Hollywood Records made an arrangement with Jive, and we ended up leaving Jive after one album. We were off to Hollywood Records, and Jive still got paid off of our shit. The debut album came out on Hollywood records, and it got pulled out of stores. So then there was a giant bidding war, and we ended up going to Island Records. So we didn’t get dropped; we kept getting bigger and bigger. Everything was straight at Island records. We have two platinum albums, then they merged with Def Jam, and they don’t want anything to do with us. So they sell us off to an independent label called D3 for a year, and they go out of business. So then we were free to go with Pyschopathic.
We’ve never been dropped from a major label. We kept going with the major labels until they started passing us like a Frisbee. We had been signing artists all along. Suddenly we were on Pyschopathic, which we started on, and we had all of this nationwide success that we could work with, and it’s been a blessing ever since. We experienced life at a major label. We hated it. But we never fell off. We never got dumped. We just got passed around because nobody knew how to work us. Where do you work something like Insane Clown Posse? What radio station do you take that to? Nobody understood it but us. We knew how to work us, which was hand samplers out and work it underground style. Work it grassroots style. That’s what we have been doing ever since.
Shaggy 2 Dope Calls Lil Wayne’s Leotard Pants Corny As Fuck
DX: Your grassroots success helped land you your Insane Clown Posse Theater program on Fuse. One thing that stood out to me about the show is that you aren’t afraid to bash big artists. What made you take that angle?
Shaggy 2 Dope: It all started because they had contacted us to do an Internet show, or something on the Internet for them. I don’t remember the name of the chick, some pop chick. I can’t remember her name. But we did a video—you know like how we ended up doing it for everyone else—that was the first time we did it, and it got mad views on YouTube or however they worked it. We went back and did it again for like three more. We didn’t know it, but that was like a pilot for it almost. Then after that they were like, “What’s up with doing a show on this all the time?” and we were like, “Hell yeah. We’re down.” The thing is, it doesn’t matter who we talk shit about because what kind of bridge is that going to burn with us? We don’t say nothing on that show that everybody ain’t thinking anyways. Some people aren’t in the position to say that shit. We tear into people that need it. If it’s people that are big and seriously dope shit, you know what I’m saying, we don’t say nothing bad about it. If it’s wack, we’re gonna be like, “Who really likes this shit?” You know some corny-ass like, especially when you throw in stuff like Florida Georgia Line, some country shit with Nelly, something like that.
DX: You’re dissing Lil Wayne stood out to me on many levels. On the one hand, people don’t really criticize him. You also did it in a way that was real condescending. Now more than ever people don’t want to diss anyone, but you went in there and said your opinion. Why?
Shaggy 2 Dope: It’s done in a comedian fashion. How can you be mad if a comedian is making jokes about you? With Lil Wayne, of course nobody talks shit about him because everyone wants to work with him. Can you picture ICP and Lil Wayne doing a song together? It’s never going to happen. Everybody thinks it’s wack, it’s corny, the skintight pants he wears and shit. Nobody gonna say shit about it because everybody don’t want to burn no bridge with him and Cash Money. It’s like, “Come on, man. Everyone knows your swag is corny as fuck.” Just nobody want to say it.
DX: What made you want to say it?
Shaggy 2 Dope: Because it’s corny as fuck. Come on, man. Look how stupid he looks. How can you be rockin’ leotards, you know? It’s like, “Come on, man. You can’t do that.” It’s also tongue-in-cheek, too. He probably knows he’s corny for wearing it, but he’s like, “I can wear whatever the fuck I want to wear and people will respect it.” It’s just silly.
DX: You also diss Rihanna, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus. I thought the comedy was hilarious. How much is off the top of your head?
Shaggy 2 Dope: All of that shit is 100 percent off the dome, man. We don’t watch this shit first. We don’t come up with nothing. They roll the shit twice in a row, and we just watch it, and whatever comes out of our mouth comes out of our mouth. That’s the formula for it. If we were writing for some of the stuff, it would just turn out corny. Stuff like that, you can’t really write jokes for; it’s not like one of those panels on VH1. Everything we do on that show is off the dome, 100 percent.
DX: You said that you were never going to do a track with Lil Wayne.
Shaggy 2 Dope: I’m saying that probabilities of that are low. If Lil Wayne says, “Hey. We are doing a track,” I wouldn’t be like, “Fuck you.” I would be like, “Let’s do this.” But we both know that’s never going to happen.