(Photo courtesy: Psychopathic Records)
Shaggy 2 Dope (shown at right) feels like a new man. “Getting back surgery is the best thing I ever did in my life,” says the Michigan-based rapper, who is one-half of Insane Clown Posse. Shaggy — real name Joseph Utsler — went under the knife after sustaining vertebrae damage from years of stage diving and the Posse’s famous forays into professional wrestling. When Shaggy and Violent J (Joseph Bruce) emerged on the scene in 1991 amid much controversy about their graphic lyrics and cartoonish stage violence, no one could have predicted that they would still be stage diving a quarter century later. The “horror core” duo have become prolific performers, label owners and filmmakers, creating music festivals and Internet radio stations. Their often misogynistic and profane world took a peculiar — and dare one say spiritual — turn with the 2010 song "Miracles," accompanied by one of the more notorious music videos of the age. And even though Violent J recently wrapped up a charity solo tour, the group isn’t watering down its act. The tentative title of Shaggy’s upcoming solo album is “F.T.F.O.M.F.,” and the group’s fans, called Juggalos, have been designated an official gang by the FBI. "It's messed up," Shaggy 2 Dope says. "Juggalos also do mad charity and donate to a lot of causes ... but it's a case of a few rotten apples in the bunch."
Richmond magazine: You’ve been friends with Joseph Bruce since you were kids.
Shaggy 2 Dope: It's beyond the band, beyond the group. We're brothers, know what I'm saying? We're the same person with two different bodies. I met him when I was 10 or 11, through my brother. We started off as backyard wrestlers. There were a lotta kids doing that, but we were really, really serious, it wasn't a hobby. And then we got into rap and found out we could make more money that way. But it was cool because years later, we were able to go and wrestle on WCW, WWE, all of the big organizations.
RM: You guys bridged the worlds of pro-wrestling and music.
Shaggy: When we were on “Nitro” and “Raw” all the time, that's the first time people had heard of us. But we wanted to make sure people knew about our music and not just the wrestling, because music is our career.
RM: Talk about starting off in the Detroit rap scene.
Shaggy: When we first started rapping in Detroit, everybody had a gimmick. There was Awesome Dre, he was, like, our super idol. He was old-school hip-hop. Esham, his gimmick was that he was a satanic rapper who came out of a coffin and rapped about the devil. Kid Rock, of course, was different back then. He rapped about being a country boy and driving tractors. Our gimmick is that we were clowns.
RM: You guys have a label (Psychopathic) and record new bands. What advice do you give them?
Shaggy: The game has changed so much from when we started until now. Back then, before the Internet, it was all about hitting the streets, putting up flyers, word of mouth, finding the record stores, promoting (yourself). It's not like it is now, where you put a video up on YouTube and hope that it hits. We put in years and years of work, and we'd hear about Kid Rock selling 50,000 records and we'd say, “How'd he do that?" And it made us work even harder.
RM: You have some seriously hardcore fans, the Juggalos.
Shaggy: The beautiful thing about our fans is that it was an organic thing that naturally happened. We're the same people as our fans, you know what I'm saying? We are the underdogs, we grew up broke, we grew up in clubs. A lot of people look down on Jugglalos, you know. They say that ICP only sells to Juggalos, but Jugglalos are people. They are people just like Taylor Swift fans are people.
RM: The FBI has Juggalos listed as a gang. How did that happen?
Shaggy: It's worse out West. When you have your name tattooed on a kid that commits a crime, all of a sudden (the police say), “He's a Juggalo, so he must be in a gang.” We're in a court battle about it right now. The first trial was thrown out, and we got a different judge on appeal. It's hurting our business. Some stores won't carry our merchandise. But it's also hurting human rights — a kid that has a job, provides for his mother and sisters, cracks his ass at Subway all day, gets pulled over for a speeding ticket and he has (an ICP) tattoo on his forearm — suddenly he's in the system as a gang member. It's insane.
RM: It’s been noted that there’s more seriousness and spirituality in the music. Would you agree?
Shaggy: Oh, no doubt. At the same time that ICP and Juggalos are labeled as a gang, we are known as a Christian band. How crazy is that? But we've always had a spiritual overtone. We're not Bible thumpers, we don't go to church, nothing like that, but it's more about karma and what's right and wrong. In our raps and in our subject matter, yeah, there is a lot of vulgarness to it. But there's also a lot of positive songs that we come out with too, you know. But people just hear the cursing, so they think that we're no-good thugs.
Insane Clown Posse will perform its fan-favorite 1995 album, “The Riddle Box,” during a sold-out show at The Broadberry, 2729 W. Broad St., on May 14. 6:30 p.m. $25. 353-1888 or thebroadberry.com.