Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope are some of pop's most unlikely heroes: self-proclaimed wicked clowns who built an empire rapping the most gruesome stories they — or anyone else — could think up. The pair, better known as Insane Clown Posse, are usually remembered for their intimidating face-paint and intense fans, the Juggalos. Musically, however, their greatest accomplishment is the so-called "first deck" of Joker's Card LPs, a seven-album cycle that introduces, plunges the depths of and ultimately reveals the secret behind a mythical allegory called the Dark Carnival.
"The Dark Carnival is our religion," Violent J tells Rolling Stone, shortly after the release of The First Six, a box set compiling the entire deck. "It's talking about serial killers and the killing of racist people and the killing of pedophiles, and somehow the bottom line is magically apparent to Juggalos."
The group began to outline this world on 1992's Carnival of Carnage, the debut LP that introduced them to Detroit's underground rap community. By the time they brought the series to a shocking (even by their standards) close, Insane Clown Posse had become notorious around the country. Here, J takes us through the entire unlikely journey, sharing the wild stories and wilder symbols behind each card. It isn't always simple: "If the Dark Carnival and the Juggalos could be explained that easy," he says. "It wouldn't be half as magical as it is."