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Violent J Breaks Down Insane Clown Posse’s ‘Joker’s Card’ Box Set

God, pro wrestling and Faygo: Inside the ‘The First Six,’ the most shocking concept suite ever

Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope of Insane Clown Posse

Insane Clown Posse's 'Joker's Card' series introduced Juggalos to the so-called Dark Carnival.

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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."

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‘The Wraith: Shangri-La’ (2002) and ‘The Wraith: Hell’s Pit’ (2004)

How much anticipation was there for a follow-up to Jeckel Brothers?
After Jeckel Brothers, we kind of let the drum roll play out for a while, and then we released a double album called Bizzar Bizaar, which wasn't a Joker's card. It was just a double album of craziness, you know? By the time we did the sixth Joker's card, people were ready. We released The Wraith, the first of the two, but it's The Wraith: Shangri-La. Shangri-La is heaven. Then two years later The Wraith: Hell's Pit came out, and that's the other half of the sixth Joker's card. What it is is heaven and hell. Shangri-La and Hell's Pit, that's the end of the story. That's the end of all of our fucking stories! It's Hell's Pit and Shangri-La, which one [laughs]?

When we released the Shangri-La album, that was just a great time of our lives, because we made a record about heaven and it was all positive. Hell's Pit was a crash landing from Shangri-La — it just was a depressing time. Making a record about Hell's Pit, it was just very drab, very shitty weather.

What was the reaction to that end of the Joker's cards.
On the sixth Joker's card we flat out came out at the end of the song and said, "The Carnival is God." Man, the Juggalo world split in half. Some people were crazy in love with it, and other people were like, "Man, that's bullshit!" People just went into shock. We were signing autographs in record stores all across the country, and Juggalos were crying, man! People were bringing their parents! That's what was so weird, the parents were like, "Thank you for saying that," you know what I mean? Then Hell's Pit came out, and anybody that thought we were all of a sudden gonna be holy rollers, they got their wings split instantly. If anybody thought we were gonna start making religious music, all of a sudden Hell's Pit came out and that just put everybody in their place.

Of all these records, which was the craziest to record?
Probably Milenko or Shangri-La. Shangri-La was hands down the greatest years of my life. I hope to one day live that again. Man, I sat next to Pam Anderson and almost swept her off her feet because I was glowing so tough, brother. I was so positive, and I felt like it was raining diamonds all around us, and I sat next to Pam Anderson one day at a titty bar and I almost swept her off her fucking feet.

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