Next month, Insane Clown Posse fans from across America will march on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to protest a 2011 FBI report that classified Juggalos as a “loosely organized hybrid gang.” The press, and ICP themselves, treated this classification rather lightheartedly at the time, but in the years since, it has affected the band and its famously devoted fans in shockingly serious ways. In a 2014 statement regarding a lawsuit they filed against the bureau, the Michigan outsider rappers alleged that Juggalos had suffered “job losses, dismissal from military service, eviction, lost child custody and constant harassment” because of clothing and tattoos bearing ICP’s distinctive “hatchetman” logo.
As if the hordes of Juggalos in face paint and wacky clown getup weren’t enough of a spectacle, news broke this week that a pro-Trump rally called the Mother of All Rallies, featuring alt-right groups like Alt-Knights and the Proud Boys, will be also be taking place on the Mall on the same day, at the same time (September 16 at noon, if you’re planning on attending either). In the popular imagination at least, the archetypal Juggalo isn’t all that different from a certain sort of Trump supporter: white, rural, working-class, with cultural interests that don’t always jibe with the mainstream fascinations of coastal capitals like New York and Los Angeles, and perhaps some disaffectedness about their perceived status as outsiders. But while Trump appeals to hatred and fear of a rapidly changing country, ICP has always preached inclusivity. And as several bemused Twitter users noted in light of the coincident rallies and the Trump-supporting white nationalist event in Charlottesville that descended into deadly violence last weekend, their music has a strong anti-racist streak. “The country we live in was built by slaves / Beat down and murdered and stuffed in their graves,” go the lyrics to their 1999 song “Terrible.” “I say fuck your rebel flag / You get punched in the faces, reppin’ the racists,” echoes 2015’s “Confederate Flag.”
Jeph they've secretly been with us this whole time. pic.twitter.com/mFxQ62hGIT
— rae hex, hot ghoul thotumn (@raehex) August 16, 2017
A month before the rallies are scheduled to happen, SPIN chatted with Shaggy 2 Dope, one half of ICP, about the gang classification, the upcoming march, and his views on Charlottesville and the president. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
For our readers who haven’t been following, could you give some background on what’s going on with the FBI gang classification for Juggalos and the ways in which that has impacted the lives of your fans?
We first found out about it in 2011, and we just laughed it off. “Cool, man, whatever. I guess we’re a gang now.” After a year or so, we started seeing a lot of changes. We do meet-and-greets, and in-stores, and we began hearing stories upon stories about people losing their jobs, people losing custody of their kids, people being denied going into the military, getting way stiffer jail sentences for small shit. All for the simple fact that they’re wearing something ICP, with the hatchetman on it, or they have a tattoo. And all of a sudden they’re getting put into a gang database, the same database that has MS-13, Bloods, Crips, prison gangs and all that shit. To this day, it’s really hard doing meet-and-greets because of these stories.
We have trouble booking tours now, because no one wants gang-related shit. And if you do book a tour, it’s next to impossible to get people to insure it, because it’s a gang rally. Our festival we do every year, the Gathering, we almost didn’t do it this year. Not only could we not find a venue until the last second, we couldn’t find insurance until a week before the event actually happened. We couldn’t find nobody to rent us port-a-potties, which legally you have to have at festivals. All because of this fuckin’ gang shit.
This march that we’re doing, it’s not to get our name off the gang list, because that’s never gonna happen. It’s just for us to stand up, and put our foot down, and say, “Yo, we’re not cool with being labeled this.” We’re not cool with the gang label, or with being considered a bunch of inbred, toothless, trashy-ass, high school dropout pieces of shit, which is what a lot of people view Juggalos as. They don’t look at the flip side, where there’s doctors and lawyers and mothers and fathers. People have been saying “fuck you” to Juggalos for a long time. It’s our way of saying “fuck you” back. We ain’t what you think we are. We’re gonna march in a civilized manner, like marches go, and show people that we ain’t fuckin’ animals.
This week, I read that there will coincidentally be a right-wing, Trump-supporting march on the National Mall on the same time that you guys are going to be there.
I just heard about that too. But what can you do? Who gives a shit, it’s our day to shine too. Fuck them. We don’t got nothing to do with that. But they got as much right to do their thing as we do ours.
Do you think there’s a possibility that there would be a conflict between Juggalos and these Trump supporters?
I don’t know what the conflict would be. I don’t ever hear Juggalos straight up being like “Fuck Trump.” Nobody really gives a shit. I don’t give a shit. If there is something, it’s probably because one of them will start it. No Juggalo’s going to bum rush no Trump supporter, because we don’t give a fuck. We’re not there for that. But if some beef does cook, it’s probably because somebody on their side is popping off at the mouth.
After what happened in Charlottesville last weekend, and with the Juggalo and Trump marches coming up, I’ve seen a lot of people on social media who are probably outside the community of Juggalos and don’t know your music, who are surprised that you guys have been outspoken against racism in your songs, and have advocated for things like taking down Confederate flags.
That’s pure ignorance on their part. If you don’t just read the headline, and actually look at what we’re doing, you wouldn’t think that. We basically don’t give a fuck what people think of us doing this. That’s not our concern.
Does ICP have a stance on the Trump administration?
I have no stance on anything politics. Anybody I know, anybody I’ve been around, since I was born, no matter who’s the president or governor or mayor, it’s never made a difference in their lives. I could say “Fuck Trump,” but I don’t know shit about him. I just know he’s some fucking billionaire. It’s crazy he’s president, but what do I know?
A lot of your music is about community, and the message that everyone is welcome to be a Juggalo. Is there a message that you would want to send to the type of person who was marching at a white supremacist rally like the one in Charlottesville?
Why would you still be that angry at anything? A bunch of white supremacists attacked people for tearing down a Confederate statue? I didn’t grow up the least bit racist. I don’t understand what it’s like to be racist. It’s hard for me to speak on it, because it’s the dumbest thing in the world. To think that shit’s still going on is incredible. It will always go on, I guess, until there’s just one race, from everybody intermingling and fuckin’. But I don’t understand it, and I never have. It’s an alien concept. Why would you do that? I probably sound ignorant as fuck, but I’m so removed from that whole mindframe.