Tuesday, May 26, 2020

2020 Reboot of Trading Places

Trading Places is a comedy classic. Starring Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, and Jamie Lee Curtis, the movie explores race and social status and the power the rich have over each. It is a classic tale of swapping positions in society and what would happen.

But could it be remade in 2020? If so, what would happen? How would the script play out?

We begin on the streets of Philadelphia:

A homeless, down-on-his-luck Eddie Murphy collides with investor Dan Aykroyd. Aykroyd calls the police and falsely accuses Eddie Murphy of assaulting him. Someone with a phone records the incident. Aykroyd is shamed on social media, the cops give him a ticket, the Dukes fire him for publicly embarrassing the firm, he loses his job, his girlfriend, and ends up homeless.

Meanwhile, the attention of Aykroyd's actions gives Murphy a chance to do a GoFundMe to get back on his feet. He makes more than he expects and goes to community college, where he meets Jamie Lee Curtis. Curtis, a black sheep niece of the Dukes, is currently laid off of her job at a Hooters because of a global pandemic and has resorted to creating an OnlyFans account to make ends meet. The duo create an alternative financial firm and follow the advice of an anonymous online investor.

They find out the anonymous advisor is Aykroyd. Murphy and Curtis make Aykroyd recognize his privilege and resign never to weaponize 911 again. Together, the trio out-innovate the struggling Dukes firm until the Dukes are bailed out by their political connections in Washington DC.

The ultimate 2020 movie.

Monday, May 25, 2020

A Journey to Hatchet City Part 4: Shaggy 2 Dope F*ck Off

Continuing my journey through the long catalog of Psychopathic Records, today's listen is the first solo album from a member of the Insane Clown Posse: Shaggy 2 Dope's F*ck Off, released in 1994.

Besides being the first solo album, this album continues ICP's pattern of releasing EPs between their main "Joker Card" albums. Interesting strategy to keep fans interested.

Going in, I am not expecting much. Thus far on their albums, Shaggy 2 Dope has definitely been the weaker of the duo. Violent J was the better rapper on the first three albums. Let's see what Shaggy can do solo.

1. F*ck Off

Starts with a nice upbeat hip-hop beat. Shaggy immediately jumps into anti-social rhymes. Shaggy doesn't care what people think about him and he will do what he wants. Braggadocio rhymes with an anthem feel. "I won't mix rap with rock'n'roll, like someone I know" - is that jab at Kid Rock, who was the Carnival of Carnage album? That was only the year prior.

2. Clown Luv

Decent beat, but Shaggy 2 Dope doesn't sound as a smooth on this song. This song also has a weird reverb and audio fade. I am not digging this song. Content-wise, this song is carried by the chorus about being part of the Clown Luv crew - which is supposed to be a bridge of all the other sets. I wonder if ICP knew the growth potential of their following by this point in their careers.

3. I'm Not Alone

Shaggy brags about being down with the carnival crew from the ghetto. This is the first mention of the carnival on this album. "Jokers and freaks in the night" - this song talks to the outsiders and gives them a sense of identity as well as talks about them getting social revenge on those who hold them down. Sort of a Tad Browning's "Freaks" vibe. Is this is a Walter Mitty dream type fantasy or are they calling for outsiders to bond? Or are they trying to tell outsiders that they aren't alone to boost their self-confidence? Outsider kids might migrate to this, thinking ICP has their back.

4. 3 Rings (w/ Violent J)

Back to the carnival vibe, this song starts with a carnie barker telling "normal" people to check out the circus of freaks. The song starts with a Violent J verse, about freaks and mutants being excluded from the popular parties. Interesting premise. Shaggy 2 Dope takes the second verse and flows like he did on the first song. I dig the "One of us" vibe of these last two songs. It celebrates differences.

This CD didn't make me wonder about the psycho-social-economic themes of the Joker card albums. It was on a "we are cool because we are different" vibe that was empowering. It also didn't contain any of the anti-southerner or racists themes of the full albums. Shaggy 2 Dope still isn't consistent lyrically, but overall, although short, this was a fun listen.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Remembering Redman on MTV Cribs

I recently rediscovered the Holy Grail of celebrity showcase shows: MTV Cribs 2001 episode with rapper Redman. Redman has always been a favorite of mine and this show was a great reason why. It was funny and dirty and raw, far different from the extravagant displays of wealth other MTV celebrities had on Cribs.

Redman's place looked more like my own and still does than any million dollar mansion. Living below your means keeps you hungry. Living well should be a reward for hard work, but if you aren't where you want to be, keep that cheap place with no screen in the door and a box full of dollar bills atop the fridge.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A Journey to Hatchet City Part 3: Ringmaster

Continuing my trip through the catalog of Psychopathic Records, today's listen is the Insane Clown Posse's Ringmaster, released in 1994.

Ringmaster is the second release in the Dark Carnival and Joker Card series, behind Carnival of Carnage. The album looks more professional than the previous Beverly Kills CD.

1. Wax Museum

Church bells is cool way to start an album. Very cool fortune told by a fortune teller. Very apocalyptic. Talks of evil payback of the sins people did. How the evil of one's life will be lead by the Ringmaster. Then the song goes into a bass-driven carnival beat with some nice DJ scratches. I am digging this. Apparently ICP works for the Ringmaster. So they are prophets of sort.

2. Murder Go Round

From the very cool intro, I am not digging this song. The beat is very jarring and the rhymes are way too simple. We went from high concept mythology to rhyming about killing for shock value. Although he does mention that he is a juggalo a few times. The first time I have heard that team used/ Violent J's verse is just about killing people in his neighborhood for no reason. Unless the clowns are mindless followers of the Ringmaster? Are they like zombies? Should I feel sorry for their plight as mindless killers like I would Jason Vorhees, whose rational for being a mass murder was because he was abused by camp counselors?

3. Chicken Huntin'

This song starts with a skit of ICP encountering an old southern man and attacking him. This song continues ICP's attacks against southerners. The rhymes are much better than the previous song. This is an anthem of sort with "chickens" being traditional rednecks. This song is also the first appearance of Shaggy 2 Dope on this album. Are the clowns killing the rednecks to continue the agenda of the Ringmaster? Or is this independent work by the clowns?

4. Mr. Johnson's Head

This song starts with a clip in a classroom. Violent J talks about his days in school, possibly high school. Interesting premise: the reason the class has had repeated substitute teachers is because Violent J chopped off the head of his racist teacher. Then the student goes crazy from lack of social skills. This is an fantasy track with interesting socio-political message about the euro-centric, white Utopian teachings in American classrooms. I dug this.

5. Southwest Song

A funky beat led off by Shaggy 2 Dope. I like the addition of a chorus, a modification of the Wizard of Oz's oooo-eeee-oooooo. I could drive to this song. With the mention of the Joker's Card, I think this song might relate to the Ringmaster again. Maybe the Southwest Song is the song people hear when they die, before they face the Ringmaster.

6. Get Off Me, Dog!

Nice 70's vibe in this song. Another Shaggy 2 Dope song. 2 Dope is not as good of a rhymer as Violent J. His songs are very elementary. I don't think this song has anything to do with the Ringmaster. Shaggy 2 Dope wants people to leave him alone.

7. Who Asked You

While the beat is fun, the lyrics are like filler. "Lemon drops, lick lollipops" is not good. Although maybe that is the point of the song. This is a rebellion track telling people that ICP will do what they want no matter what people's thoughts of them.

8. The Dead One

The intro to this song is awesome. Perhaps from a movie with a nice drum beat with a cool guitar riff. Violent J starts this song by talking about his own death over a continuing slow beat. Violent J leaves his house as a dead person. This song isn't about clowns at all. By the end of the song, Violent J is pushing against his death, claiming he doesn't want to die. This was cool. Very different. When they are serious, their songs are deep.

9. My Fun House

Two cops lead off this song analyzing a murder. Then Violent J drops another verse about killing people, the clowns, and the carnival. There is a lot going on on this album. Like two or three themes at the same time. This song mentions the Ringmaster again. Maybe the Fun House is where the Ringmaster works and the clowns are taking victims through the fun house. Which songs am I supposed to take messages from and which are filler?

10. For The Maggots

This short song is about people who defy their friends or who don't act honestly. Posers, wannabes, etc.

11. Wagon Wagon

The first song to mention the Insane Clown Posse by name. The wagon seems to be what the clowns roll around in to spread their chaos. The Ringmaster drives the wagon so this song continues the theme. This song is also the first song by ICP to mention weed, which is a frequent subject of many rap albums. This is probably the most mainstream rap song of the album.

12. The Loons

Starting with a prank call, this song then gets into a creepy Violent J verse over a horror movie beat. Through the song, Violent J is creeping towards the woman he prank called. Then the song mentions how the governor took everything he had and now the ghetto freak show is creeping into the suburbs. Again, this is what I don't understand. Is the Ringmaster involved in the ghetto freak show? Is ICP socio-political or psycho-spiritual or a weird combination of couched in a circus theme? I am very confused.

13. Love Song

ICP's version of a love song. Violent J insults his woman while saying he loves her. ICP's version of "Me and My Bitch" by Biggie. Nice interlude between the songs with hidden meanings. This song is upfront and simple and psychopathically romantic.

14. Bugz on My Nutz

Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J with sex rhymes about catching STDs. Two tracks in a row that are not serious and not about the Ringmaster or the ghetto freak show. I wonder if ICP fans are divided on the type of songs they like - the songs with deep meanings or the songs with surface level meanings.

15. House of Mirrors

We are back to the carnival theme. The subject of the song dies and now has to view themselves in house of mirrors. The mirrors reflect their biggest fears back to them. Additional by Capitol E, who drops a clear yet complex verse. I liked his verse. Again, ICP are targeting the rich and privileged in their rhymes. More socio-political-psycho-spiritual premises.

16. Ringmaster's Word

This instrumental loops a carnival theme beat with lines that seem to be from a vampire movie. The beat is pretty cool. Overall, I dig this song. Interesting way to close out the album. But what does the vampire have to do with the Ringmaster?

Saturday, May 9, 2020

A Journey to Hatchet City Part 2: Beverly Kills 50187

Welcome to part 2 of my trip into the Psychopathic Records discography. As a reminder, I am listening to the Insane Clown Posse and other Psychopathic releases for the first time ever and writing my initial opinions, attempting to give unbiased and honest reviews.

Today's journey takes us to 1993 and ICP's second release, Beverly Kills 50187. This is a short album with only 6 songs, although each song is 5 to 8 minutes long. Whereas Carnival of Carnage, ICP's first album, had a major label look, this album does not. It looks very bootleg.

1: Beverly Kills

First off, I like the references to the Warriors movie right in the start. This is before Puffy did the same on the "Flava in Ya Ear" remix. But instead of "Warriors", the voice calls for "Jugglers". This song has an NWA-like sound, especially Easy-E and MC Ren. ICP again goes right into the clown/carnival visuals.

This song has a lot of different changes and breaks in it, credit to the producer. The second part of the song deals with Shaggy 2 Dope's misadventures in taking out his anger on his classmates in high school. There is also the first mention of a Joker's Card, which I know is an ICP thing.

2: 17 Dead

This song starts with someone waking up and then listening a positive message. Then it breaks into a list of tragic murders, saying that the media doesn't care unless they happen in the suburbs. The chorus emphasizes the social rift between the "safe" suburbs and the horrible, murderous inner city. Then Violent J discusses attacking the suburbs and America for their lack of concern. Definitely a song about social revolution and retribution. Not as carnival-clownish as some of their previous songs. This song has a message.

The track concludes with a freestyle full of joke raps by Violent J and Shaggy.

3: The Stalker

I like this beat. The content is a bit weird, about stalking women. Another mention of a Joker's Card. Is this supposed to be scary in a horror way or in a predatory way? Am I supposed to think the girl led him on and he is trying to get her attention. I am confused.

4: In The Haughhhh!

This song has a very disjointed beat. Almost like dubstep. Interesting mention of Zug Island, which I think is another group on Psychopathic Records. The song seems like a message to people ICP does not like and again to those who ignore the plight of the inner city.

Again, however, I am not sure if the Insane Clown Posse wants the inner city to change. There is no hope in their music. Similar to death metal with lyrics of war and destruction. Is there no other way? From ICP, I get the impression that there is not. Which is interesting for hip-hop, most of which aspires to change their environment - to use that anger for social change. ICP seems to embrace the negativity of the inner city as a permanent way of life. That's why I struggle with whether or not they are exploiting struggle of the inner city or not.

Then the song beat changes drastically to a funk-like vibe. I like how it tails off at the end of the song.

5: Chop! Chop! (with Esham)

Another song with a horror movie meets funk type beat. Interesting sample of "swing, swing, swing, and chop, chop, chop" which Ice Cube used twice, once on 1991's Death Certificate and again on 1992's The Predator. Another song about wicked clowns unleashing chaos on their environment. While the beat is cool, not the biggest stretch lyrically.

6: Joke Ya Mind

The piano here is a nice touch. It gives a sense on somberness to the song. As does the slow delivery of lyrics. The lyrics have a surrealist feel, where the joker clown is ruling the world and things such as chocolate soup with a fruit loop exist. Another mention of the clowns coming to town to wreck havoc on the rich suburbs. Sounds like revolution again, but without the substance. Is the revolution supposed to be a mass riot, or lone wolves? I did this song musically, with the piano and the synthesizer, but again the content confuses me although did get the impression it was a dream sequence from the beginning and end skits. Is that how I am supposed to interpret all ICP songs? Are they all nightmarish dream sequences of people living in negative circumstances?

The album ends with a two minute return to the beat from The Stalker. Which as I mentioned, I thought was a very cool beat.

Overall, I thought this album was ok. There were some good beats, but the lyrics did not seem to progress at all from Carnival of Carnage and I am still trying to figure out ICP's purpose: are they revolutionaries trying spark the lower class to overthrow the upper class (like the movie Joker), are they chaos agents, are they a dream sequence, are they like Medieval artists depicting twisted Devils on Earth, or are they just good, old fashioned horror that attacks quiet, safe middle America (a la Freddy Krueger)? 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

A Journey to Hatchet City Part 1: Carnival of Carnage

My first venture into the immense catalog of the Insane Clown Posse begins at the beginning at the Carnival of Carnage, ICP's 1993 release. This is ICP's first CD as the Insane Clown Posse and it was released on Psychopathic Records and distributed through Island Records.

My first thought is that ICP was ahead of their time by already having a record label in a time when most rappers were beholden to draconian record executives. Smart move, and probably why they have been so successful in the underground.

On to the album ...

Track 1: Intro

Cool. A novelesque introduction. Sets up the concept of something different coming. A bit doomsday, but definitely piques interest. I will either be down or want to run away. Let's go.

Track 2: Carnival of Carnage

Interesting beat on this instrumental. Their production is putting in work here. An assault on the ears like a Public Enemy track.

Track 3: The Juggla

First track with lyrics. I like the mention of Violet J being mentally unstable - very Geto Boys or Heltah Skeltah "Therapy. Apparently, the Juggla is not to be messed with. Violet J has a very Ice Cube nursery rhyme flow if he was part of a very twisted circus.

Track 4: First Day Out

This must be Shaggy as this is not the same voice as the first song. This flow is not as good. Like Easy-E's self-written songs compared to the songs Ice Cube wrote. Way too disjointed. The romantic segment had a better flow than the actual song. Eh.

Track 5: Red Neck Hoe

ICP doesn't like southerners. Especially not racist southerners. This is Shaggy with a better flow than the previous song. The girl actually has a red neck. Ok, rhyming Conway Twitty with titty made me laugh. Halfway through the song the beat changes completely, as Shaggy goes off on racists. Then the song goes back to the laid back harmonica-driven beat with the weird chorus. Shock value with a hidden message.

Track 6: Wizard of the Hood

I think this is Violet J again. This is a nice flow on a nice club beat. Very MC Ren-style flow. This might be best song so far. I like the taking of the Wizard of Oz story and adapting it to the ICP story. But is it exploitative of low income areas? Do ICP consider themselves the twisted CNN of Detroit or are they using violence in low income areas for shock value?

Track 7: Is that you? (with Kid Rock)

Violet J again. Then a Kid Rock sex verse from before he got big. Then Shaggy. I like this beat.

Track 8: Psychopathic

This song has a very interesting beat - Funkadelic meets Halloween. I am getting used to the ICP style of lyrical braggadocio - murder, mayhem, and sex.

Track 9: Guts on the Ceiling

Another horror score beat. Not sure what the lyrics mean. His body has been blown up all over the city. Is there symbolism I am missing? Does this mean he lost his mental will for life due to low income difficulties? Maybe he lost a part of himself due to tragedies in different parts of Detroit. Or maybe I am thinking too much. Maybe this is just a twisted version of A Tribe Called Quest's song about losing their wallet in El Segundo.

Track 10: Never Had It Made

I like this beat. Shaggy raps about his struggles growing up. Of course, everything is exaggerated. Then Violet J gives his take on growing up in the hard streets of Detroit then going to jail then going to the electric chair. Then of course, he comes back and kills more people. Like Jason Voorhees if he was a John Wayne Gacy.

Track 11: Your Rebel Flag

Violet J is on another killing spree. This time his target is rural southerners again. Shaggy echoes the notion with rhymes about killing rednecks. They don't say why they hate redneck/hillbillies besides the fact that they are bigots and racists although I don't think ICP is into deep socio-political rhymes. But it is interesting to hear white rappers go after other white people. Do ICP associate as white rappers?

Track 12: Ghetto Freak Show

This beat doesn't do it for me. Very disjointed. The lyrics are pretty similar to the shock value murder raps of other songs. "Insanity's grip will never let go, here is your chance to get a glimpse of the ghetto freak show" seems to sum up the entire album so far.

Track 13: Taste

This beat is super cool. This song features ICP associates Jump Steady, Capital E, Nate the Mack, and Esham with Shaggy and Violet J. Jump Steady has a nice flow as does Capital E. This whole song is about bringing the experience of the inner city to the suburbs. Instead of changing the inner city as much hip-hop advocates, ICP and their boys advocate bringing tragedy to the upper class. Not sure if this is the most effective way to bring change to their predicament.


Interesting album. Better than I expected. Musically, some of the beats were good. Some were not. It does have a very raw, early '90s sound, which was expected. Structurally, ICP's rhyme styles were a bit simplistic, but many others were as well in the early 90s. I was impressed by the overall theme of the album. ICP's story as insane, tortured murderers on the loose in the suburbs and the south was consistent, although their backstory is a bit weak, similar to a low budget horror movie. From what I can guess, they were also the first group to run completely with what would be known as horrorcore, predating the Gravediggaz and Flatlinerz by a few years.

I don't think this album would have made me a big fan of their's had I heard it in 1992 but 28 years later, it's not bad. Let's see how or if ICP grows as rappers.

Next up: Beverly Kills 50187 (1993)

Friday, May 1, 2020

A Journey to Hatchet City Part 0: Introduction

Although they have been around for nearly 30 years, I know very little about the music of the Insane Clown Posse. I know they are predominantly independent rappers who through the years have built a large following. I know they hold festivals and political rallies and have been on the FBI's gang list (fairly or not) for at least 10 years.

But I still know very little about their music.

A few weeks ago, I was given a large collection of CDs. Included in the collection was 62 CDs from ICP and other Psychopathic Records acts to include Twiztid, Blaze Ya Dead Homie, Anybody Killa, Esham the Unholy, Zug Island, and others. There are also mixtapes, soundtracks, and solo albums.

If I ever wanted to learn about ICP and their affiliated acts, this is the perfect time.

In the name of fairness, I am going to go through each act in chronological order and write a quick review and possibly grade each effort. Then I will make a cumulative list of which albums and acts I liked best or didn't like. My goal is to be as honest as possible.

My only research thus far has come from wikipedia and faygoluver.net's Psychopathic Records Chronology. This idea was inspired by Elijah Watson's article "I listened to all of Insane Clown Posse’s albums, and now I understand" published in 2017 in The Daily Dot. But whereas Watson only listened to 13 ICP albums, I intend on listening to 62 ICP and Psychopathic Records releases.

I have no idea how long this project will take. It could take weeks, months, or years. I might never finish. But at a minimum, I would like to listen to ICP and Twiztid's official catalogs. They are the biggest collections of the allotment.

About me: I am a longtime hip-hop fan whose collection is predominantly old school NY acts such as Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, Biggie, Def Squad, and Duck Down Records. My initial thought is that ICP and acts may be like the Wu-Tang Clan and their affiliated acts such as Sunz of Man, Killarmy, Killah Priest, La The Darkman, GP Wu, Shyheim the Rugged Child, and the Killa Beez. But I assume they are more into shock value like early RA the Rugged Man (whose work I enjoy) or early horrorcore group the Flatlinerz.

I am curious and somewhat excited. I like checking out new music and trying to figure out the ICP allure will be interesting.

Let's do this.