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?