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The Self-Made Man: Insane Clown Posse

Okay, so here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to say things about the Insane Clown Posse that might, given the context of this article’s emphasis on self-made men, be taken as compliments. This may very well be my undoing, because the only people crazier and more easily provoked than ICP fans are people who hate ICP. Still, since those two guys easily qualify as self-made men, we blaze forward.


First of all, anyone from the Detroit area after, say, 1970 who makes something of himself deserves a medal. That city has fulfilled all of Robocop’s predictions and then some. Both of the guys in ICP grew up in Oak Park, which is a suburb of Detroit that doesn’t have any real advantages over the city itself, and they both came from broken homes with no real connections to anything. So did James Brown, you might be thinking, but at least he had the advantage of being a once-in-a-generation musical genius in addition to being a workaholic. ICP, to be polite about it, aren’t of that caliber.

Which brings me to my second point; ICP didn’t really do themselves any favors with their imagery, lyrics, or on-stage personae. There isn’t really a good time to dress like clowns and rap about drinking cheap soda and murdering people with hatchets, but the mid-90s was an especially bad time for it, since the big thing then was West Coast gangsta rap that claimed legitimacy over all else. By comparison, ICP looked like idiots. It took literally six years of constant roadwork for them to build any kind of fanbase, let alone the huge rabid one they’ve cobbled together from a network of social outcasts who aren’t even welcome among other outcasts. There are enough dedicated ICP fans now that the FBI considers them a gang. It’s insane.

I guess what I’m saying here is that ICP achieved success purely through touring, the grunt work of the music industry. That meant building up popularity in towns through non-stop shows (and acres of merchandise to sell at said shows), flyer drops, radio show appearances, in-store promotions, basically having no life at all besides the band. On top of that, there wasn’t anyone with any real industry knowledge guiding their decisions, or any third-party hype machine generating publicity for them. All they had is the fact that they were different and their own borderline-compulsive drive to promote themselves and get this weird act of theirs off the ground.

And then, when they got signed to Disney-owned Hollywood Records and caught their big break, it was rescinded almost immediately. Due to pressure from conservative religious groups, Disney recalled ICP’s new album (The Great Milenko) from stores, canceled their national tour, and pulled the music video for the album’s first single from television, all in the same day. That’s a bad day.

ICP’s response to all this, however, was to find a new record label (Island, as it turned out) to release their album, then get right back on the road, using the controversy they’d kicked up around themselves to promote their live show. Even if you think they suck, you can’t fault their attitude. Well, aside from the whole magnets thing, I mean.

That attitude is what has kept them going, and now they don’t even really need mainstream attention thanks to the Psychopathic Records mini-empire they’ve assembled, which includes a record label, a professional wrestling promotion, and merchandise/video subsidiaries. The whole thing generates around $10 million in revenue every year, which might as well be one zillion dollars in independent record label money. Or, more accurately, one dollar for everyone who laughed at their chances of turning what they do into a viable career.

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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at

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