Insane Clown Posse – The Carnival of Carnage (1992)

This is where it all began! Well, not all of it, but as far the Dark Carnival thing goes and the Joker’s Card legacy shit, it all began here. ICP’s debut record is like nothing else in their history and it remains to this day one of my favourite records by them. It possesses an extremely amateur mix by an at-the-time fresh-faced Mike Clark, and shows the group before they had fully adjusted to their new Insane Clown personas. The whole thing might be dressed up with a carnival vibe, but for me this record is much more Inner City than it is Insane Clown. Later records explored a much more alternative backdrop of sounds, but Carnival of Carnage fits in unusually with the more typical approach of hip hop in the early 90s, with heavy overtones of gangster rap and old-school, awkward-to-listen-to sound collages.

There are a lot of themes here that were quickly dropped as ICP gradually became more mainstream. For example, there are more misogynistic overtones present here than on any other material the band has made. The text inside the booklet also calls (rather brutally) for the all-out murder of the children of rich people, and incites some sort of crazy revolt where the ghettos will rise up and take over. Despite what “The Carnival” turned out to be, a lot of Juggalos don’t seem to remember it’s rather childish and worryingly genocidal roots. But, let’s not forget that Violent J and Shaggy were basically kids when this record was made.

CoC gets off to a slow start. There are two (yes!) intro tracks before the first songs comes in proper on track three. “First Day Out” is one of my favourite rap songs ever, and tells the tale of going out on a date after being in prison for a while. “Red Neck Hoe” is an ICP classic, and has possibly the most inspired chorus ever; “Bitch, you’s a hoe, and hoe you’s a bitch; everybody know you’s a funky funky bitch”. It even features a rather awful contribution from either Esham or Jumpsteady (I honestly can’t tell the difference here). “Is That You?” is one of the stand-out tracks on the album, despite featuring Kid Rock (“I drink Faygo it’s only a buck-ten, I’ma pour it on ya tits when we fuck-en'”).

If you like old-school hip hop but consider ICP to be an absolute joke (which to be fair, they have always strived to be) then this record could be your only chance at liking them. It’s a bit shaky compared to other genre greats from that era but it also contains some amazing amateur rhymes (“I’m chillin’, I’m illin’, with my guts all over the ceilin'”) that more than make up for it’s crappy production. Self-released on Psychopathic Records.

“Ma’afuckers think I’m sick? You ever seen a bitch take a shit?”