“Woop woop,” the crowd cheered. A trio of hip hop performers in custom jerseys sporting a logo with a hatchet man took the stage. They sang lyrics about horror, society, sex and murder. They spit fast and hard to a downtuned guitar and the crowd pulsed with a sort of underground club energy. Slam dancing quickly turned to moshing, and at one point someone even threw up. Here I was in the midst of it all, a curious musical tourist witnessing her first (and only) Juggalo show. So allow me to share my unbiased opinion of this concert.
There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what this fandom is. One thing it most certainly isn’t is a gang. What I learned from standing in this crowd was that here was a group of people who started following this weird genre (dubbed horror core) because they themselves felt weird according to societies standards. Here is a group of people who embrace the principle of ‘no judgment.’ It is a group who cover themselves in face paint and oversized clothing stylized in custom fonts and horror images.
Why do they do this? Why does this group present themselves like this? To embrace the fact that they are strange and maybe even scary to some. They embrace being outsiders and outcasts, a joyful band of misfits. Simply, this fandom is an outlet for many to take their anger and frustrations with the world out. It is evident in the horror themes of their lyrics which often glorify violence or subject brutality and societal issues. But the violence is spoken word, not action. It is an outlet. It’s not so different from Eminem writing similar rants fueled by his own anger and feelings about being neglected and rejected by society. Much like the urban area of Detroit Enimem hailed from, ICP also began in Michigan.
So in essence, this group of people who label themselves Juggalos are quite often people who at one point felt marginalized by mainstream society and sought to band together with others like them. If a sociologist were to study them- I’d imagine many come from working class backgrounds, many had personal difficulties, many struggled from depression and many others from substance abuse or just general feelings of being misunderstood. This is not a one size fits all generalization but it seems many who follow the acts under the Juggalo banner have their own inner demons and the music and the community help them to overcome.
So while an outsider to this world, I left the show with a greater understanding of the fandom. While I don’t particularly care for the music nor would I probably attend another show- I respect that this community has found an outlet for themselves. It is a community which also seems to be very supportive of other members going through hard times. They go above and beyond, and it is why many refer to the fandom community as “family.” Perhaps that’s also because this group feels a lot more like family than their own families.
So no it’s not my cup of tea, but who am I to judge others for what they like? It’s not fair to simply label a group a gang because they gather in large numbers, have code slang and unite under certain logos and colors. It’s simply a bizarre but benign fandom. That’s what I learned by going beyond the talk in the media following the group’s protest March in DC. I went to see for myself and established my own opinion- even if part of that opinion is that the music is sort of secondary to the act itself and of low quality. But hey, let people like what they like- whether that be the much maligned pumpkin spice latte or a group calling themselves by a weird name.