I'm cycling on the Tobin Trail just past Los Patios when I pass a young boy and his father. The boy looks to be about eight or nine, wears a red baseball cap, shorts, and there's something weird going on with his t-shirt. The precise detail only register a split second before I pass him. He has a cardboard sign hung around his neck by a piece of string. The sign reads I'M A LIAR in block capitals. The man I presume to be his father walks about ten feet behind, a fat shithead walrus-moustache type. What the fuck? explodes from my mouth quite loudly, but I'm already past the Walrus and his publicly shamed kid. I really want to turn back and point out that we're not living in Saudi Arabia, and that maybe the Walrus could have resolved the situation by actually talking to the kid, because I'm damn sure I'M A LIAR isn't going to make it better, and - aside from anything else - I kind of resent being made party to this mediaeval public shaming of a small boy who, let's face it, probably didn't rob a bank, commit a murder, or anything of that magnitude.
But I don't turn back, which is possibly for the best because no doubt even if I managed to say the exact right thing to aid the Walrus in understanding the full extent of his own shitheaded stupidity, it probably wouldn't help the kid; and the guy is clearly a bully so probably wouldn't be above kicking my ass.
Also, it seems peculiarly significant that I'm listening to Insane Clown Posse as I cycle, and as I pass the Walrus and his kid.
Insane Clown Posse are, for anyone who didn't know, a generally shunned rap act - at least so far as the mainstream media is concerned. They're a couple of white guys in clown paint performing novelty toilet humour raps about horror movies operating on roughly the same level as an episode of South Park. They will almost certainly never get to work with Sting, or be asked to drop guest verses on albums by Common, Lauryn Hill, or J-Live. They're not even a proper rap group because they weren't hanging in the park with Kool Herc in 1977, and their freestyles are fucking terrible, and all of their fans are white trash crackers; and white trash crackers don't count. That's most of the traditional criticisms, should you be unaware of any of them.
Personally, my only problem is that it feels like they've been treading water since The Wraith, besides which most of the criticism can be negated by simply bothering to listen to the music. They're not the greatest rappers in the world, but they're often genuinely funny, wringing every last drop of potential from what ability they have, and frankly I've heard worse; and the beats - at least when supplied by Mike Clark - were fucking great, fat and funky, as good as anything ever cooked up in a New York basement. The hypothetical crime therefore seems to be their enduring appeal to massive swarms of dispossessed white trash, so it's basically an issue of class - your traditional demonisation of anyone too poor, unsavoury, uneducated, or just plain stupid, the stratum below even those who at least look good in moody black and white photographs illustrating articles on either poverty or outsider art in culturally prestigious media.
This compilation assembles tracks from both Insane Clown Posse and their protégés, Twiztid - who occupy much the same territory albeit with a sharper, more lyrical edge. Specifically Psychopathics from Outer Space is a dubiously official bootleg assembling tracks burdened with uncleared samples and the like, but crucially this material derives mostly from a time at which both groups were at the height of their powers. What this means to you depends upon how much you enjoy axe murder gags mixed in with your fart jokes, which in turn spins upon the possibility that you may not be the target audience, and that this stuff simply may not be for you. You could probably argue that it's all terribly sexist and at least as homophobic as your average episode of South Park, but to do so would miss one important point, namely that delving below all the cartoon gore and the blow jobs, there's a surprisingly progressive morality to all this shit. The victims in these tales of comic horror are almost always bullies, shitheads, racists, rednecks, wife-beating drunkards, and other overprivileged types, and the underlying message of be ye not a fucking douche is delivered without a hint of sermonising, and most significantly it's delivered to massive swarms of dispossessed white trash, the people arguably most vulnerable to exploitation by forces with vested interests in their acting like bullies, shitheads, racists, rednecks, and wife-beating drunkards.
Anyway, on top of that, the disc rocks like nobody's business, and we even get Ice-T on one track. $50 Bucks alone might be worth the cover price - a peculiar combination of wistful country rock and fat-ass swagger that renders all those other shitty rap-rock crossover acts completely redundant; and then there's Twiztid's She Ain't Afraid which must easily rank amongst the most raucously pornographic tracks ever laid down, sort of like Smell & Quim without having to stick your fingers either in your ears or down your throat; and all with the sneer and frisson of a funky Sex Pistols. Of all the bands you need at your side when you've had a shitty day, there's something really cathartic about this bunch, which is probably aided by the music offering more than just straight nihilism.
So some of this was in my thoughts as I cycled past the Walrus, because the world needs less of his kind; and because - to paraphrase some conservative sociopath or other - either raise your kids the right way, or the music they listen to will end up raising them for you, although in the case of Insane Clown Posse and Twiztid, that may not be such a terrible thing after all.