Memoirs of a (Female) Juggalo: Q&A with Meli Machiavelli

Are you “Down With The Clown?” This is a question of vital importance in the Juggalo subculture, a term used to described devotees of Insane Clown Posse, the hip hop duo of “Violent J” and “Shaggy 2 Dope” formed in Detroit, Michigan in 1989. The term Juggalo (or Juggalette, as some female fans prefer to be called) emerged in 1994 to describe the subculture that had arisen amongst fans of the group and other bands on ICP’s Psychopathic Records label. Trying to define Juggalo culture is in simple terms is basically impossible, but  Wikipedia sayeth:

Common characteristics of identifying a member of the Juggalo subculture are as follows:

  • Drinking and spraying the inexpensive soft drink Faygo,
  • Listening to horror-themed rap music
  • Wearing face paint
  • Wearing HatchetGear
  • The Running Hatchet man logo applied on personal effects
  • Doing hair in the spider legs style, i.e. like the Twiztid members[5]
  • Displaying the gesture of wicked clown, the westside sign with the left hand and the C sign in ASL with the right, with arms crossed over.

If you’re utterly unfamiliar with ICP and the Juggalo phenomenon, the short documentary American Juggalo is a good place to start. ICP’s “Miracles” video (which has taken quite a bit of sh*t from the mainstream media for its criticism of science and general absurdity) is also a must-watch:

To the outsider, the Juggalo lifestyle can seem simultaneously baffling, ridiculous, intimidating, or even frightening, given ICP’s violent image. I recently had the chance to catch up with Meli Machiavelli, a Chicago-based woman who spent considerable time in the Juggalo subculture as a teenage girl, to get an insider’s point of view.

Meli in a Psychopathic Records shirt.

Name: Meli Machiavelli

Age: 24

Location: Chicago, IL

Where did you grow up? How old were you when you get interested in Juggalo culture, and what about it appealed to you?
I grew up in Rogers Park, the farthest northern neighborhood of Chicago. When I first heard about Juggalos it was through Eminem and their whole rap beef when I was about 13 or 14. I didn’t get into the whole thing until I was 16/17. The first album I heard was Tales from The Lotus Pod, it was dark and gruesome and the lyrics were good. So I asked my friend Double D if I could borrow his CD.

Meli with fellow Juggalos Steph Cate, TripleSixxx, and Madeline

What was it like being a Juggalette (female Juggalo)? Juggalo culture can appear very misogynist from the outside. Did you experience sexism within the community?
Well for one, and this is kind of joke amongst my friends (thanks to a radio interview with a girl named Juggalo Julz) I don’t call myself a Juggalette. Long story short, most girls who do have reputations I choose to not associate with. I also just didn’t see the need to “fem up” an already made-up label. That being said, in essence it can be a very misogynist-heavy type of environment. BUT personally I never really experienced someone telling me I could or could not do something or be a part of something because of my sex, though I always got the feeling that I was respected less by some (even in my own “clique”) because of it.

Did you experience any racism in the Juggalo community?
Yes. It’s what I like to refer to as “hipster racism” … the 21st century “It’s funny, not hurtful, so it’s not racist.”

In “American Juggalo,” many of the interviewees, when asked why they are Juggalos, cite a feeling of family and community within the subculture. Did you find this to be true for yourself?
I’ve actually never seen that documentary, but that’s definitely a driving force for their fanbase. If you look at who the music is aimed at, misguided youth, it’s very clear it’s aimed at kids and teens going through what everyone else feels at that age. “Noone understands me.”

Did you dress up with the crazy clown makeup and everything?
I did facepaint a few times, but it was always too big of a production for me.

I think there is a cultural association with Juggalos and crime and drug use. Do you think this is true?
Yes and no. I know my fair share of “straight edge” Juggalos, but they are not the majority by any means. The best comparison I’ve heard, in terms of that aspect of the culture is The Grateful Dead.

How do you think Juggalo culture is different in reality than how the media portrays it (or mocks it)?
Probably going to get shit for this, but in all actuality, it’s not that different. It is a little ridiculous, but I think that’s part of the point.

Why do you think this is such a popular subculture in the US right now? Are there Juggalos in other countries?
Well, with Alternative music dead and gone at this point, and middle class America fully embracing Rap, this is a logical step for kids who may not be able to identify with Lil Wayne or Drake. ICP doesn’t rap about having money or expensive cars. So it’s easier, especially for kids who AREN’T well off to relate more.

Indeed there are, I’ve personally met Canadian and English Juggalos thanks to Gathering Of The Juggalos.

Meli with Carmen G.

Did you ever attend Gathering of the Juggalos, and if so, what was it like?
I have, twice. Summer of 06 and the last one in Summer of 07. I loved/hated the first. Hated mostly because of the weather, shin deep in mud the entire time. But I met some really cool people, you see a lot of acts, not just Psychopathic Records, but others like Too Short, Tech N9ne or Bone Thugs N Harmony. You also get to meet a lot of the recording artists from Psychopathic Records (ICP, Twiztid, etc) Its definitely something you have to experience to completely understand.

How old was the oldest Juggalo you ever met? Is it something that people generally grow out of (like you did) or do some people stay in the subculture their whole lives?
The oldest Juggalos I know are in their late 30s and early 40s, and have kids in the lifestyle too. I really think it depends on the person. For me, I’ll always be a Juggalo in my heart, but it’s by no means the forefront of my personality, nor do I think it ever really was.

Are there other groups within the Juggalo subculture beside ICP that Juggalos listen to?
Twiztid. Dark Lotus (it’s a super group combined of ICP and Twiztid and the other artist Blaze Ya Dead Homie), Boondox and AnyBodyKilla are all on the Psychopathic Records main label. There is a sublabel within Psychopathic Records called Hatchet House that is home to many of it’s younger talents, and some older that never quite caught on, like Axe Murder Boyz. These artist are the topic of MUCH debate and allegiances at times.

So what’s the real deal with ICP and spirituality? I heard that the evolution of their musical career was this epic metaphor for Christianity, but was that all bullshit?
“The Carnival is GOD and may all Juggalos find Him!
May The Juggalos Find god!
May The Juggalos Find god!
May The Juggalos Find god!
He’s out there, He’s out there!
We’re not sorry if we tricked you!
We don’t care what happens now.
We’re not sorry if we tricked you!
We swing our hatchet and we’re proud.
We’re not sorry if we tricked you!
Painted faces in the crowd.
We’re not sorry if we tricked you!
The Carnival will carry on.”
– Excerpt of lyrics from “Thy Unveiling” off the final Joker’s CardThe Wraith: Shangri-La” (Juggalo heaven)

So long story short, yes. The mythos is complete bullshit, designed to sell records.

Are Juggalos political, in the way that other subcultures sometimes are? Is there any Juggalo activism related to social issues?
You know, I don’t really know. I know some who’ve come out of it on the otherside who are like me. Still down, but have lives… and those people have political opinions.

Is there any sense of hierarchy within the Juggalo community, or with their crossover with related subcultures (rap, punk, etc.)
This was a big thing in my High School. Yes there can be. It’s all to do with when you “Became Down.” But it’s switched to Old school or New School.

What ultimately caused you to lose interest in the Juggalo subculture?
The people within that culture. Not all, but the realization that it is NOT a family it’s more of different cliques with a common bond, and as I got older I stopped being okay with certain things. Mostly the actions of others, that were deemed okay within that group. This happened at around 20/21. I more or less kind of walked away from the group I’d been apart of at this point. Everything else kind of fell away.

Thanks Meli, for sharing your story with us!

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Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    dude you are not a juggalette. you never even like being called a lette so dont come running your mouth.

  2. lawl

  3. melimachiavelli says:

    Reblogged this on Foul Mouthed Lady and commented:
    Vintage: An Article I was featured in a long time ago.

    • You faked your way into our culture and act like it’s ok? What makes you rite to judge our lifestyle? Why would you do this? This is more than music to us and to think you called us immature in your own words. I am very offended.

      • melimachiavelli says:

        I’m deeply sorry that you’re offended and that’s what you pulled out of the article. But I did not speak for the entire ‘Juggalo’ universe as a whole, as I only experienced a small portion of it and what I experienced soured a lot of my opinions on the “family” and those that wear the label. To be able to move outside of a label and see what it is, and still embrace it as a part of me that helped me become who I am. It is a part of growing up and I hope that you and other’s who come across this take the chance to understand that this is my experience, my experience alone. I consider myself a former Juggalo because there’s so much more to me than just that moniker nor do I embrace the lifestyle or subculture as hard as I once did. I’ve evolved to a point where (again) there is more to me, it is a facet of my personality and a chapter of my past.

        Be well.

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