Monday, March 24, 2003

Self-indulgent Clowns do make rap fans smile

By Jeff Wilson
Enquirer contributor

Fourteen hundred people packed into Bogart's Friday for an evening of rap music. A clown-faced rapper named Anybody Killa opened the show, followed by 2 Live Crew and the headliners, the Insane Clown Posse.

Say what you will about 2 Live Crew, they smoke every band when it comes to homing in on one subject (sex) and ridding themselves of all other distractions. It's remarkable enough that 2 Live Crew could rap so fervently about their real or imagined sex lives throughout their half-hour set, but they deserve a medal for chanting the same mantra for almost two decades without keeling over from boredom. Still, their message remains relevant: The young, mostly white crowd sang along with such classics as "Hoochie Mama" and "We Want Your (Expletive)."

On the off chance that someone in the audience would fail to understand their lyrical content, 2 Live Crew was joined by three scantily clad women gyrating in ways that left little to the imagination.

The Insane Clown Posse had a much more elaborate stage show that looked like a head-on collision between Wheel of Fortune and a horror movie, with flashing lights and a wheel that promised deadly weapons to the winning contestants. Songs like "Welcome to Thy Show" and "Tilt-A-Whirl" tied in neatly with the Murder Mayhem Show.

Unlike 2 Live Crew, the ICP are of two minds artistically. They keep their music simple - basic prerecorded beats with hints of heavy metal - and, like 2 Live Crew, the Posse will never win an award for rap skills or lyric writing, and could care less.

On the other hand, the ICP recently closed the door on a six-CD "concept album" that dwarfed anything Pete Townshend ever conceived. Culminating with last year's The Wraith: Shangri-La, this project contained enough arcane symbolism to overwhelm a Tolkienite. Apparently the few steadfast fans who hung on until the end experienced a cosmic revelation; the rest of us will take their word for it.

Even when it strains comprehension, such self-indulgence (when coupled with humor) has entertainment value, but the ICP sometimes benefit by getting straight to the point. Two straight-ahead populist themes, "Let's Go All the Way" and "Juggalo Homies," were as good as anything they played during Friday's show.

And the ICP can be funny. "(Expletive) the World" contains a list of people the Posse would love to flip off. Some targets are predictable, but not all of them, and when confronted with lyrics like "(Expletive) the Beastie Boys and the Dali Lama," well, our poet laureate couldn't have seen that one coming.

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