Insane Clown Posse

The Riddle Box

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Insane Clown Posse's first national release, Riddle Box, failed to expand the Detroit shock rock/rap duo's audience, which probably came as no surprise to anyone, especially ICP. Success never came easy to Violent J and Shaggy Two Dope, so the tenuous marketing commitment from Jive Records did nothing to dampen the act's spirits. Setting off a series of record-label conflicts, ICP soon left Jive, and due mostly to their own marketing and touring campaigns, there were other labels willing to literally risk millions in an attempt to tap the rappers' commercial potential. Later decisions to follow a Kiss-like publicity and merchandising program proved fruitful, but at the time, music was all ICP had to promote. "Unconvincing" is the first word that comes to mind when attempting to describe the stiff, humorless rhymes and bland beats that fill Riddle Box. The gangsta put-ons and misogynistic boasting are impossible to take seriously, and unlike even mediocre hip-hop, this music offers little insight into urban existence. Perhaps ICP's more dynamic delivery and second-rate Cypress Hill aesthetic elevates Riddle Box just above its predecessors, but all of the group's musical work is so far below any reasonable rap/rock standard that it hardly matters. This 1995 effort shouldn't disappoint fans of the group, but serious hip-hop and metal listeners -- unimpressed with ICP's extra-musical theatrics -- should avoid Riddle Box like every other episode in the "dark carnival." Kiss had more than a few legitimate pop/rock hooks, Gwar and Green Jelly can be creative and humorous in their delivery, but the appeal of Insane Clown Posse is based solely on marketing savvy and prurient appeal. That ICP has managed to build a multi-platinum empire on a house of joker cards says as much (or more) about the scatological decline of American pop culture as it does about the duo's business acumen.

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