Review Summary: One of their most underrated efforts, "Riddle Box" stands out as one of the best albums produced by the Detroit shock rappers.
By the release of Riddle Box
, Insane Clown Posse
had released two LPs, three EPs and an outtakes compilation, gaining a large following in their home base of Detroit by promoting, releasing and distributing their music themselves. In order to expand their audience, they signed to Jive Records, who did not spend any money on promoting their third album. As a result, this release did not gain as much attention as later efforts, which is a shame, because it contains some of the best-executed ideas of their career. The group is consisted of rappers Violent J
and Shaggy 2 Dope
, and producer Mike E. Clark
, whose original, creative ideas have allowed him to work with artists ranging from George Clinton
The album opens up with a group of friends dying in a car crash. They find themselves facing a ghostly spectre resembling a riddle-box containing the answer to their afterlife. They are told that they will not know where their soul will spend the rest of eternity until they "turn the crank". The production credits for Riddle Box
identify this album as the third face of the "Dead Carnival". The instrumental "Riddle Box" opens up with carnival music, hip-hop beats and ghostly laughter. The dead have found themselves in Hell. Backwards beats, synthesizer loops, carnival whistles, ghostly wailing, horn breaks, distant scratching and car-crash sound effects bring up "The Show Must Go On".
"Chicken Huntin'", which had previously appeared on the group's Ringmaster
album, is presented here in a rock-oriented "Slaughter House Mix". Hip-hop beats, metal guitar riffs/feedback and droning bass make for an interesting variant, although I prefer the original. The remix does
have some excellent scratching, even if it does sound a little too much like rap-metal for my tastes. It's certainly more entertaining than anything Limp Bizkit
has ever done. "Toy Box" opens up with gunshots, a wavy beat and the sound of a phone ringing, before jumping into a range of bouncing toys, distant horns, and upfront beats. It focuses on the idea of revenge, with the child of serial killer unleashing deadly toys on his class mates. The toys, like Frankenstein's monster, eventually turn on their creator.
"Cemetery Girl" combines dark, moody synthesizer, distant howling and maniacal scratching to tell its tale of a man who digs up his ex-girlfriend because he's still in love with her, and her ghost has been haunting him. Distant oscillation compliments the track's chorus. "3 Rings" opens up with clinking piano chords, vocalization and sound effects. Hip-hop beats slowly come in before being brought up full-force. The song deals with the concept of being treated like a freak for being different, and criticizes the elite for looking down upon individuals they view as inferior, hailing back to the concept of Carnival of Carnage
Smashing beats and funky bass lines accent "Headless Boogie", in which the song's protagonist comes across partying zombies. Echoed synthesized piano compliments the track's chorus. The group tastelessly -- and hilariously -- references the suicide of Nirvana
leader Kurt Cobain
. The track briefly changes pitch towards the end, with excellent results. "The Joker's Wild" is backed by organ riffs, live percussion and funky synthesized bass lines. The concept is that a police officer, a judge, a redneck and a rich man.
"Dead Body Man" is backed by synth crashes, organ riffs, tape warps, whistling, howling and paced beats. Its protagonist is a cannibal/necrophiliac who steals corpses from the local morgue and cemetery. Like Ringmaster
, Riddle Box
features a "love song", but where that part of the album had been one of the worst parts of the album, Riddle Box
's "Lil' Somthin' Somthin'" ends up being one of the album's best. Funky organ riffs, bass lines and soft beats compliment the duo's hilariously over-the-top lyrics. The dark "Ol' Evil Eye" is based upon Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart". Its protagonist is haunted by the "evil eye" of an old man he encounters while selling cookies door-to-door, and embarks on cutting out the man's eye in order to stop his torment. Mike E. Clark brings out some of the most creative ideas of the album, incorporating twisted scratching, haunting oscillation, a fast-paced beat, synth riffs, organ chords and frantic bass lines.
"12" is even more haunting, backed by dark piano chords, haunted synthesizer loops, crashes, string arrangements, chilling vocalization and backwards guitar riffs. It tells the tale of a wrongly condemned man who returns from the grave to take his revenge upon the members of the jury who had sentenced him. "The Killing Fields" chillingly details the horrors of hell. Opening with soft wind and a slow flute, making way for dank percussion, synths, terrifying oscillation and haunting vocalization. The instrumental breaks effectively incorporate the voice of a preacher. Funky horn arrangements, wind instruments, handclaps and synthesizer loops back the album's final track, "I'm Coming Home", crossing Detroit street life with a heavenly afterlife.
is a step up from both of Insane Clown Posse's previous albums, effectively experimenting with new musical ideas that compliment the twisted carnival-barker raps of the clown-painted Detroit natives. An original album that provides for an effective deviation for listeners who tire of hearing the same-old, same-old in hip-hop and wish to hear something new, different, and utterly fresh and original. Look no further.