Review Summary: Not as strong as "Carnival of Carnage" from a lyrical or musical standpoint, "Ringmaster" is still an effective effort from the Detroit shock-rappers.
The Insane Clown Posse
began their career in hip-hop with the very unique debut Carnival of Carnage
, which, for better or worse, depending on your view of the band, is an album that no other circumstances or performers could have produced. It was a concept album about the poor taking revenge upon the rich, told from the point of view of a traveling circus of murderous clowns. By this time, producer Mike E. Clark
had taken up working with the group full time, and the group's line-up had gone through a couple of different changes before winding up with only two of its founding members. The concept of Ringmaster
picks up where Carnival of Carnage
left off, but deals instead with the concept of the Karmic implications of one's evil deeds. Perpetrators of greed, deception and hatred who are rejected at the gates of Heaven will be judged by a being known only as the Ringmaster.
The album starts off slowly, with a spoken introduction and the instrumental "Wax Museum", which introduces the Ringmaster and combines a moody fusion of carnival music and strong scratching. "Murder Go Round" introduces the themes of the album, spinning tales of gang violence, circus horror and retribution over a funky bass line and a strong beat. "Chicken Huntin'" is a humorous interplay between an absurd bluegrass parody and violent lyrics about killing racist hillbillies and rednecks (chickens). "Mr. Johnson's Head" effectively uses dark synth lines to tell its tale of a grade school outcast who kills his racist teacher and keeps the head in his gym bag. Haunting bass line and vocalization sets the tone for "Southwest Song", a metaphorical song dealing with the concepts of death and the afterlife against a backdrop of smoke-filled industrial Detroit.
"Get Off Me, Dog!" and "Who Asked You" do not really serve much of a purpose on the album, as both are fairly uninteresting for one reason or another, the former being Shaggy 2 Dope
pretty much ranting for a minute and a half. From a lyrical standpoint, it's decent acid rap, but the music doesn't hold my interest. Musically, "Who Asked You" the better of the two, featuring an unique incorporation of sampled flute holds and strong scratching, switching to the distant sound of a heavy metal band to accompany the stoned idiot asking "Got a smoke, dude, what's up, man"" when Violent J
raps that he "doesn't sing in a rock band." "The Dead One" comes off as being more interesting in terms of lyricism. A gangsta survives being shot by rival gang members...or does he"
"My Fun House" has the clowns torturing a greedy racist when his car breaks down in the ghetto and he walks into a haunted carnival fun-house. Twisted horn lines and distant, ghostly noises are effectively incorporated into Clark's musical fun-house. "For the Maggots", once again dealing with death, effectively incorporates a backwards drum beat and tortured samples to compliment its moody tale of death. On "Wagon Wagon", a funky horn line effectively emphasizes its lyrics of a ghostly wagon driver collecting souls on their way to Hell. "The Loons" tells the tale of a killer making his way towards the house of his intended victim against moody synth breaks. "Love Song" is the worst song on the album from a lyrical and vocal standpoint. J's raunchy screaming on a joke love song doesn't meld well with the rest of the album's material, neither does "Bugz on My Nugz", an ode to venereal disease, although the latter is picked up towards its end by excellent scratching.
"House of Mirrors" is the best track on the album. Once again, a carnival attraction turns deadly for a wicked man. A funky bass line and dark beat set the stage for an excellent guest appearance from Capitol E
, who contributes the most interesting raps on the album. The instrumental "Ringmaster's Word" concludes the album with an interesting mix of circus horns, whistles, hip-hop beats and vampire film samples. While fans of this style of rap will enjoy Ringmaster
, the insane clowns' second offering doesn't really stand up as well as their debut. Their major-label follow-up, Jive Records' Riddle Box
release, improves on aspects of "Ringmaster" that did not lyrically or musically hold together, and ends up being the more effective album. Obviously, the fan that must have every album will go ahead and buy this one anyway, and I must say that when the album does
work, it works well.