0008. Insane Clown Posse – The Great Milenko [1997]

Great_milenko

Oh, man.  I know some people might abandon me and my list here because of this album, but fuck it.  When I was in junior high back in 1998, I was introduced to these guys through a friend’s dad (actually).  I remember hanging out with him one day at Willowbrook Mall, causin’ mischief, smoking cigarettes, and I remember thinking how weird it was that this kid’s dad allowed him to smoke.  While we were in the car, going from the mall to his trailer, this album was on.  I didn’t know it at the time; I was just told it was a group called Insane Clown Posse.

I was instantly hooked.  I’d never heard such overtly violent and cartoonish lyrics, especially not in rap and/or hip-hop (both genres which held little appeal to me at the time).  I went soon after to the closest CD store (which, at the time, was a place called Sam Goody in the Wayne Hills Mall) and picked up ICP’s “Riddlebox,” which, while it wasn’t the album I’d heard in the car, was still a fucking fantastic introduction to the world of Insane Clown Posse.

I’m fairly certain that soon after I got into them, I stopped giving a flying fuck what my peers in my school thought about me.  I’d spent the past two years trying to fit in, trying to make new friends after my old ones had been sent to a different junior high, and even trying to ask out a really beautiful girl (which pretty much blew up in my face).  After I stopped giving a fuck, her beauty turned gradually into mediocrity, my peers began to fear and question me almost relentlessly, but goddammit, I was finally happy.  I grew bold, even so much that I’d often play Riddlebox on a cassette stereo while sitting at the back of the bus.  I’m surprised nobody asked me to shut it off, but they didn’t.

Anyway, The Great Milenko was, is, and always will be a classic.  It’s by far their best-selling album.  It earned them a lot of negative press, but they spun it around in their favor.  Truly, the tenacity of spirit that Insane Clown Posse has shown throughout the entirety of their career is awe-inspiring.  They had people cutting them down, condescending, protesting, making death threats, and yet they’re now one of the most successful independent groups in history.  Whether you enjoy the music or not, their level of motivation and where it’s gotten them is something to be admired and respected.  That is, unless you’re some myopic dickhead/cunt who can’t see beyond their own shallow tastes and recognize accomplishments.  You’re not, right?  OK, cool.  Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about this album:

Wikipedia Says:

The Great Milenko is the fourth studio album by American hip hop group Insane Clown Posse, released on August 12, 1997, by Hollywood Records, in association with Psychopathic Records. As the fourth Joker’s Card in the group’s Dark Carnival mythology, the album’s lyrics focus on the titular Great Milenko, an illusionist who tries to trick individuals into greed and other such sins.

The album was recorded and initially released by the Disney-owned record label Hollywood Records.[2] The album was taken off shelves by Hollywood hours after its release, in response to criticism from the Southern Baptist Churchof decisions that the church believed did not reflect Disney’s family-friendly image, although Disney claimed that the album was released due to an oversight by its review board.[2] After Hollywood terminated the group’s contract, Insane Clown Posse signed a new contract with Island Records (whose parent at the time, PolyGram, distributed Hollywood releases in North America), which agreed to release the album as it was originally intended.

The music of The Great Milenko features a rock sound and features guest appearances by popular rock stars Alice Cooper, Steve Jones and Slash. Although the album was poorly received by critics, it debuted at number 63 on the Billboard charts, and was later certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It is the group’s 10th overall release.

Conception

Background

Following the 1994 release of the album Ringmaster, Insane Clown Posse started to attract a strong local following in Detroit, Michigan.[3] The group began selling out large clubs such as St. Andrew’s Hall and the State Theater, and drew the attention of major record label Jive Records.[3] The next year, Insane Clown Posse signed with the label Battery, a subsidiary Jive Records.[4] Battery/Jive released the duo’s third studio album, Riddle Box (1995), but showed little interest in promoting the album.[4] The group’s manager Alex Abbiss negotiated a contract with the Disney’s Hollywood Records label, which reportedly paid $1 million to purchase the Insane Clown Posse contract from Battery/Jive Records.[2][5]

The expansion of the Juggalo fanbase into its own culture inspired Insane Clown Posse to write the songs “What Is A Juggalo?” and “Down With The Clown” for this album.[6]

Recording

The group started recording The Great Milenko in 1996, and Joseph Bruce began thinking of a title for the album shortly after. Bruce later came up with the title The Great Milenko.[7] Bruce also admitted that he had always liked the ring name of professional wrestler Dean Simon (“Dean Malenko”), because he felt that the name Malenko had a “carnival” sound to it.[7] Believing that he had created the name himself, Bruce later realized that he had unwittingly used the nickname of Dean’s father, Boris “The Great” Malenko.[7]

The band wanted to include famous rock stars on the album.[8] Julian Raymond, the artists and repertoire representative for Hollywood Records contacted Slash, Steve Jones, and Alice Cooper.[8] Slash, who was a self-professed fan of the band’s music, reportedly only asked for Wild Irish Rose as payment for his contributions.[9] Bruce, who knew very little about the Sex Pistols or Steve Jones, declined to show up at the studio when Jones played his guitar part for “Piggy Pie”.[10] Although not knowing much about Alice Cooper either, Bruce decided to fly to Arizona and coach Cooper on his parts.[11] Bruce and Clark also met George Clinton, who was staying in the same hotel, and recorded his voice in his room, but it did not fit anywhere on the album.[12]

After the recording sessions were finished, executives at Hollywood Records—and the label’s parent company, Disney—expressed dissatisfaction with several tracks.[13] Disney requested that the tracks “The Neden Game,” “Under the Moon,” and “Boogie Woogie Wu” be removed because of lyrics referencing abuse of women, rape and murder, and the slaughter of children, respectively.[13] Disney also asked that the lyrics of “Piggy Pie” be changed, due to lyrics about murdering police officers. Disney threatened not to release the album if their requests were not met.[13][14] Begrudgingly, Bruce and Utsler complied with Disney’s requests.[13]The uncensored version of “Piggy Pie” was later released on Forgotten Freshness Volumes 1 & 2.[15] After recording was finalized, the duo planned to go on a national tour with House of Krazees and Myzery as its opening acts.[13] Several songs were recorded with the intention of releasing them on The Great Milenko. One such song, “House of Wonders” was recorded but was later released on Mutilation Mix (1997) and Forgotten Freshness Volumes 1 & 2 (1998).[15]

Joker’s Cards

The Great Milenko is the fourth Joker’s Card in Insane Clown Posse’s Dark Carnival concept album series.[16] The Dark Carnival is a concept of the afterlife in which souls are sent to a form of limbo while waiting to be sent to heaven or hell based on their individual actions. These concepts are related by Insane Clown Posse in a series of albums called the six Joker’s Cards. Each of the six Joker’s Cards relate to a specific character — an entity of the Dark Carnival — that tries to “save the human soul” by showing the wickedness inside of one’s self.[17][18]

This Joker’s Card is a necromancer and illusionist who tries to trick individuals into acts of greed, envy, and lust.[19][20] The Card ultimately issues a warning against such acts of sin, and enlightens listeners that The Great Milenko is a part of every individual, and that they have the power to fall under his illusions or cast his hoaxes aside.[19][20]

Music

Style

The Great Milenko featured more rock influences than previous Insane Clown Posse albums, including an introduction performed by Alice Cooper and guitar tracks performed by Steve Jones (on “Piggie Pie”), and Slash (on “Halls of Illusions”).[19] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic wrote, in his review of The Amazing Jeckel Brothers (1999) that, “The Great Milenko […] was targeted at white-boy, adolescent metalheads — really, how could any album that contained guest spots from Alice Cooper, Slash, Steve Jones and Legs Diamond be anything else?”[21]

Insane Clown Posse hired renowned Detroit record producer and DJ Mike E. Clark to produce the record. Clark made the album sound more rock-oriented, as opposed to the duo’s earlier material, which featured a more prominent hip-hop sound.[21] To create the record, Clark utilized standard hip hop techniques such as record scratching, and mixed them with elements of rock and heavy metal.[21]

Lyricism

From deep within the Nethervoids of shadow walkers comes yet anther exhibit of the Dark Carnival. He is the master of the art of using magic without magic. He is a Necromaster – the craft of using magic through the dead. Dead meaning both physically and mentally. This spectacle shall be witnessed only by those who are meant to see it. Look deep inside of your soul and ask yourself… Together you and he are the Great Milenko.

– Liner notes[19]

According to the group’s mythology, The Great Milenko is a necromancer and illusionist who tries to trick individuals into greed and other such sins. He takes out the worst in an individual and creates powerful illusions in an attempt to cause them to become hedonistic and greedy. An honorable individual must fight his magic in order to make it to Shangri-La (as revealed in the track “Pass Me By”).[19]

The album’s themes mostly revolve around those of death, morality, and everyday decisions. For instance, “How Many Times?” talks about annoying traffic jams and other everyday-life inconveniences.[22] “Piggy Pie” references the Three Little Pigs and tells Violent J’s story of murdering three kinds of people: an incest-prone redneck, cops who wrongly arrest and harass people, and stuck-up wealthy people. “Under the Moon” tells the tale of a man convicted after killing a man who tried to rape his girlfriend. “Boogie Woogie Wu” is told from the perspective of the boogie man and talks about the slaughter of children. The “Neden Game” takes the form of a Dating Game-esque show, albeit with added misogynistic banter for humor. Finally, the lyrics to “Hellalujah” target money-hungry preachers.

Singles

Two singles were released from the album: “Halls of Illusions” and “Hokus Pokus.” “Halls of Illusions” was the first single released in 1997. The single peaked at number 56 on the UK Singles Chart, and its accompanying music video peaked at number one on The Box video request channel.[13][23] The album’s second single, “Hokus Pokus,” was released in June 1997. In 1998, it peaked at number 54 on the UK Singles Chart.[23]

Promotion and release

“We spent all that time recording the album, and it was out for half a day, then yanked out of stores. Our tour was cancelled, our in-store tour was cancelled, everything we had was cancelled.”

—Joseph Bruce[13]

Initially, Hollywood Records shipped 100,000 copies of The Great Milenko to various record stores.[22] During a music-store autograph signing, Insane Clown Posse was notified that Hollywood Records had deleted the album within hours of its release,[13] despite having sold 18,000 copies and reaching number 63 on the Billboard 200.[22][24] The group was also informed that its in-store signings and 25-city nationwide tour had been canceled, commercials for the album and the music video for “Halls of Illusions” (which had reached number one on The Box video request channel) were pulled from television, and that the group was dropped from the label.[13] It was later revealed that Disney was being criticized by the Southern Baptist Church at the time because of Disney’s promotion of Gay Days at Disneyland, in addition to producing and distributing the gay-themed television sitcom Ellen. The church claimed Disney was turning its back on family values.[25]Although Abbiss told the press that Disney had stopped production of The Great Milenko to avoid further controversy, Disney claimed instead that the release of the album was an oversight by their review board, and that the album “did not fit the Disney image” because of its “inappropriate” lyrics,[26] which they claimed were offensive to women.[27] Although Hollywood Records had ordered record stores to return shipments of the now-deleted album, many record stores refused, including the Michigan-based Harmony House where 1,700 CDs were sold in 36 stores after the termination order.[27]

After the termination of the Hollywood Records contract, labels such as Interscope[25] and Geffen Records[27] wanted to sign the group, but Island Records’ Chris Blackwell came to the group’s rescue and agreed to release The Great Milenko as it was originally intended.[14][28] As part of the deal, Island also agreed to rerelease the group’s first two Joker’s Card albums. Milenko was released in four colors: red, green, purple, and gold. Each color had a different secret message that would help reveal the title of the fifth Joker’s Card, The Amazing Jeckel Brothers.[29] Music videos were filmed for “Halls of Illusions,” “How Many Times,” and “Piggy Pie.” An unofficial music video for “Down with the Clown” was featured on the home-video release Juggalo Championshxt Wrestling Volume 1.[30] A music video for the Headhuntaz Remix of “Hokus Pokus” was produced after the release of the album. The video featured appearances by Twiztid and Myzery.[29]Blackwell left Island Records shortly after the group released Forgotten Freshness Volumes 1 & 2, and the merger of PolyGram into Universal Music Group (which owned Interscope and Geffen) affected the way the label handled its next Joker’s Card release. Despite the rough start, The Great Milenko has sold well over the years.[31][32] On May 5, 1998, the album was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[31] A year later, on April 21, 1999, the album was certified platinum for shipments of over one million copies.[31] As of 2007, the album has sold over 1.7 million copies in the United States.[32]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[33]
Entertainment Weekly C−[22]
Martin Charles Strong 5/10 stars[34]
Rolling Stone 2/5 stars[35]

Reviews for The Great Milenko were generally unfavorable. Entertainment Weekly music critic David Browne gave the record a C-minus rating: “[With] its puerile humor and intentionally ugly metal-rap tunes, the album feels oddly dated.”[22] Allmusic reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine said that The Great Milenko is “the sort of record you wish they would take off the stereo at excruciating frat parties.”[33] In The Great Rock Discography, Martin Charles Strong gave the album five out of ten stars.[34] The album received two out of five stars in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, in which Ben Sisario identified it as the album in which “the group came into its own”.[35]

Although the reviews were mostly negative, some critics complimented the album’s improved sound over its precursors. Stephen Thomas Erlewine said that the album was “a better record than [its] predecessors, boasting a tougher sound and some actual hooks, without losing the juvenile vulgarity that pleased their following,” and added that “it is better than the rest of ICP’s work.”[33] David Browne said that “Milenko is better produced than the duo’s earlier output (Slash grinds out metal chords on Halls of Illusions), and Pass Me By is a genuinely melodic song.”[22] In 2009, Fangorianamed The Great Milenko an iconic horrorcore album.[36]

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Mike E. Clark and Insane Clown Posse.

Island 524 442-2
No. Title Performer(s) Length
1. “Intro” Alice Cooper, Deb Agoli 2:00
2. “Great Milenko” Insane Clown Posse 1:56
3. “Hokus Pokus” ICP, Deb Agoli, Kim Marro 4:21
4. “Piggy Pie” ICP, Steve Jones, and Rich “Legz Diamond” Murrell 5:46
5. “How Many Times?” ICP and Legz Diamond 6:21
6. “Southwest Voodoo” ICP 4:00
7. “Halls of Illusions” ICP, Slash, and Legz Diamond 4:21
8. “Under the Moon” ICP 5:00
9. “What Is a Juggalo?” ICP 3:57
10. “House of Horrors” ICP, Deb Agoli, and Legz Diamond 4:20
11. “Boogie Woogie Wu” ICP 4:24
12. “The Neden Game” ICP 4:05
13. “Hellalujah” ICP and Legz Diamond 4:57
14. “Down with the Clown” ICP 3:52
15. “Just Like That” ICP 1:34
16. “Pass Me By” ICP and Legz Diamond 6:42
Total length:
67:31

Personnel

Band members and production[19]
  • Violent J – vocals, lyrics
  • Shaggy 2 Dope – vocals, lyrics
  • Mike E. Clark – production, programmer, engineer
  • Rich “Legz Diamond” Murrell – guitar, vocals
  • John Srebalu – assistant engineer
  • John Polito – album sequencer
  • Brain Gardner – engineer
  • Bernie Grundma – engineer
Other personnel[19]
  • Alice Cooper – guest vocals on “Intro”
  • Steve Jones – guitar on “Piggy Pie”
  • Slash – guitar on “Halls of Illusions”
  • Deb Agoli – vocals on “House of Horrors”
  • Kim Marro – vocals on “Hokus Pokus”

Charts and certifications

Charts

Chart Peak
Position
US Billboard 200[37] 63
US Catalog Albums[38] 22

Certifications

Country Certification
(sales thresholds)
United States Platinum[31]

Singles

Year Song Peak positions
UK
Top 40

[23]
1997 “Halls of Illusions” 56
1998 “Hokus Pokus” 54
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One response to “0008. Insane Clown Posse – The Great Milenko [1997]

  1. Hi Paul! I Googled ‘Finally, a single torrent containing all of Piano Magic’s studio albums. And one ep. What you niggaz know about that?’ & you made it onto the first page. I then inexplicably read each of your reviews. Consider yourself bookmarked, & keep it alive 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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