By Noah Hubbell
By Leslie Simon
By Brad Lopez
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Inkoo Kang
By Dave Herrerra
By Josiah M. Hesse
Flava and Ernie were fans of a couple little-known rap artists in Detroit. Instead of rhyming about women and money, Esham rapped about murder, suicide, drugs and mental illness. The Inner City Posse made music that was equally dark — and had plenty of material for their album Dog Beats, since its members had also started an ill-fated gang of the same name that was no match for the established gangs of inner-city Detroit. But Joe Bruce, better known as Violent J, and Joey Utsler, aka Shaggy 2 Dope, soon decided they wanted to try something more original. And out of a dream about a dark carnival, the Insane Clown Posse was born. In 1992, the duo of insane clowns who painted their faces and rapped about killing the corrupt released their first album, Carnival of Carnage, on their own label, Psychopathic Records. The company's logo was the Hatchetman, a Mohawked character running with a hatchet that Shaggy 2 Dope had scribbled on a napkin. The band's followers — not that there were many outside of Detroit in the beginning — started calling themselves "juggalos." As Violent J explains it, he was at a show rapping "The Juggla" — a song about an actual carnival juggler — when he changed the word to "juggalo." The fans loved it, so he went with it.
By 1995, when ICP's third album, Riddle Box, came out, Flava was a full-fledged juggalo. "It went from just being music to like a lifestyle kind of thing," he remembers. Being a juggalo was all-consuming. ICP was not only what he listened to, it was all he listened to. It influenced how he dressed, where he hung out, who he hung out with, what he drank. Faygo — a cheap Detroit soda pop — became synonymous with ICP. Juggalos made a mess with it at shows, spraying it everywhere. It was the only non-alcoholic drink juggalos wanted.
As for alcoholic drinks, Flava and a few buddies found a nearby bar — Hollywood Legends, on Sixth Avenue — that was willing to play a couple of ICP songs on Wednesday and Friday nights. Juggalos were soon coming out of the woodwork to hang out there. In just a few weeks, it went from Flavio and three friends to thirty people showing up.
Kiki was the only juggalo at his Elbert high school. In 1999, after he graduated, he moved to Denver and got a little apartment with his girlfriend and his best friend, Ken Abrahamson. Just after he turned eighteen, Kiki got caught selling drugs. He was in jail when he found out his girlfriend was pregnant. "I realized I needed to pull my shit together and man up," he says. By then, Ernie owned the Texaco franchise, and when Kiki got out of jail, he started working there part-time.
In 2001, Shell bought Texaco, and Ernie got the chance to buy his gas station outright and turn it independent. He and Kiki became partners and named their new business Primos — "cousins" in Spanish — and brought in Flava and Ken, their best friends from childhood. Kiki soon had an idea for how to expand the business. They'd started ordering Faygo for the store, since it was hard to find in Denver and the juggalo partners liked to drink it themselves, but within a matter of weeks, juggalos from all over Denver, people they'd never met, were showing up at Primos for Faygo. "We got maybe fifty cases and started selling it, and it spiraled into, Jesus, we need like pallets of the stuff," Kiki recalls.
Kiki knew enough about selling drugs to know he could move some Faygo. "I called it liquid crack," he says. "If I can get it on the streets, get the kids doing it, I can make some money."
But he needed money to make money. He got it after 9/11, when Ken took off to join the Army and started sending money back home — money for his mom, and for the business. Kiki used it to buy a truckload of Faygo.
He started hustling his liquid crack to other stores. At first no one wanted it; they'd never heard of Faygo. But those willing to give it a try saw juggalo kids flooding their stores, buying twenty two-liters at a time. "The store owners would call me up, like, 'These kids are crazy,' and if they ran out of pop, they were like, 'These kids are breaking out my windows, they're tearing up the store, they're stealing, you gotta bring us some more pop,' so luckily we had that on our side," Kiki remembers. "The kids would strong-arm them to bring more soda." His distribution system eventually grew to about forty pallets a month stocking 200 stores.
Meanwhile, Primos was becoming a juggalo hangout. Kiki — always the businessman — realized that all these juggalos would buy merchandise. But Psychopathic Records, ICP's label that now represented a number of horror acts, sold its Hatchet Gear only at shows. The Primos partners started harassing the label, juggalo style, to get permission to stock its products. They'd chase down artists and tour managers when they came through town for autograph signings, and at shows they'd hand out cards that said "We need Hatchet Gear" and have kids litter the stage with them.