By Noah Hubbell
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Alex Distefano
By Darryl Smyers
By Jon Solomon
By Britt Chester
Other local jurisdictions, such as Arvada, Lakewood and Jefferson County, do not classify juggalos as an organized gang, though some crime — graffiti, in particular — has been connected to the group (see story below). "Nationally, this question is an ongoing issue in that there is kind of a continuum of involvement for persons who consider themselves to be juggalos," explains Regina Huerter, executive director of the Denver Crime Prevention and Control Commission, who leads the Metro Denver Gang Coalition. "At the extreme end is where you see violence and destruction, but there's also many kids who consider themselves to be juggalos and are not involved in that. They're involved in the music and consider it a family."
By the mid-2000s, Denver was home to a thriving underground horror-rap scene.
Brutally Vicious Killaz, or BVK, was born when Roy Lopez and Josh Barela met at Lincoln High School and found out they were both using the same rap name, X-plicit. They came up with new names — V and Childish — and started rapping together. Over the next few years, the two big, tough-looking guys hooked up with baby-faced Ben Casas, or Benzo, and the sweet-sounding Andrew Perez, Mister Twist. They called their music "killa shit." It had a gangsta-rap style, with lyrics heavy on murder and horror themes, but much of it was meant to be light and funny, too.
They had their first show in Benzo's back yard, on a stage they'd built with a couple of crates and some plywood. They invited the Primos partners, whom they considered friends from all the time they'd spent hanging out at the shop, and the partners brought a few dozen juggalos. "It was dumping rain; it was horrible," Kiki remembers.
But BVK kept at it, and Primos was soon hosting barbecues in the parking lot, where BVK would come to rap. For the first one, in 2004, they called up everybody on the "Ninja List" that kids could sign when they stopped in the store. "Of course, they wrote, like, 'Serial Killer Scott' or whatever," Kiki says. "So we'd be calling and talking to their moms, like, 'Is Serial Killer Scott there?' And she's like, 'Who? Scotty?'" Two hundred kids showed up for the first barbecue, and the events just grew from there.
Bolstered by the turnout, when Kiki spotted an ad for a battle of the bands competition at Cervantes', he signed up BVK. Bands were supposed to sell their own tickets, and because Primos sold the most for BVK — a hundred — the act got to headline. "Of course, everybody else was playing instruments," Kiki says. "It was a rock thing. BVK comes in, and they're not small guys. They're huge, ginormous guys rapping on stage with no instruments. It was such a bad combination. They were so mad at us, but we had most of the crowd." The winner was supposed to be selected by acclamation, and BVK came in first — with cheers from their half of the fans and boos from the other half. But after the emcee pointed out that boos would only help BVK generate more sound on the applause meter, the band fell out of first.
After the show, Kiki went to Jay Bianchi and told him he wanted to bring rap shows to Cervantes', since he'd shown that rap could pull a crowd. Bianchi was a little leery, but ultimately agreed. "I think they get a bad reputation because they're all painted and all that stuff," Bianchi says, "but basically they're good kids, expressing themselves in their own little way." The Mile High Massacre in March 2005 was the first show Primos promoted at Cervantes', and the first gig for a new group Primos had been helping: Denver City Killaz.
Brothers Rob and Vince Smith and cousin Franky Sanchez — aka Rizz, V Espa and Graffix — had been part of the juggalo scene, hanging out at Primos since they were barely teens. "I was raised by Primos and my mom — sadly, mainly Primos," Franky says. They were known as little gangsters who sold drugs and robbed fast-food restaurants under the name Suicidal Killaz, or the Red Army, and their reputations didn't hurt when they started making music. For a Primos barbecue, Rob printed a sampler CD they'd recorded in their grandparents' basement to play over the shop's P.A. system. He'd burned about sixty CDs and figured he might give away a couple. But everyone wanted one, and the CDs were soon gone.
A few months later, Primos asked the Killaz to play the Mile High Massacre. Rob remembers being backstage, nervous as hell, on his way to give the sound guy the CD. "And we hear this big-ass 'DCK! DCK!' all through the halls and shit," he says.
The juggalos were a ready-and-waiting fan base, hungry for fresh blood, and they got all they could stomach from DCK and a creepy dude named Scum.
Scum, whose actual name is Ivan Ovchinnikov, came to Denver from Moscow when he was sixteen. His mom had already moved to Colorado to work as a university scientist; Ivan had the choice of staying in Moscow with his dad and being drafted into the military, or coming to America. The already anti-establishment teen wasn't about to risk his life for his country, so he left. But adjusting to life here wasn't easy. "It sucked, it sucked horribly," he says. "I think a lot of negativity was built up over that time period while trying to learn English."