By Tom Murphy
By Tom Murphy
By A.H. Goldstein
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Noah Hubbell
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
Two nineteen-year-old girls hold up their T-shirts to show off the matching tattoos on their lower backs. The tats are the logo for Primos, the kerosene-and-tire shop where they've hung out, sometimes for hours at a time, every day since they started high school. "I just showed up for a barbecue one year and never left," Bethany says. "I've never had a big family. It's been nice having this instead."
Bethany and Lindsey are juggalettes, and that means Primos is home.
A couple dozen juggalos and juggalettes — many dressed in red, one in a hooded cape and black lipstick — are hanging out in the Primos parking lot on a Saturday afternoon. Hot dogs sizzle on the grill, and while a few of the guys have 40-ounce beers in brown paper bags, most hold tight to bottles of Faygo. "It's like a living, breathing MySpace for juggalos around here," says Wayne, who's just bought his pop in Primos' tiny store. Wayne stops here at least twice a week to see what's going on. But he'd have to be a pretty reclusive juggalo not to know the agenda for this weekend — when Insane Clown Posse and the entire Psychopathic Records label descend on Denver for shows at the Gothic and Red Rocks. The owners of Primos will be there, too, handing out free bottles of Faygo from their tricked-out Primos van.
"I've been a juggalette since the day I was born," says seven-year-old Sierra, proudly pointing to her juggalette T-shirt and her bike, emblazoned with Primos and Denver City Killaz stickers. DCK's frontman, Franky, is a lanky nineteen-year-old who discovered ICP when he was eleven. He gives Sierra props for the sticker, then hobbles over to a cluster of rappers who've been growing a horror-rap scene that caters to Denver's massive juggalo community, the largest in the country. Franky busted his ankle two nights before, and his right foot is twice the size of his left — but he's got drugs to numb the pain until he feels like going to the emergency room. For now, he's trying to unload some chronic. He starts, unsuccessfully, with Scum — the biggest and darkest act in the growing underground horror-core/gore-hop scene, who rhymes about dismemberment and cannibalism.
"We don't go out killing people," Bethany says. "We just use the music as a release."
"And the message behind it is completely different," says 21-year-old Jerrica, who first came to Primos looking for Faygo but soon began using the shop as a refuge when she didn't have food or money, or couldn't take the kids at school anymore. "They throw all that in to attract the kids who are having a fucked-up time."
When Denver School of the Arts student JD Gonzales entered the national My City Now contest a few years ago, he had to create a video about what made his city a great place to live. His answer: a little tire shop near Alameda and Sheridan called Primos, "A Juggalo Home in Denver's Zone." While the camera pans across a dozen kids sitting on the ground outside the shop, outfitted in baggy red and black clothes, tattoos, piercings and long dreads, the voice of Kiki Rodriguez, a Primos owner, explains ICP's draw: "All these kids don't have shit. They wouldn't have nothing, dude. But because they're a juggalo, that's a big part of their life. It gives them something to fucking do, something to be proud of."
Childish, a member of the rap group Brutally Vicious Killaz, tells the camera that Primos is a place where juggalos get together like family. There's no other place like it in Denver; he doubts there's another place like it anywhere. "Denver juggalos are the lifeline of Denver," Kiki continues. "Everybody thinks, how can that be? How can all these scruffy kids have anything important to do with our Mile High City? Juggalos, we're the backbone, yo.... We're all one family. We're united. We're from everywhere. Jocks are juggalos. Rich kids are juggalos. Poor kids are juggalos. Everybody's a ninja. Your grandma could be a juggalo — you just don't know it."
Gonzales's video earned him third place in the contest, and the same question over and over again: "What the hell is a juggalo?"
"There are millions of different definitions, but I'll give you the one I use most often," he says. "To a non-juggalo, a juggalo is just a fan of ICP or Psychopathic. To a juggalo, it's people who are accepting and supportive, people who look out for each other."
That's certainly how Primos got started. Back in 1992, eighteen-year-old Ernie Jones started working at a Texaco gas station on Alameda just off Sheridan. His cousin Kiki Rodriguez, who lived out in Elbert County near Parker, was just eleven then, but he'd come into Denver to hang with Ernie and Ernie's best friend, Flavio "Flava" Arellano — and steal candy from the 7-Eleven next door. "They were gangsters, and I was just kind of running wild with them guys, running around Denver when Larimer was crappy, spray-painting and acting the fool," Kiki remembers. "We were just a bunch of hood kids running around."
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.
When Anybody Killa, a rapper on the Psychopathic label, hit Denver for an autograph signing, they noticed that the tires on the merchandise trailer were hammered. Flava and Ken, who was back from the Army, convinced the tour manager they needed new tires, and arranged for ABK to come to Primos after the signing. They stayed at the shop, even slept there, waiting, but no one showed. When they woke up, Ken and Flava decided to take the tires to Wyoming, where the ABK tour was headed. They found the hotel and changed the trailer's tires by hand. For their efforts, Primos got a bunch of free, autographed merchandise — and a business card with the label's fax number.
"They blew us off, took the tires and ran, and we still had no contract," Kiki says. So he started sending faxes — twenty pages three or four times a week — with pictures of Denver juggalos and lines like this: "This kid wants your clothes. These kids are so sad they can't get your clothing."
"I know they were pissed at us," Kiki says.
When the partners heard that a store in Utah — the now-defunct Juggalo Homies — was selling Hatchet Gear, they took matters into their own hands. Flava had to head that way for a funeral, so he took a couple thousand dollars and brought back as much merchandise as he could. Primos was so small that they had to buy a plastic Tuff Shed to hold all the stuff. "Dude, how ghetto was that?" Kiki laughs. "But we sold it." And they worked out a deal with the Utah store to buy merchandise at a discount while they continued to pester Psychopathic.
But as it turned out, Psychopathic wasn't hating on Primos. It was just a small operation that hadn't figured out how to wholesale its wares. Nathan Extra, the label's spokesman, remembers Kiki's faxes. "Obviously, we appreciate the love and persistence, but when we don't have the answers...it got pretty annoying," he says. And ICP was getting a lot of love from Denver. According to Extra, Colorado is home to at least as many, if not more, juggalos than Michigan, and the Mile High is one of a very few cities where horror rap can fill a venue the size of Red Rocks. That's why on Saturday, the Hatchet Attacks! show — featuring the entire Psychopathic Records label — is coming to Denver, and Denver alone. And on Friday, Dark Lotus — a supergroup composed of the most popular Psychopathic acts, like ICP and Twiztid — will kick off a tour at a sold-out Gothic show. Scum, whose latest album, Dinner's Served, has a cover image of human intestines on a plate, is opening.
"It seems like the Dark Carnival is strong in Denver," Extra says. "Maybe it's some sort of convergence point of the Dark Carnival's energies. Denver's such a vast place, almost remote. This is a place where you had something like Columbine happen. It just proves there's something underneath the surface going on. Columbine is an example of how it can go bad. Wicked shit is an example of how it can go good."
ABK, the beneficiary of the tire change, has no doubt that Denver has the most juggalos of any city. "It's like the juggalo boys' and girls' club," he says of Primos.
In 2004, Primos finally got Psychopathic's approval to buy its merchandise wholesale. "We were first in Colorado, and like the second in the nation, which was a big deal in the juggalo world," Kiki says. Big enough that Primos quit selling gasoline and turned the store's counter into a little display case.
To save money while they grew their business, Kiki and his wife and daughter were living with Ernie and his wife and kids. Flava and Ken moved in, too. In exchange for Faygo and cigarettes and a place to sleep, they worked at the store six days a week. "What more does a person need?" Flava asks. "Any more than that's greedy."
Ernie was managing a run-down trailer park on East Colfax in Aurora. The property had a faux Dutch windmill that seemed like the perfect spot for a second Primos, and they planned to have an autograph signing with some artists to celebrate the official opening once they got their permits. "It was like that game, telephone," Kiki remembers. "By the time it got to the police department, we were going to have ICP there for a free concert and there was going to be a riot." The police came over, told the Primos partners that they would be responsible for any damage to the city — and that they needed to close their store "because out there juggalos are a gang, and someone with a known gang affiliation can't operate a business," Kiki continues. Although by now they had the required Aurora permits, the partners closed the second location a day after it opened and took its contents to the original Primos, where business was booming.
The Aurora Police Department has no record of that encounter, or of any other incidents with Primos — except for the time Flava and Ernie witnessed a burglary in one of the trailers and acted as witnesses. According to Agent Bob Friel, his department doesn't name gangs, and so won't comment on whether it considers juggalos a gang.
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."
While he was still in high school — bouncing from Manual to East to Overland when he'd get in trouble — he recorded songs with a group called Down Syndrome. He used the word "fuck" excessively, not just because he liked it, but because he had a small vocabulary. "What's going to piss off the person that's parked next to you in traffic when your windows are down and you're playing it? Let's talk about that," he says. "I love pissing people off. I love getting dirty looks."
At seventeen, Scum was living on his own when a kid named Sevill came knocking on his apartment door, looking for a joint. He thought the kid with long hair who blasted death metal probably smoked. "It turned out we were the same age, listened to the same type of stuff," Scum says, citing the horror rap of Esham and ICP. "He didn't really have no family, and I had very limited family...no blood relatives in this country aside from my mother. We were two troubled teens with no families and big dreams."
They decided to form a rap duo. "He made some crappy beats, I made some crappy raps, but we had fun," says Scum, who quit going by Ivan about that time. When no label showed much interest in their music — the content was a problem, but so was the fact that the music wasn't that good, Scum admits — they started their own label, Lyrikal Snuff Productions, in 2001. Getting the CDs pressed was still a challenge, though, because no company wanted to print artwork like that of Enter the Asylum, a CD that has shots of Scum stabbing and slitting the throat of a naked woman.
Scum didn't cross paths with Primos until 2005, when a friend gave Flava a copy of one of Scum's CDs. The Primos partners liked it, and invited Scum to sell his CDs and merchandise in their store. But that wasn't all: They wanted to work with Scum, and not just because his dark music fit their genre. He was clearly someone who knew that it took hard work to promote shows and was willing to do the work. Scum had been building his fan base for years, playing mostly 21-and-over shows at bars like Cricket on the Hill that would draw fifty people at most and piss off a lot of the venues' regulars. When Primos invited him to be part of the Mile High Massacre, it was Scum's first all-ages show, and he quickly realized that he'd been missing a huge market. The kids loved him.
Together, Scum and Primos took BVK and DCK on a six-state tour. Most of the acts' members had never been outside of Colorado, and it was like their first family vacation, even though they were sleeping in tents and showering at rest stops. In 2006, the scene got a big boost when a Denver act that Primos had been promoting, Axe Murder Boyz, won a Psychopathic contest and got a one-year contract. (AMB is now back in Denver doing its own thing, because Primos and other local groups felt the rappers had abandoned them during their fifteen minutes.) And they've hosted three consecutive GoreFests at the Aztlan Theatre that attract horror-core (or gore-hop, as Scum likes to call it) artists and fans from around the country.
But they've had setbacks, too. Last summer, Sevill — Scum's best friend and longtime business partner — died unexpectedly. He'd been working behind the scenes and backing the label financially from Indiana, where he'd moved. His death was a huge blow to Scum, who went from putting on shows every few weeks to doing nothing for months.
When he finally got back to work, he and Primos organized a big November show at Cervantes', bringing in Anybody Killa as a headliner. Cervantes' was one of the few venues willing to book their kind of music, but it was an uneasy relationship. Juggalos wear red, which makes them an obvious target for the Crips who hang out in Five Points, and some of them don't shy away from starting a fight. The Suicidal Killaz are the closest thing to an official juggalo gang. Back in 2004, when Franky was fifteen, two juggalo groups joined forces to become SK. "Next thing you know," he remembers, "we're sixty soldiers deep, every one of us pushing drugs. My specialty was robbing stores. I gave the plans, told them what stores to hit."
After Franky got caught and put on house arrest, he got into rapping. "It was like we were forced out of all the shit we were doing, thank God, and we were kind of pushed more towards the music," he says. But as DCK was building a following, fans started saying they were SK — which also became the name of DCK's label. "People in my crew were running up on fans, like 'You ain't Suicidal,'" says Franky, who calls himself the leader of SK. He had to get it in their heads that they weren't that kind of gang anymore.
Franky now refers to SK as an "organization." Kiki calls it a gang, while Flava — who used to be in a real west-side gang — says it's not. But Flava and Kiki agree that the SK fans can start trouble. "When they get together, it's a goddamn nightmare, just total mayhem," Kiki says. "They go psychotic. It's hard to control them."
Especially outside Cervantes' when a couple of Crips roll up. "Juggalos are crazy," Kiki says. "One of them won't do much to you, but forty of them, they get the mob mentality. There's been many a show where there's like four Crips and forty kids just beating the fuck out of these guys. The owner of the club, he called us the Warriors. It's a 1970s movie about gangs, and there's a group in there that paint their faces and run around with baseball bats. That's how we are, I guess."
At the November show, a fight started between an SK kid who was out front smoking a cigarette and a couple of Crips. When word of the fight trickled inside, Kiki, Flava, Ken and Scum ran out to try to stop it. "We went out there to make peace," Kiki says. "We were saying, 'We understand it's your neighborhood. We don't want any drama.' They weren't having it. They pulled their pistols out, like 'Fuck, no, you guys are leaving now.'" Ken got hit with a gun so hard his teeth went through his lip, and his eye is still black. Flava had part of his ear torn off. Shots were fired, and Scum landed on Kiki. "I thought he did get shot," Kiki says. "He fell on top of me. I dragged him into the club." Inside, people started screaming that Scum was shot, that he was dead. Anybody Killa was still performing on stage when Cervantes' owner turned the sound off and the lights on and told everybody they had to clear out.
Scum had been knocked out with a pistol, and he came to amid all the girls screaming and crying. He was flattered, and also relieved that it was him and not a kid who'd gotten hurt.
Primos and Scum haven't put on a show there since. "I'd feel so bad if one of our fans was killed coming to watch our show over a color," Kiki says. "We're out of that. We're not doing the gang thing. We grew up. It sucks we have to be forced to stop doing what we love because of that. Cervantes' was like our home."
But they have a couple of other places they can still book. Late last year, a show they put on at the Gothic brought in 600 people for a bill with Scum and local hip-hop group 5280. And on April 26, the third GoreFest arrived at the Aztlan.
Aside from BVK, DCK and the out-of-staters, just about everybody who stepped onto the stage that day had been a fan of Scum's, someone he'd helped get a start. "That guy does nothing but work, work, work," says fan-turned-hype-man Kyle "McFly" Swearengen. "He stresses out to make sure everybody gets a chance."
Scum talks in a deep, exaggerated voice with a faint trace of a Russian accent. He always dresses in red and black, usually his own merchandise. At shows, he and many of his fans wear theatrical contact lenses that they pick up at costume shops and flea markets, which make their eyes look gray and pupil-less, like zombies'. But despite his appearance and his lyrics, colleagues say Scum is one of the most polite, professional figures on the scene.
At the show, Scum kept a minute-by-minute schedule, introducing each twenty-minute set himself and rapping with half of them.
Minutes before DCK's set was supposed to start, frontman Franky was sitting outside with the smokers. A small circle of fans and friends had gathered around him, waiting to hear what he was going to say next. Lanky and pale, he had a red contact in one eye and a blue one in the other, which made him look a little more bloodshot and crazy than he already does. "I missed your last show, man," one kid said. "I never miss you, but I was in jail."
"Yeah, I just got out, too," said another fan.
"Man, I haven't been in jail since," Franky paused to think. "Not since the day after GoreFest last year."
A tall security guard named Jamal asked Franky for a cigarette, and Franky made a proposition. He wanted Jamal to kick everyone who wasn't standing up by the stage or in the mosh pit out of their chairs, forcing them to the floor for his set. "I want to fucking crowd-surf," Franky explained.
Jamal said he couldn't do it.
"I'll give you forty bucks."
Jamal smiled, nodded, and headed back inside.
Next to Franky, a kid named Iggy was examining his hand and groaning. Someone had stepped on it when he fell in the mosh pit. "I know you got pills," Iggy said. "Hook me up with some Vicodin."
"Nah," Franky replied. "All I got is Oxy."
Iggy didn't have enough cash, but the guys who just got out of jail were game.
"Hey," Iggy said to Franky, like he was remembering something. "Did you steal $100 from some kid last night?"
"No, I robbed a guy for $1,200," Franky said, then told the story of how some dude he'd never met before had hit him up for two ounces of coke. Franky took his money, gave him a fake phone as collateral, and calmly walked off with the cash, never to return.
"Yeah, well, this guy I know says you stole $100 from him. Asked if I knew you. Said he was going to kill you. I told him good luck."
Franky smiled and shrugged.
"DCK!" he yelled.
"DCK!" the smokers yelled back.
Inside, the audience was chanting "DCK! DCK!" as Jamal walked through the aisles, a flashlight in one hand, tapping people on the shoulder with the other: "You can't sit here right now. You've got to move."
DCK attracted the biggest crowd of the night, and the fans chanted the musicians' lyrics right back at Franky and Rob and Vince. "Still on the street," they rapped. "Still selling drugs."
Rob and Vince now live at their grandparents' house in Centennial. Their grandparents are supportive of what the boys are trying to do with their music, despite its content, and pass out Denver City Killaz products. "We're like ghetto-ass punks, ghetto-ass white kids," Rob says. "Just because we live where we live right now doesn't mean we haven't seen some shit in our lives before. Like right now, I got a case pending, I might do a year or two years in jail.... It's felony menacing, unlawful discharge of a firearm. The shit that we rap about, it's true. It's what's going on."
"I think that's why people dig it so much," Vince says. "It's from the heart. We're not putting on a front or putting on a show. We do try to do it to the best of our abilities when we're performing, but sometimes we're a little too drunk or have taken a bit too many painkillers that night. But they love it either way, man. It's a good feeling to know that people like our shit."
"It definitely keeps us out of trouble, too," Vince says. "For the most part."
"We're not like gang members," Rob says. "I mean, we used to do some dumb shit back in the day, and then the music came and we're like, no more."
But while Franky likes to say that he's given up the "gang shit" for a more "positive direction" — and his adult record is clean — he still deals drugs. He tried to quit after his son was born six months ago, even got a full-time job, but he couldn't pay the bills on $10 an hour and soon was back to dealing on the side.
Then he gave up the job so that he wouldn't miss out on big deals during the work week. "I do handle most of the dirty business," he says. "I'm not afraid to admit it, either. This is America. Do you really expect me to pay bills off a minimum-wage job? You're living in a fucking fairy tale. I got kids. Fuck that. I need fucking money.
"We weren't given that great a start and a whole lot of opportunity, but we know what we know, and we're doing quite well for a bunch of kids with seventh-grade educations," he continues. "I want to take the people that I feel deserve something better and I want to fucking put them there. I'm trying to make something better. I'm going to do it either way, whether it's legitimate or illegitimate."
Kiki thinks that attitude is pretty emblematic of fans in the scene, especially the SK kids who look up to DCK. "They all want to be legit," he says. "They want to do something, make their life better. But it's easy money compared to working every day. They'll call us up, be all proud, 'Hey, Primos, I got a job.' A week later, 'That's too much work. They wanted me to work like eight hours, dude. They wouldn't even let me smoke weed.'
"We try to give them somebody to look up to, like you can be who you are and still run a legitimate business. Take all your energy you put into selling weed or selling dope or whatever, and do the same thing with selling your music, selling your T-shirts."
As funny as it seems to them, the Primos partners have become role models. With the store and the barbecues and the shows, they're giving the juggalos something to do, something to keep them out of trouble. The partners are a popular choice for shadowing on career days, and they give out free Faygo for good report cards, as well as for birthdays and for getting out of jail.
"I like to help these kids, keep them from making some of the mistakes I made when I was a kid," Flava says. "I sleep better at night knowing I'm trying to help them, because they look up to us. When we do deliveries, I can be stocking coolers and a juggalo will just come up and hug me from behind, tell me thanks for everything we do. Joining the gang was a waste of time. I found the respect and love and camaraderie...there's no words to describe how the juggalos make you feel when they just run up on you while you're working and tell you how great you are."
Flava and Kiki were sitting at a Denny's recently when a guy they'd never met walked by and shouted a little "woop woop" — the juggalo greeting call. Shit like that happens all the time. Kiki's cell phone keeps beeping as he gets random texts from kids that say things like "Much clown love."
Qrem Dela Qrem used to be Mike, one of the kids hanging around Primos. He'd drive down from Greeley to give Kiki some demos or stickers of the stuff he was working on as Qrem. Kiki told Scum about him, and Scum let him on the first GoreFest bill. Qrem looked like a jester, with his wild red hair and painted face, and the crowd took to him quickly, so Scum offered to let him record on the LSP label.
Mike's a garbage man by day, with a fiancée and a daughter, but he feels like a celebrity. He's met fans with Q tattoos, sees his stickers everywhere, gets asked for autographs and has opened up for people he used to just listen to on his stereo. It's huge for a guy whose mentor and gym teacher told him he was lucky he didn't turn out to be a serial killer, given his history. Mike's father kidnapped him when he was five, and it took the cops six years to track him down. When the police finally took him back to his mom, Mike hardly remembered her. His father had started giving him alcohol and weed at seven, and he kept drinking and doing drugs and getting into trouble until his mom couldn't handle it anymore. He left home at sixteen.
After a series of arrests for DUI, theft, burglary and criminal mischief, Mike landed in a halfway house in Greeley. "I seen dudes who were like fifty seeing their grandkids in there," he remembers. "I'm like, I'm glad I'm nineteen now so I can get this shit over with. After that was when I straightened up."
Today he shares his story as a cautionary tale. Occasionally, he'll go buy a stack of Domino's pizzas and put a bulletin on his MySpace page inviting kids to come over to his garage. He calls them his friends, but they're his fans. "I can relate to a lot of these kids. I got a friend, his mom was a meth addict and stuff when he was growing up and had him and his sister taken away," Mike says. "He's been on his own since he got out of the foster home at seventeen. And he's like, 'Dude, it's so hard.' I'm like, 'Yeah, that's life.' They don't have anybody to tell them it's going to be okay. I was a bad kid, a real bad kid, so I know it's not the way to go if you want to accomplish your shit. If you want to come up, you got to get your shit straight. I tell this to a lot of these kids."
So does Scum. "A lot of people in the scene are angry people, and they have two options," he says. "They can either go out and shoot people or pick up the mike and shoot people in their songs. When I get frustrated and want to walk into my job and start unloading on them, I go to the studio, record a couple of tracks about going to my job and unloading on them, and I feel better. It's a release. Same with the mosh pit. We don't have a very happy crowd. We have a great crowd, they're die-hard. But they don't come from happy homes. We don't have many rich kids in our scene. A lot of them are broke. A lot of them are homeless. A lot of them are hungry. A lot of them are facing jail time. On probation. They're going through hard times, and they need angry music to relieve the stress."
And they need family.
"They say you can't pick your family, but I think you can," Flava says. "Everything we do is about loyalty and family. People can downplay everything we do and say we're never going to make it big, and we might not..."
"We already have, in our own way," Kiki says.
In the past year, the Primos partners have gone from promoting rap groups to becoming their own rap group. They build elaborate stage sets, like cemeteries and hangman's nooses, have friends dress up like zombies on stage, and bring in lights and fog. BVK helps with the beats, and kids already know the words to their songs.
Flava stays away from the microphone, but he gets to star in another Primos venture: Primos Hardcore Wrestling. The partners didn't set out to create their own version of Juggalo Championship Wrestling; they just wanted to organize matches with already established wrestling clubs in Denver. But fans of those clubs didn't take to the juggalo heckling, profanity and gimmicks. So they started booking matches in the back room of the Buffalo Rose in Golden.
At juggalo wrestling, the heroes — including Flava, who goes by the name that Franky gave him, Big Stress — are face-painted clowns, a killer in a Jason mask, and a massive ogre of a man playing the bogeyman. The villains are skinny rednecks in jean shorts and cowboy hats, like "Brokeback Billy." Props include everything from Twinkies to a toilet seat. And little kids who've come to watch with their families scream things like "You can do it, bogey! Kick his ass! You stupid hillbilly!" while the ICP song "Chicken Huntin'," which is about killing rednecks, plays overhead. And in the end, when the juggalos are inevitably victorious, the chanting is instantaneous.
"Fam — il — y!"
"Fam — il — y!"
Near the end of the ten-hour GoreFest, Scum finally took the stage for his own set. "You motherfuckers ready for some sick shit?" he yelled.
Some captured alive, and though none will survive, I strive for my meats to stay juicy.
So slice after slice I dissect them like mice, their wounds stuffed with tampons like pussy.
Alive they'll remain, going insane from the pain, that's why some would call me sadistic.
Don't fuck them 'cause it's rude, to be puttin' a dick up in your food, my urges are straight cannibalistic.
Increased murder rate, when I come to your state, that must be the fate
Don't cry, it's too late, when your guts on a plate are about to get ate.
Bloody body on a meat hook, bloody body in the fridge, bloody body in the river, floating underneath the bridge.
'Cause that body got to rotting, reeking like a roadkill skunk, those that decompose disposed of, no one likes dead body funk.
Got to eat them freshly murdered, got to eat them while they fresh, love the taste of bloody tender, gooey, chewy, human flesh.
After all the rhymes about dead bodies, crushed bones and cannibalism, Scum said he wanted to dedicate the show to his fallen brother, Sevill. As he rapped "The Good Die Young," which he wrote for him, kids stopped moshing and pulled out their lighters. They stood still, with flames raised, through the entire song.
Then Scum introduced his "personal mentor," Insane Poetry, a group out of L.A. Although this was the night's headliner, a lot of the kids started clearing out; they'd come to see Scum. So Scum jumped to the floor and restarted the mosh pit to keep the crowd.
When Scum finally returned to the stage, Insane Poetry's Cyco said he had a surprise. It was Scum's birthday, and his friends were going to say a few words. Qrem came up and said that Scum was his mentor, his engineer, that he owes it all to him. McFly said that he started out as a fan and Scum took him in as a brother. Flava — who has tattoos across his neck that read "SK, I miss your mommy," for Franky's mom, and "LSP, I miss your brother," for Sevill — said they'd been through a lot together, made a lot of mistakes together, but had come through as family.
A blushing Scum thanked them all. "All of you who stayed the whole fucking night, you're the ones that keep the scene alive," he said. "If we keep up, we're going to take over Colorado."