Bold, incriminating statement number one--we struggle to think of a criticism one could level at ICP that can't be levelled at most major F.M. rappers currently crowding KMOJ. Like almost all platinum selling MCs topping the charts, ICP suffers from the same lack of lyrical talent, the same sleepwalk stage presence, the same fall-back tropes.
So why is ICP subject to such especial criticism? After sitting through last night's First Avenue show in its entirety, we really don't have any idea. If you closed your eyes, ignored the soupy carnival aesthetic, the flat truth is that the music isn't all that bad.
But the majority of people who decry the band for a lack of talent probably have never heard more than 30 seconds of the music, and almost certainly have never attended a show. Like no other band before them, ICP's reputation precedes them. And, while ICP is still certainly a band with a surplus of schtick and a deficit of talent, and while they are unsightly, crude, and quick on the cash-in, that's nothing that has kept bands like Kiss, Marilyn Manson, and Gwar from staying off the "worst of all time" lists.
The show was, in all respects, a carnal carnival. The stage was configured like a circus entrance, complete with caged freaks that writhed and danced for the duration of the set. There were burning barrels, and enormous drums of Faygo bottles, seemingly bottomless--in an avergae song, Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent Jay went through 20 bottles easily, spraying it on the capacity crowd. If they had their clown dancers behind them, triple it. The mind boggles, and Faygo executives surely aren't complaining about ICP's inexplicable success.
The rappers themselves were total afterthoughts--they were little more than empty avatars, vessels of Faygo, painted faces with no actual flesh or spirit behind them. But who cares? ICP is best regarded as a commercial entity--they are technicians of their craft, and by that measure, the show was a success. Their performance was the very definition of bread and circuses--a formula which has proven effective and above reproach for centuries and which kept the sold out crowd chanting with more fervor and dedication than we've ever seen at a Doomtree Blowout.
There was much fear that the show would become a riot--juggalos (ICP's unbelievably devoted fans) have a well earned reputation for savagery. But even the crowd, ghastly and unsightly as they were, remained orderly and convivial through out the set. One could almost--ALMOST--call the atmosphere familial.
We smiled. We even caught ourselves applauding. And at the end of the show, we realized that, while ICP are no great geniuses, their sorry reputation is unearned, and almost offensive. It's just music, after all--and far worse bands have managed to escape the ire that ICP suffers. Untalented? Yes. Shticky? Yes. Low brow? Yes. But that's nothing that's kept 50 Cent from the cover of Rolling Stone.