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“Fuck your dress code, I swing my balls
Fuck your restroom, I’m pissing on walls”
It’s strange to contemplate “F.T.F.O.” I’m so used to Insane Clown Posse as a duo that it’s hard to picture Shaggy 2 Dope without Violent J or vice versa. They were so commercially successful by the mid-2000’s though that they could afford to indulge their artistic whims, especially since they owned their own record label and could count on hardcore juggalos to buy each release. If Shaggy felt like doing a solo album for the hell of it, was he going to tell himself not to put it out on Psychopathic Records? Fuck no. That’s the entire ethos behind “F.T.F.O.” — doing what the fuck you want, however the fuck you want, whenever the fuck you want. “There’s no stopping me… though everybody tries” sums up both Shaggy’s feelings and those of ICP’s critics on “Make It Happen.”
A funny thing happens when Joseph William Utsler is left on his own. While he doesn’t abandon his penchant for expressing horrorcore levels of violence, it no longer feels like an attempt to constantly one up his partner-in-rhyme. This has to be a mixed bag for ICP fans. If you’re used to Shaggy and Violent J trading verses back and forth until the sex, violence, rock ‘n roll lifestyle reaches comic levels of absurdity bordering on parody, “F.T.F.O.” may not deliver that macabre punch. Hearing Shaggy contemplate the meaning of life over a smooth Mike E. Clark track on “Half Full” though is (for me at least) a pleasant surprise.
“How come there ain’t enough for everyone?
How come you can’t take back the shit you’ve done?
How come broke people, they stay poor?
Richies get more and bolt lock the doors
How come everyone has panic attacks?
We need pills just to chill and relax”
If you’re skeptical you’re certainly entitled to be. Even while enjoying the song I had the thought it’s not hard to make a list of things wrong with the world and make it rhyme. He’s not talking about how to make changes for himself or anybody else to make things better. In truth Shaggy 2 Dope is not the first person you’d go to for thoughtful music, and the whole point of titling a solo album “Fuck The Fuck Off” is to reinforce he’s still a crazy Hatchet Warrior who takes no shit from anyone. It serves a dual purpose here though — it suggests that Shaggy is going to try some new things whether you like it or not. I imagine the ICP fans won’t be mad at songs like “Pull Me Over” though — a typically terroristic track that plays out like the plot of a short movie where the cops are out to get him and vice versa.
The support for “F.T.F.O.” on its release proved fans were willing to go on this ride with Shaggy. It moved 14,000 physical units the first week, the kind of numbers even superstars would kill for these days, and certainly enough for an independent like Psychopathic Records to profit hugely from it. When you don’t have a major label taking 90% of the profit, you don’t have to go gold or platinum to come out ahead. I imagine it has probably sold several hundred thousand copies total in the interim. When I hear old school samples mixed with with over-the-top party anthems like “Ball Bounce” I’m not mad at it.
I don’t think anybody is more surprised than me that I enjoyed a Shaggy 2 Dope solo album. I’ve had a hit and miss relationship with ICP since their inception — admiring their business and marketing acumen while not always enjoying the quality of their beats and rhymes. That might be why I respect “F.T.F.O.” though. Shaggy 2 Dope could have just phoned it in and the album would have sold anyway, but he and producers Mike E. Clark, Polar Bear, Fritz The Cat and even Violent J himself (he produces three songs) put forth their best effort and I’m in no way inclined to tell them to FTFO as a result. It will probably be overlooked by some just for not being a Posse album, but if was an ICP album it would be high on the list of worthwhile listens from their immense catalogue.