“Luscious” Johnny Stark is a funny dude. If you’ve ever heard his commentary on Juggalo Championship Wrestling videos or seen him in a JCW videos, you can tell he’s a wrestling fan who doesn’t take himself too seriously. He knows he’s playing a bit role as an over-the-top announcer and the wrestlers themselves are the stars of the show, though he has mixed it up in a match or two here or there. When asked if he’d ever want to be a full time wrestler though, Stark said (of himself and tag team partner Methric) “No, we’re not wrestlers. Every time we step into the ring, something bad happens. Either somebody gets hurt, or we get hurt.”
As someone not especially well versed in Juggalo lore at the time, I didn’t connect the dots between “Luscious” Johnny Stark and the rapper Jamie Madrox, even though they are one in the same. That may be in part due to the fact his stage name is the same as a famous Marvel Comics character, one he freely admits he borrowed from for his nom de plume. Perhaps that’s not so surprising though when you realize that “Luscious” Johnny Stark was itself a tribute to “Luscious” Johnny Valiant. Madrox (real name Jamie Spaniolo) takes inspiration from pop culture figures at every turn.
In fact “Phatso” feels like a homage to Insane Clown Posse itself. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. He’s from Detroit, they’re from Detroit. He’s signed to Psychopathic Records. Remember that tag team partner I mentioned? Methric may be better known to you as Monoxide Child from Twiztid, and they too are part of the Juggalo Nation. He produces half of the 14 tracks on Madrox’ album, with the rest handled by Fritz The Cat and Bar None Productions. His lyrics fit like a glove into the ICP family — a little bit macabre, plenty of profanity, and a casual misogyny that regards the opposite sex only when their needs are served.
I have to be honest and say that I prefer Mr. Spaniolo as a comedic announcer and occasional pro wrestler. Can he flow? Yes. It’s like listening to Mike Ehrmantraut rap though if he was 30 years younger and smoked five packs a day. Madrox isn’t just raspy, he isn’t just gravelly, he’s rougher than 24-grit sandpaper. Even when his tag team partner hooks him up with a decent beat on a track like “O.M.G.” the vocals are hard to listen to. “Everybody thinks it’s better to die than to grow old” raps Madrox, even though he sounds like he came back from the afterlife to start a rap career.
Even though I can’t say “Phatso” made me a fan of his rapping, I respect the lyrics of a song like “Tear Jerker” where he talks about coming from the depths of poverty. He came from a broken home, he ate free government cheese and wore second hand clothes, and he certainly didn’t have it easy as a kid. It actually makes me wish his voice wasn’t like nails on a chalkboard, because he’s telling a story right from the heart and not acting like life is all sex, money, and drugs. In fact I’m willing to accept his biography as largely honest given it notes he was never good at freestyling and looked up to fellow local rapper Proof (R.I.P.) as the man to be.
I even appreciate Madrox being self-deprecating for the humor value, although having seen him in JCW videos I could hardly describe him as morbidly obese. Maybe he has a bit of a beer gut, but aside from people who live in the gym or have an insane metabolism, who doesn’t? Here’s a list of things Madrox is not — he’s not that fat, he’s not that bad of a lyricist (aside from overdoing the misogyny) and he’s not incompetent on the mic with his breath control or delivery. It’s the voice that’s hard to get over. What works as a parody of a pro wrestling announcer really doesn’t work that well as a master of ceremonies. Combine that with production that’s average to slightly above average and “Phatso” just isn’t a must listen. I don’t hate him but I just can’t recommend his album unless you’re a hardcore Psychopathic Records completionist.