On June 24, 1997, the Walt Disney Corporation orders one of its subsidiary record labels to recall 100,000 already shipped copies of an album by a recently signed artist—Insane Clown Posse—on the day of its planned release. The issue at hand: the graphic nature of the Detroit “horror-core” rap duo’s lyrics.
Those not familiar with oeuvre of the group that Blender magazine named the “Worst Band in History” would do best to imagine, in the most literal way possible, what a rap group made up of actual insane clowns might look and sound like. Not “wacky” clowns or “spooky” clowns, but criminally insane clowns of the homicidal variety. Formed in Detroit in the early 1990s by the MCs Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, Insane Clown Posse had built a strong enough grassroots following with their first two albums and their bloody, special-effects-laden live show to have their contract purchased for $1 million by Disney subsidiary Hollywood Records in 1997. Work began immediately on the group’s next album, The Great Milenko—a reference to one of many fictional characters in the tales of murder and mayhem in which the Posse trafficked. On June 24, 1997, with 100,000 copies already shipped and 14,000 already sold, The Great Milenko was poised to debut at #63 on the Billboard 200 album chart when corporate officials at Disney decided to cease production and begin an immediate recall of the album.
The rationale offered for the action by Disney officials was reasonable enough: They deemed the lyrical content of The Great Milenko to be inappropriately graphic. But the Insane Clowns and their handlers at Hollywood Records thought there was more to the recall. Just weeks earlier, a boycott of all Disney businesses had been threatened by the Southern Baptist Convention in protest of Disneyland’s “Gay Days,” and critics of Disney’s move voiced strong suspicion that this pressure is what encouraged Disney to crack down on Insane Clown Posse.