The First Six Box Set – A Personal Story By J-Webb
Whaddup, homies? Earlier this week when I gave Violent J his copy of “The First Six” box set—which has been shipping out all this week—he told me I should write about the creation of the set and all the crazy shit that I had to go through as project manager. Well, unfortunately, to tell the whole story of how this all went down would take at least a week to write and we’re all busy ninjas around here, so let me just focus on the highlights of this crazy project that took us literally YEARS to put together.
First of all, talks of a box set containing the first six Joker’s Cards had been going on for almost a decade. Every time Violent J and Shaggy would do an autograph signing or take questions at the Gathering of the Juggalos seminar, someone would inevitably ask “Are you going to do a box set with all the original Joker’s Cards?” The problem had always been that “Riddlebox,” “Great Milenko,” and “Amazing Jeckel Brothers” were all owned by corporate record companies and Psychopathic didn’t hold the rights to them. Stale as fuck, but that’s the music biz for ya.
But after years of trying to negotiate with the record companies, Billy Bill and our attorneys were actually able to work out a deal that would allow us to include those albums in a single collection! It took a long time and a SHITLOAD of cheddar to make happen, but we were able to come to an agreement that everyone could live with.
So then came the hard part—actually piecing together a product that could best represent the hallowed first deck of Joker’s Card, which are by now true classics of underground music. Violent J came up with the title The First Six and then we held meeting after meeting trying to come up with ideas to make this as dope as possible. Early ideas included doing a reprint of the long out-of-print “Dog Beats” EP or designing a package similar to the one that was given out at the 2000 Hallowicked concert, with a T-shirt, exclusively designed CDs, etc. But ultimately, we knew we had to present something that was truly definitive; a box set that could stand as a true testament to the power and impact of those first six Joker’s Cards and the Juggalo family.
Last year after the Gathering, we came very close to working out a deal with a distributor to get the First Six out in time for Christmas. But many logistical problems prevented this from happening, ranging from not having enough time to press up all the CDs we need, to nobody agreeing on what the actual box should look like. Right when it looked like we were getting somewhere to make a Fall/Christmas release for “The First Six,” everything fell apart. We realized there was no way to make this happen, partly because we had so much other shit going on—ICP were on tour in Australia, “Forgotten Freshness 5” had just come out, the CDs manufacturers were being picky-as-fuck. It just became a clown painted nightmare. But we were left with no choice but to try again later. There was just no way to pull it off.
About five months into 2014, me, Jumpsteady, Violent J and Shaggy all met in Billy Bill’s office to discuss upcoming projects, including the then still-in-production new Dark Lotus album and ICP’s collaboration with their homies Da Mafia 6ix, The Killjoy Club. The subject of “The First Six” once again came up and we realized that no matter what, we HAD to put this long awaited project out before the end of the year. There was just nothing else we could do. Juggalos had been waiting for literally a decade for a Joker’s Card box set and we OWED it to our Juggalo family to finally make it a reality.
So that meant I had to roll up my sleeves, get to work and do my job to make this happen. In that meeting we scrapped the earlier ideas and started over. The plan was narrowed down to the following flavor: Violent J would write an official booklet about the first deck of Joker’s Cards and both he and Shaggy would scour through the Psychopathic vaults to find rare and old pictures that had never been seen before. They would also individually sign a certificate of authenticity to be included in every set, to ensure that if there was a Juggalo out there who had never been to a Gathering or an ICP in-store appearance, they would still have J and Shaggs’ signature. I suggested creating an actual deck of the first six Joker’s Cards, with the Joker face on the front and each card’s role in the Dark Carnival on the back (most of them were taken directly from the liner notes of the original albums to ensure full accuracy). Finally, ICP decided to include a brand new EP in the box—their first EP since “Eye of the Storm” way back in 2007. This EP, “House of Wax,” would serve as the bridge between the eras of the 2nd and 3rd Joker’s Card of the Second Deck (which is called “The Missing Link” and drops on April 28, 2015!).
With the concept of The First Six finalized, we went to work. ICP labored in the studio on the EP, our in-house computer ninja Mean Dean helped design the booklet and the CD artwork for the “House of Wax” album, while myself and Billy Bill stayed busy talking to the different manufacturers who were producing all the various components needed to assemble the project—one company built the box and deck of Joker’s Cards, another company pressed up a fresh crop of CDs, a fresh Internet company printed the book, and we dealt with the record companies to get copies of “Riddle Box,” “Great Milenko,” and “The Amazing Jeckel Brothers.”
But we were constantly hitting roadblocks, ranging from misprints on items, to having to wait for the foil for the box to come in, to having to make sure deliveries were perfectly scheduled. The bones just came, one by one. First we weren’t able to make the October release date that we had announced at this summer’s Gathering due to a delay in the CD manufacturing. Then we upped the release date to the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, thinking that would be the perfect time to ship the set because it was just before all the holiday craziness truly kicked in.
And this time we were thwarted again by not getting some of the set components delivered in time. I felt like “The First Six” was turning into the underground rap equivalent of “Chinese Democracy,” the Guns N Roses album that took 15 fucking years to finally see the light of day.
But lo and behold, thanks to all of the Hatchet homies who keep Psychopathic running…WE FINALLY GOT EVERYTHING IN, mostly thanks to Billy Bill who drove a trailer to the loading dock to personally pick up two pallets of CDs rather than wait an extra two days for the delivery company to bring them to Psychopathic.
Soon the Hatchet Gear warehouse was busier than that fat fuck Santa Claus’s workshop, as we worked day and night to get The First Six sets assembled, each one done by hand. Chop, Shaggy, Violent J, and Otis all helped assemble the boxes for the set. Me and Billy Bill teamed up to package all the CDs and extra flavor into the box and seal the lid. Then we passed the completed box over to Mean Dean and Jumpsteady for them to shrink wrap everything and add a sticker to the front.
As we continued to build box after box, our homies in the shipping department worked just as fast trying to package and mail out as many boxes as they could. Every night when the postal worker would come by to collect our packages…man, you shoulda seen the look on his face! So many boxes! It looked like an Amazon hub or something. Just pure craziness.
I remember when I built the final box and handed it over to Mean Dean to shrink wrap, I felt this weird mix of joy and sadness. I’d successfully pulled off one of the most anticipated releases in the history of my favorite record label in the world and I felt really proud of that. So why was I feeling sad, too? I guess it’s just that when you work on something that hard over such a long period of time, you become attached to it. It somehow gives your life a strange sense of purpose, like it’s your own personal ninja mission to survive and conquer.
Have any of you Juggalos ever seen the movie “Fitzcarraldo?” I know a lot of you out there are film buffs like me, so maybe you’ve seen it. If you haven’t though, you should check it because it provides a great visualization of what managing the box set felt like at times. The movie’s about this guy in the early 20th century who is living in South America near the Amazon River and is trying to make a fortune by cutting down these trees used to make rubber. The guy, Fitzcarraldo, is kinda crazy and he has this big dream of building an opera house in the middle of the jungle once he gets rich. But it turns out the only way he can get to these rubber trees is to somehow move this 30-ton steamship from one side of a mountain to the other side. So he sails the boat to the edge of this mountain and using the labor of the natives who live in the rain forest, he moves this fucking boat over this mountain, using primitive technology like pullies. Yes, it’s as crazy and fucked up as it sounds…and I must have watched that movie like 10 times over the last year when I was heading up the First Six project. I really FELT like that crazy guy in the jungle, trying to haul that big ass ship over that mountain. But WE FUCKING DID IT! We conquered our own mountain called The First Six box set…and all of us at Psychopathic sincerely hope you love it. It is truly a labor of love for you, the Juggalo family. You turned the first deck of Joker’s Cards into certifiably classic albums and we hope the wait was worth it.
Thank you so much for running with the Hatchet all these years. Merry Christmas to all of you and I hope to kick it with as many of you as possible at next weekend’s Big Ballas Party! Until then…keep it WICKED!
Mad Clown Love,