- Humble Among, Wonderland
Over the years, I've written about many odd albums submitted to Seven Days, but few of those records have been truly original. The latest project from prolific Bellows Falls rapper and tastemaker Humble Among stands out: It appears to be the world's first Juggalo children's album. The fittingly titled Wonderland is a wild, fun ride.
For those unaware, Juggalos form the strange, proud subculture that's grown out of horrorcore hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse's fan base. It's a tight-knit community with endless layers of in-jokes and secret codes. Juggalos have also been classified as a criminal street gang by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There's some rich history here, to say the least.
There are some big numbers, too. Today, well over a million American Juggalos are swilling Faygo — ICP's soft drink of choice — from sea to shining sea. And decades after ICP's 1992 debut, Carnival of Carnage, there are many thousands of second-generation Juggalos. There's a viable market in a music business in which the satanic earworm of children's song "Baby Shark" gets more plays than Beyoncé, and Humble Among is first on the field.
Wonderland is no novelty knockoff. The cover art by Atlanta-based Adam Sprague is a triumph unto itself, and the album's production strikes a perfect balance between thumping boom-bap and deviously catchy pop. That's thanks to THEN WHAt, one of the most versatile beatsmiths in the 802 scene.
I was most curious to hear how much Humble Among, best known for his intensely cathartic rap nightmares, changed his delivery and content for this project. The answer is: Not much. While that may limit the mass appeal, it also makes for one of the best albums in his ever-expanding catalog. It's a great PG-13 distillation of his sound, but does it succeed as a kids' album?
There is zero adult language in the sense of F-bombs and such, but Humble Among is an eminently literate dude with a far broader vocabulary than anyone on "Sesame Street" or "Blue's Clues." The subject matter, like everything else Juggalo, is drenched in horror movie imagery — but considering the target audience, that ain't an issue. The occasional bursts of fast, chopping raps might be problematic; tracks such as "Merry Go" are too tongue-twistingly quick for younger kids to follow.
Wonderland excels in its storytelling concept tracks. Dark but whimsical cuts such as "The Forest" and "The Cave" are miniature worlds inside which smart kids could happily get lost.
The album also serves as an introduction to Juggalo culture, especially on "The Carnival," a playful guide to the concert scene and fan rituals. Then there's "Ocean of Tears," the most improbable success of all. It's a cautionary kids' song about sobriety, and it really works.
Humble Among has turned a seemingly ridiculous premise into a dynamite release. I came in curious and walked out impressed, and I recommend Wonderland for weird kids of all ages.
Find it on Bandcamp and Spotify.