Olivia Giovetti is the former Classical & Opera contributing editor for Time Out New York and a regular contributor to Gramophone and Classical Singer magazines. She has also written for the Washington Post, Ariama.com, Playbill, ...
Send in the (Insane) Clowns
Thursday, September 08, 2011 - 11:41 PM
Last week, classical music and scatological hip hop combined in a way that was obscene, absurd and unimaginably ridiculous. And I, most assuredly in the minority, loved every minute of it.
The song, which is available on Tuesday as a 7" single and iTunes download, starts innocently enough with two sopranos singing Mozart's K. 231, "Leck mich im Arsch" ("Lick me in the arse," or, more idiomatically, "Kiss my arse"), before the duo of Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope start to ask one another what they know about Mozart. No, he's not the deaf one, that's Beef Oven (a nod, perhaps, to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure?). But, as one points out, "He had some underground s--- people don't know nothin' about."
What follows is two minutes pf puerile epicness, with J and Shaggy rapping about how Mozart is "respected 'cause he knows art" and needs "a turn on his butt-cheek," partnered with a recurring ear-worm of a refrain about licking on the left and right sides, plus the middle, all through the night.
"This is a great/horrible day for music," wrote The Huffington Post. "It's amazing and shameful at the same time."
And I can't stop listening to it.
Perhaps it's because of what the Atlantic describes as the "sublime vs. ridiculous factor." Insane Clown Posse may skew heavily towards Mozart's scatological side (a side that warrants its own Wikipedia article), but the sublime and ridiculous isn't a combination too far off from Mozart's works. Look at Papageno, driven by food and women, against the more austere and spiritual Sarastro and Tamino in Die Zauberflöte. Consider the frantic, hormonal energy of Cherubino's "Non son più" against the stately suffering of the Countess's "Porgi amor."
Or think about Mozart's character itself: He was a composer who wrote works of startling sophistication before reaching puberty, but balanced that genius with a love—like Papageno—for earthly pleasures. His correspondence with his father (often, but not always, laden with filial deference) is complemented by puckish notes to his cousin Maria Anna Thekla Mozart. "Oui, by the love of my skin, I s--- on your nose so it runs down your chin," he wrote to her on November 5, 1777.
Many of these more ribald letters between the Mozart family were kept out of publication well into the last century. Scholars believed they took away from the composer's undeniable talent, and suggested that he may have Tourette's syndrome or something equally tarnishing. Many people now see it as a sort of turn on, a means of penetrating the impregnable fortress of his genius. I doubt Insane Clown Posse and Jack White teamed up to create a song as a means of bringing their fans over to Mozart. And I doubt even more that this song will create many ICP fans on the other side of the equation. After listening to this track a few times over, I tried re-listening to some of the duo's other songs and still hate them. But that doesn't make these three minutes any less ridiculous or sublime—or catchy.
Check out the—NSFW—recording of Insane Clown Posse's "Leck mich im Arsch" below and weigh in: Is it infantile and misrepresentative of the source material? Is it a sly inside joke between past and present? Or is it somewhere in between?