Now just a duo, ICP were originally formed in 1989 as a hardcore Detroit rap group called Inner City Posse. After combusting in 1991, the only members left, Violent J (born Joseph Bruce) and Shaggy 2 Dope (born Joseph Utsler), slightly altered the name to reflect the fact that they had been visited by the Carnival Spirit, which ordered them to carry word of the impending apocalypse by touring the nation and releasing six "Joker Cards" (popularly known as LPs) with successive revelations of the final judgment. The first, Carnival of Carnage, appeared in 1992 on their own Psychopathic Records label. The group became notorious in Detroit's underground scene, but several tours around the region failed to ignite much more than the rage of area leaders.
Jive Records signed the group and released The Riddle Box in 1995, but the record bombed and ICP returned to the ranks of the indies. Just one year later, Hollywood Records gambled on the band and spent more than one million dollars while ICP recorded their new album, The Great Milenko. On the day of release in 1997, however, Hollywood pulled the record, citing obscene lyrics and gruesome content -- possibly a move by its owner, Disney, to deflect criticism of its practices by the Southern Baptist Federation. In a bizarre twist, yet another major label, Island Records, stepped in to release the album and capitalize on the notoriety ICP had garnered. That notoriety only increased thanks to several incidents that kept them in the headlines: J was arrested after clubbing an audience member with his microphone in late 1997, and shortly thereafter, the group's tour bus ran off the road, leaving J with a concussion. Next, the group and their entourage were involved in a brawl at a Waffle House in Indiana, and both members eventually pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct charges. All the chaos took its toll, as J suffered a panic attack in April 1998 while on-stage in Minnesota. However, all of the publicity helped expand the group's cult following to the point where their next album, the 1999 concept record The Amazing Jeckel Brothers, debuted in the Top Five.