Abracadabra boom shacka dae
I’m Violent J, and I’m back like a vertebrae
And I come with a hat full of tricks
Trunk full of Faygo, car full of fat chicks
This verse from one of Insane Clown Posse’s most popular songs, “Hokus Pokus,” epitomizes some of the basics of Juggalo subculture. Much of what people know about Juggalos boils down to this: They paint their faces like clowns, and they drink something called Faygo. Meanwhile, much of what people know about Faygo can be reduced to the same relationship: It’s a soda consumed by people who paint their faces like clowns and call themselves Juggalos. The association is so strong that “Does Insane Clown Posse own Faygo?” comes up as a commonly asked question when one searches Google for the brand.
But actually, Faygo has no formal association with Insane Clown Posse at all. The brand barely even acknowledges that their product is deeply embedded within Juggalo rituals such as drinking Faygo, throwing Faygo and shaking up bottles and showering others with Faygo. In fact, on the Faygo and the Detroit Historical Society websites detailing the history of the product, Juggalos aren’t mentioned at all.
While flavors like “Moon Mist” seem almost inherently Juggalo-esque, the brand has never leaned in to the Wicked Carnival. They don’t have to, anyway — not only will Juggalos keep giving them love, but so will the metro Detroit area and other low-income pockets of the country that love it. Because for most Faygo drinkers, their allegiance is ultimately the result of two things: It’s cheap, and it’s abundant.
“We’re up to our ankles in it,” says Devin Magee, a 25-year-old from Detroit, currently living in Chicago. At a gas station or corner store there, a two-liter bottle goes for 99 cents. “Everyone drinks it, everyone has feelings about their favorite flavors,” Devin says.
Faygo is a born-and-bred Detroit product, with the company starting life as Feigenson Brothers Bottling Works in Detroit in 1907. Originally trained as bakers in Russia, after moving to the U.S,, the titular brothers began bottling mineral and soda water. They quickly had the idea to transform the inventive frosting flavors they’d developed as bakers into soda flavors, with Strawberry and Grape among the first incarnations of Faygo soda delivered by horse-drawn wagon in midtown Detroit. In 1921, the brothers officially changed the brand name to Faygo, and the soda has been produced in the same location on Detroit’s east side since 1935.
For most people from the area, then, it’s not a cult accessory, it’s simply what’s there — plentiful, inexpensive and available in more than 50 flavors, including Arctic Sun, Candy Apple, and for the more health-conscious, plain old Faygo-brand sparkling water. These are all the reasons why Insane Clown Posse loves Faygo, too, since frontmen Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope both grew up poor around Detroit in an era of “Faygo Kid” marketing on TV. And for much of the 20th century, Faygo was exclusively sold in Michigan, resulting in a deep sense of regional pride being associated with the beverage. Each time Insane Clown Posse references Faygo in their lyrics or showers the audience with the soda during a concert, they’re ultimately giving a shoutout to their hometown.
But today, Faygo is owned and distributed across the nation by National Beverage Corporation — the same company that owns the beloved bourgeois overpriced seltzer LaCroix. And across the country, the non-Juggalos who drink Faygo cite just one reason: It’s cheap. “I lived by a deli that had a combo that included a 24-ounce Faygo,” says Elen Cardgage, who lives in Wisconsin. “When I was poor, we got soda at the Dollar Store because it was cheaper there to get a three-liter of Faygo for a dollar than a two-liter of Coke for a buck fifty. I used to [buy it] constantly when I shopped at Woodman’s because they had 12-packs for the low, low price of three for $7.”
“Faygo is regularly consumed by geriatrics and townies in Western Pennsylvania,” says Dennis Miller, 33, who lives in L.A. but is from Pittsburgh. He speculates that old people love it because Faygo is itself an old brand. “They’ve developed a sort of trust in it,” he says. “It’s the kind of soda you would always find when you went over to your grandparents’ house as a kid. It’s also cheaper than the bigger brands like Pepsi and Coke, so small-town folk look at saving even 50 cents as a huge deal.”
Perhaps it’s because of these devoted grandparents that Faygo doesn’t work a bit harder to align themselves with Insane Clown Posse. But ultimately, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope are gonna keep throwing them at their fans anyway, even if the years of subcultural symbolic significance between Faygo and Juggalos have dissipated. At the end of the day, many Juggalos are small-town folk like any other — and spraying Coke products everywhere just isn’t as cost-effective.