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Insane Clown Posse

Insane Clown Posse
Insane Clown Posse (left to right): Violent J (Joseph Bruce) and Shaggy 2 Dope (Joseph Utsler). Background information Also known as ICP Origin Delray, Detroit, USAGenre(s)Hip hopYears active 1988–present Label(s)Psychopathic(1992–1995; 2000–present)
Island(1997–2000) Website InsaneClownPosse.comMembers Violent J(Joseph Bruce)
Shaggy 2 Dope(Joseph Utsler) Former members John Kickjazz (John Utsler)
Greez-E (Kalyn Garcia)

Insane Clown Posse is an American hip hop duo formed in Delray, Detroit. The group consists of Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler, who perform under the stage names and personas Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, a pair of murderous "wicked clowns".[1][2] Insane Clown Posse performs a style of hardcore hip hop, referred to as "horrorcore,"[3] and are known both for their dark, violent lyrics and their elaborate live performances.[4] Insane Clown Posse has earned two platinum albums and three gold albums,[5] but have been criticized for the violent content and perceived immaturity of their lyrics.[6] Originally formed under the name Inner City Posse, a dream involving a vision resembling a traveling carnival prompted a name change and the introduction of supernatural and horror-themed lyrics.[7][8]

Bruce and Utsler founded the independent record label Psychopathic Records with manager Alex Abbiss. The themes of Insane Clown Posse and other acts on Psychopathic Records center on the mythology of the Dark Carnival, an omnipotent force manifested as stories surrounding a series of characters, each one offering a specific lesson designed to change the "evil ways" of listeners before "the end consumes us all".[9] Insane Clown Posse has dedicated followers, known as Juggalos and Juggalettes.[10] The group starred in their own feature film, Big Money Hustlas, formed their own wrestling federation, Juggalo Championship Wrestling, and have collaborated with many famous hip hop and rock musicians.



Early history (1988–1994)

Joseph Bruce ("Violent J") and Joseph Utsler ("Shaggy 2 Dope") met in a suburb north of Detroit and wrestled in various backyard rings.[7] Poverty and a difficult home life eventually drove Bruce to move in with Rudy "The Rude Boy" Hill in the ghetto of Delray, a residential neighborhood in the industrial southwest side of Detroit, Michigan.[7] Bruce, Utsler and Hill formed a gang called Inner City Posse. Bruce and Utsler began listening to hip hop music and performed at local clubs, along with Utsler's brother, John Kickjazz, as a group under the same name. In 1991, the group released the self-produced album Dog Beats. Increasing violence and jail time forced them to abandon gang life.[7]

In late 1991, Bruce had a dream in which "a caravan of strange and powerful beings"[8] resembling a traveling carnival appeared to him. The dream was the basis for the Dark Carnival mythology detailed in the group's "Joker's Card" series. The group renamed themselves Insane Clown Posse and began wearing face paint as part of their act.[8] Insane Clown Posse began recording the first album under their new group name with producer Chuck Miller, and eventually with Mike E. Clark, who would continue to work with them throughout their career. The album featured appearances from local rappers including Esham and a then relatively unknown Kid Rock.[8]

"Ghetto Freak Show" (sample)

"Ghetto Freak Show", from the group's 1992 album Carnival of Carnage. Problems listening to the file? See media help.

Without a manager, Bruce's brother, Robert, recommended Alex Abbiss. Abbiss, along with Insane Clown Posse, formed the record label Psychopathic Records and released the album Carnival of Carnage on October 18, 1992. The album's distribution was limited to the area of Detroit.[8] Stephen Thomas Erlewine, in his review for All Music Guide, likens the musical quality of Carnival of Carnage to "a third-rate Beastie Boys supported by a cut-rate Faith No More, all tempered with the sensibility that made GWAR cult heroes—only with [...] more sexism and jokes that [...] wind up sounding racist".[11] As Insane Clown Posse attracted local attention, John Kickjazz left the group.[8] The follow-up EP, Beverly Kills 50187, sold well and more fans turned up for shows and signings. During a live performance, Bruce addressed the audience as "Juggalos," and the positive response resulted in the group using the phrase from thereon.[8]

Insane Clown Posse often reference Faygo in their lyrics and have incorporated it into their concert performances.

The group's second studio album, The Ringmaster was released on March 8, 1994, which resulted in the selling out larger clubs in Detroit. The group began to play in other cities throughout Michigan as well as out of state. Constant performing and promoting in 1994 increased sales[12] and The Ringmaster was certified gold.[5] During a live performance from this period, Bruce and Utsler decided that since they had made reference to the Detroit-produced soft drink Faygo in their songs, "we figured it would be cool to have some on stage with us."[13] During the concert, Bruce threw an opened bottle of Faygo at a row of audience members giving them the finger. When the audience responded favorably to this action, Bruce and Utsler continued to open bottles of the soda and spray it onto the audience. This has become a trademark of the group.[13] The group's second EP, The Terror Wheel, was released on August 5, 1994. One of the songs from the EP, "Dead Body Man," received moderate local radio play. The same year marked the first Hallowicked concert, which has since continued annually on Halloween night in Detroit.[12]

Major releases (1995–1997)

In 1995, Bruce and Utsler made attempts to sign with a major label. After being rejected by several labels, they signed a contract with Jive Records who released the group's third studio album, Riddle Box on October 10, 1995.[14] However, the group became unhappy with the deal when the label made no attempt to promote the album. Using the money they received from their contract, they promoted Riddle Box on their own, which lead the band to Dallas, Texas. After a few weeks of promoting the album, all the stores in Dallas were stocking the album and were selling 1,500 copies per week.[14] When Bruce and Utsler returned from Dallas, Abbiss had made a deal with the Disney-owned label Hollywood Records,[15] who had reportedly paid US$1 million to buy the group's contract from Jive.[16]

In 1996, the group began recording their fourth studio album, The Great Milenko. A review board representing Disney requested that the group remove the songs "The Neden Game," "Under the Moon," and "Boogie Woogie Wu" from the album and alter the lyrics of others, threatening not to release the album if the changes were not made.[15][17] Bruce and Utsler complied and went on tour to promote the album with House of Krazees as their opening act.[15]

During an in-store signing, Bruce and Utsler were notified that the album had been recalled by the label within hours of its release. The Southern Baptist Church had organized a nationwide boycott against Disney, claiming that in sponsoring "Gay Days" at Disneyland and presiding over the newly gay-themed T.V. sitcom Ellen, the company was turning its back on "family values".[18] While Abbiss told the press that Disney had stopped production of The Great Milenko to avoid further controversy, Disney claimed the boycott was not related to the company's discontinuation of the album, stating their review board had "messed up" and once executives learned of the album's "inappropriate" lyrics, they decided it "did not fit the Disney image".[19] Disney also claimed that some of the album's lyrics were sexist.[20]

The album sold 18,000 copies before being recalled,[21] resulting in the album reaching number 63 on the Billboard charts.[22] After meeting with several labels, including Interscope Records, the group signed a deal with Island Records, who agreed to release the uncensored version of the album.[15][17] In David Browne's review of the album for Entertainment Weekly, he wrote "with its puerile humor and intentionally ugly metal-rap tunes, the album feels oddly dated". Browne gave the album a C- rating.[21] Selling 1.5 million copies, The Great Milenko was certified Platinum.[5]

Feud with Eminem

In late 1997, Bruce and Utsler met Marshall Mathers, also known as Eminem, who invited the duo to a release party for The Slim Shady EP. Mathers handed them his flier advertising the event which stated that it was possible that Insane Clown Posse would appear, thus exploiting the group without asking for permission to do so. When Bruce and Utsler refused the invitation, Mathers took it as a personal offense, and attacked the group in radio interviews. Bruce and Utsler responded by releasing a parody of "My Name Is", retitled "Slim Anus". Further barbs between Eminem and Insane Clown Posse continued.[23] [24] In June 2000, Mathers pulled a gun on Douglas Dail, an affiliate of the group, in the parking lot of a car audio store in Royal Oak, Michigan.[25] Mathers plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for two years probation and paying a $10,000 fine to avoid serving jail time.[26] In the spring of 2001, Insane Clown Posse's road manager, William B. Dail, was arrested in Omaha, Nebraska for allegedly choking a man who waved an Eminem T-shirt in front of the band. He was charged for misdemeanor assault and battery, released on $1,000 bond, and was soon after fined $100 after he plead guilty to a lesser charge.[27][28] In a 2002 interview, Bruce stated that the rivalry between Eminem and Insane Clown Posse had ended.[29]

Mainstream success (1998–1999)

One of the group's first projects with Island was an hour-long MTV documentary entitled Shockumentary, which helped increase album sales.[30] Insane Clown Posse went back on the road with House of Krazees, who disbanded halfway through the tour. Two of its members, Jamie Spaniolo and Paul Robert Methric, formed the group Twiztid, with Spaniolo performing under the name "Jamie Madrox" and Methric performing under the name "Monoxide Child," and eventually signed with Psychopathic.[30] On November 16, 1997, Bruce was arrested on an aggravated battery charge after allegedly striking an audience member thirty times with his microphone at a concert in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Bruce was held for four hours before being released on $5,000 bail.[31]

The group's tour was briefly derailed in January of 1998, when the group's tour bus drifted off a highway and down a bank, leaving Frank Moreno of Psycho Realm with a concussion. As a result of the accident, Insane Clown Posse postponed two shows set for Cleveland, Ohio on January 22 and 23, but honored their promise to play the dates on January 25 and 26.[32] On June 4, 1998, Bruce and Utsler pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges in an Indiana court and were both fined $200 after fighting with a customer in a local Waffle House restaurant, who allegedly verbally harassed the group and threw a punch at Bruce. The initial charge of battery was reduced. Members of Twiztid, Myzery, and Psycho Realm were also involved in the fight and charged with battery.[33]

On April 19, 1998, Bruce suffered a panic attack during the middle of a show and had to be carried off stage. Bruce spent two days in a Michigan mental health program. Insane Clown Posse later canceled the last two weeks worth of dates on its U.S. tour, but eventually launched their first European tour.[34] In Detroit, Bruce and Utsler began staging wrestling shows, originally called Strangle-Mania. Their increasing popularity resulted in a call to wrestle for the WWF. Bruce and Utsler wrestled in every major federation before forming their own wrestling league, Juggalo Championshit Wrestling, or JCW, later renamed "Juggalo Championship Wrestling".[30]

In 1999, Bruce and Utsler performed at Woodstock '99, in addition to completing their fifth studio album, The Amazing Jeckel Brothers. Stephen Thomas Erlewine rated the album four out of five stars, writing that "[Insane Clown Posse] actually delivered an album that comes close to fulfilling whatever promise their ridiculous, carnivalesque blend of hardcore hip-hop and shock-metal had in the first place".[35] The album was released on May 25, 1999, charting at number four on the Billboard album charts[36] and has been certified platinum by the RIAA.[5] Bruce and Utsler also produced a feature film, Big Money Hustlas, directed by Osaka Popstar frontman, John Cafiero, and released direct-to-video on July 18, 2000.[30]

During the August 20, 1999 episode of The Howard Stern Show, Bruce and Utsler clashed with fellow guest Sharon Osbourne. The clash was a rift that emerged from an earlier incident in which Coal Chamber, whom Osbourne managed at the time, was fired by Insane Clown Posse. Coal Chamber was fired two shows into their tour with Biohazard, due to poor ticket sales. This led to Coal Chamber's attempt at suing Bruce and Utsler for breach of contract.[37] Osbourne stated that her group was receiving $12,500 per show for a scheduled two-month package tour. Bruce stated that Insane Clown Posse fans were not open to Coal Chamber's music and that refunds decreased after the group had been removed from the tour.[37] Osbourne referred to Bruce and Utsler as "has-beens," and Bruce told her that she can "buff his pickle".[37] Osbourne bet Bruce $50,000 that Insane Clown Posse's next album would not sell more than 200,000 copies, and that they would be subsequently dropped from their distributor, telling them "You're dead. Your career is over".[37] Bruce predicted that the group's next album would sell at least 500,000 units.[37] In 2000, Bruce and Utsler staged the first annual Gathering of the Juggalos, a three-day music festival games, seminars, contests, sideshows, and concerts featuring all Psychopathic Records artists.[30]

Independent releases (2000–present)

In January 10, 2000, Utsler collapsed on stage during a performance at the House of Blues in Chicago. Rushed to Northern Hospital, Utsler's collapse was diagnosed as being flu-related in conjunction with abnormally low blood sugar. As a result of the incident, a week's worth of concert dates had to be rescheduled.[38] The group's sixth and seventh studio albums, Bizzar and Bizaar, were released on October 31, 2000, peaking at numbers 20 and 21 on the Billboard 200.[39][40] In The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, Ben Sisario wrote that the albums "qualify as ICP's masterworks of both merchandising and music". Both albums were given three out of five stars.[41] The albums combined to sell 400,000 units, which fell short of Bruce's prediction, but exceeded Osbourne's expectations. However, the group was subsequently dropped from Island Records.[42]

Bruce and Utsler later signed a deal with Sony BMG's RED Distribution to distribute every release on Psychopathic Records, which would remain independently funded, produced, and recorded.[30] On June 15, 2001, Bruce was arrested in Columbia, Missouri for an outstanding warrant in St. Louis stemming from an incident in February 2001, when Insane Clown Posse allegedly attacked employees of a St. Louis radio station over disparaging remarks a disc jockey made on the air. Bruce was detained by police who used several squad cars to stop Bruce, Utsler, and two associates a few miles from a venue where the group had completed a concert. Bruce was transferred to St. Louis the following day and released on bail on June 18 with no charges filed.[1]

When the sixth Joker's Card debuted, it was revealed that there would be two versions. While the face of the sixth Joker's Card was "The Wraith" (or simply Death), The Wraith had two "exhibits" to present to all who will listen: Shangri-La and Hell. Each of the exhibits was given its own album.[43] On November 5, 2002, Insane Clown Posse released their eighth studio album, Shangri-La, the first exhibit of The Wraith. On the album's final track, it is revealed that the hidden message of their music was always to follow God and make it to Heaven. Ben Sisario criticizes the series' ending in the Rolling Stone Album Guide, writing "the whole thing was some bland divine plan [...] Is this man's final dis of God, or His of us?"[41] The Wraith: Shangri-La debuted at #15 on Billboard's Top Independent Albums.[44] Following the release of The Wraith: Shangri-La, Bruce stated that he was considering not going through with the production of Hell's Pit. Bruce is quoted as saying "Shangri-La is the end of the road. It's the end of the Joker's Cards. After this I could do anything I want, for the rest of my life. The positivity was so unbelievable".[45]

On August 31, 2004, the group released their ninth studio album, Hell's Pit, the second exhibit of The Wraith, intended to warn listeners of the horrors of Hell. Bruce described the album as the darkest, most painful work he had ever done.[46] Two versions of the album were released, each containing a different DVD. One release featured a live concert and a twelve-minute music video for the song "Real Underground Baby," and another featured a short film for the song "Bowling Balls," which was the first 3-D film filmed in high-definition video.[46] On March 20, 2007, the group released their tenth studio album, The Tempest, which debuted at number 20 on the U.S. Billboard 200, selling about 33,000 copies in its first week.[5][47]

Style and influences

"Jake Jeckel" (sample)

"Jake Jeckel", from the group's 1999 album The Amazing Jeckel Brothers. Problems listening to the file? See media help.

Bruce and Utsler refer to the "acid rap" style of Esham as an influence on their own music.[8] Insane Clown Posse is often cited as an example of "horrorcore" hip hop, which is described as a style that "utilize[s] shocking (and blatantly over the top) narratives to give an over-exaggerated, almost cartoon-like version of urban deprivation in Detroit".[3] Insane Clown Posse's earlier work features a rawer, minimalistic sound, while later work features a rock-oriented sound.[48] The group's lyrics serve as a form of morality tale,[9] with songs focusing on subjects such as cannibalism,[21] rape, murder, and necrophilia.[49] Insane Clown Posse's debut album, Carnival of Carnage, features a more politically-oriented focus, criticizing elitism and prejudice against those who live in the ghetto.[50] The album's liner notes also criticize the Gulf War.[50] The group's lyrics have opposed racism, bigotry,[51] domestic violence, and child abuse.[52] Mike E. Clark's production for the group incorporates elements such as "carnival organ riffs, power chords and shotgun blasts [...] banjolike plucking and Van Halen-esque guitar squeals",[53] while Bruce and Utsler sometimes alternate between rapping and screaming.[54] In his review of The Tempest, All Music Guide's David Jeffries writes that Bruce and Utsler "[rap] in a carnival barker fashion that fits with their circus motif, their Insane Clown disguises, and Mike E. Clark's big top-inspired production".[55] Insane Clown Posse has influenced similar acts, such as Blaze Ya Dead Homie and Boondox.[56][57]

Live performances

Shaggy 2 Dope (Joseph Utsler) films the audience during a 2003 performance.

Insane Clown Posse is known for their elaborate concert performances. In Marley Brant's Tales from the Rock 'n' Roll Highway, Joseph Bruce described a typical performance: "We toss out, kick out, and shoot out into the crowd about three to four hundred two-liters of Faygo soda at every show. [...] We bring with us monsters, dancing clowns, girls, trampolines, and pure and absolute madness to the stage".[13] Performances feature backdrops including, among other settings, a game show set and a cemetery.[58][59] Bruce stated that "Shaggy and I know that without all that crazy shit going on around us, we'd just be two more idiots walking back and forth, rapping on stage. [...] ICP's motto has always been 'Fuck keepin' it real: we just keep it entertaining.'"[13]

While touring following the release of Carnival of Carnage, Insane Clown Posse was booked to play at Big Rapids University in Michigan. After the duo was announced by their manager, Alex Abbiss, Bruce remembers that "[w]e came out with no microphones or nothing; we were just right up in the people's faces. Shaggy and I were just fuckin' yelling over our own cassette. The people were staring at us in amazement and bewilderment. They must have been in shock and awe. We finished our two-song set, and the crowd [...] didn't cheer or boo. They just stood there, stunned."[13]

The group was unable to bring the large amounts of Faygo, needed for their typical concerts, to their European tours without a sales permit visa because customs believed that the group had intended to sell the soda at their concerts. As a result, the group's European record label ended up purchasing similar quantities of another soda and creating fake Faygo stickers to label the bottles. According to Bruce, "The craziness was this: they were not the regular two-liter bottles we're used to; they were some other amount [...] maybe one-and-a-half-liter bottles. Over there, they make their plastic bottles taller and thinner. [...] when you're doing what we do with them—that makes a world of difference".[13] During a performance in England, Bruce recounts that he "rocketed one of them bottles off my foot and that motherfucker shot straight up and out like a guided Patriot missile, right towards the disco ball high above the crowd. [...] The bottle nailed the disco ball, and [...] came falling down [...] on top of some English kid's head. [...] We must've knocked fifteen or twenty people flat-out cold on that tour [...] Shaggy and I both had black eyes and several injuries and bruises ourselves from them things hittin' us".[13]

During their Woodstock '99 performance, Bruce and Utsler felt that the tickets to the event were over-priced and that they needed to "give something back".[13] According to Bruce, "We brought along these big beach balls. We announced to the crowd that they each had a hundred dollars taped to them, and then we proceeded to kick about thirty of them into the crowd. Then we rolled out these bigger giant-ass beach balls and announced, 'These ones have five hundred bucks taped to them!' We booted a gang of them into the human sea".[13]

Controversy and criticism

The January 1998 issue of Spin magazine ran a four-page cartoon lampooning Insane Clown Posse and Juggalos, claiming that the group was offensive "not for their obscenity, but for their stupidity," likening the group's stage act to "a sort of circus karaoke," and portraying the group's fans as a pack of chubby suburbanites. On the group's website, Bruce responded to the article by stating "I could give a fuck less".[6] Insane Clown Posse has been voted the worst band of any genre of music in Blender.[60] In his review for The Amazing Jeckel Brothers, Rolling Stone writer Barry Walters referred to the group as "the ultimate wack MCs".[53] The satirical newspaper The Onion ridiculed the perceived immaturity of the musicians and, by extension, their fan base, in an article titled "Insane Clown Posse Gets Ride To Concert From Mom".[61] They have been criticized for the extremely violent and lyrically dark content of their music.[4][62] The word "juggalo" has been the subject of criticism. Both Ben Sisario of Rolling Stone and Stephen Thomas Erlewine of All Music Guide have suggested that the term is similar to the racial slur "jigaboo".[41][63]

On February 1, 2006, Insane Clown Posse fan Jacob D. Robida attacked people in a gay bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts with a handgun and a hatchet, a weapon featured in the logo of the group's record label, Psychopathic Records.[64][65] Robida wore a swastika tattoo and flaunted Nazi insignia and paraphernalia on his website.[66] Then, on February 5, he killed a traffic officer at a routine stop. When police stopped him, he killed his girlfriend, Jennifer Bailey of Charleston, WV and opened fire on the police. He was shot twice in the head during the shootout with the police and died later in the hospital.[67] On February 7, 2006, Insane Clown Posse released a statement on the Robida attacks. Alex Abbiss, the group's manager, extended Bruce and Utsler's condolences and prayers to the families of the victims. "This guy had problems," said Abbiss, and "anyone going into a bar swinging an axe and shooting a gun [...] would clearly have to be insane and out of their mind to do this". He also said, "It's quite obvious that this guy had no clue what being a Juggalo is all about. If anyone knows anything at all about ICP, then you know that they have never, ever been down or will be down with any racist or bigotry bullshit".[67]

In wrestling

  • Entrance themes
    • 1997–1998: "Oddities," performed by Insane Clown Posse, in WWF.[71]
    • 1998–2000: "Take It," performed by Insane Clown Posse, in WCW.[72]
    • 2000–present: "Chicken Huntin' (Slaughterhouse Remix)," performed by Insane Clown Posse, in JCW, TNA, and anywhere else they compete.[68]

Championships and accomplishments


Main article: Insane Clown Posse discography


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External links

v • d • eInsane Clown Posse Members Violent J · Shaggy 2 DopeStudio albums Carnival of Carnage · The Ringmaster · Riddle Box · The Great Milenko · The Amazing Jeckel Brothers · Bizzar · Bizaar · The Wraith: Shangri-La · Hell's Pit · The TempestEPs, compilations
and remix albums Beverly Kills 50187 · The Terror Wheel · A Carnival Christmas · Forgotten Freshness · Tunnel of Love · Mutilation Mix · Forgotten Freshness Volumes 1 & 2 · Psychopathics from Outer Space · Forgotten Freshness Volume 3 · The Pendulum · The Calm · Forgotten Freshness Volume 4 · The Wraith: Remix Albums · Eye of the Storm · Jugganauts: The Best of Insane Clown PosseSingles "Psychopathic" · "Chicken Huntin'" · "The Joker's Wild" · "Halls of Illusions" · "Hokus Pokus" · "Santa's A Fat Bitch" · "How Many Times?" · "Another Love Song" · "Fuck The World" · "Terrible" · "Tilt-A-Whirl" · "Let's Go All The Way" · "Juggalo Homies" · "Bowling Balls" · "The People" · "I Do This!" Inner City Posse
releases Ghetto Territory · Enter The Ghetto Zone · Intelligence and Violence · Bass-ment Cuts · Dog Beats · Gangsta Codes (Unfinished album) Related articles Dark Carnival · Discography · Behind the Paint · Big Money Hustlas · Big Money Rustlas · Psychopathic Records · Joe & Joey Records · Juggalo · Juggalo Championship Wrestling v • d • ePsychopathic RecordsCurrent artists Insane Clown Posse (Violent J/Shaggy 2 Dope) Anybody Killa| Blaze Ya Dead Homie| Boondox| Dark Lotus| Psychopathic Rydas| Samhein Witch Killas
Twiztid(Jamie Madrox/Monoxide Child) | Zodiac M-Print Former artists Axe Murder Boyz| Esham| Jumpsteady| Lavel | Marz| Myzery | Project Born| Soopa Villainz| Vampiro| Zug IzlandRelated articles Big Money Hustlas| Big Money Rustlas| Hatchet House(DJ Clay,The R.O.C, Motown Rage) | Joe & Joey Records
Juggalo| Juggalo Championship Wrestling| Majik Records Categories: American hip hop groups | Bands with fictional stage personas | Duos | Horrorcore groups | Independent promotions teams and stables | Michigan musical groups | Psychopathic Records | White hip-hop artists | World Championship Wrestling teams and stablesHidden category: Semi-protected

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