Like TV franchises CSI and Law & Order, successful hardcore rap acts have a tendency to replicate themselves. Take, for instance, face-painted specter Blaze Ya Dead Homie, a horrorcore rapper with enough Juggalo tendencies to be an Insane Clown Posse spinoff.
Well, maybe not so much a spinoff as a similarly themed show shot against a different backdrop. No shame in that. After all, Blink-182 is essentially Screeching Weasel with worse jokes and better looks, while Britney Spears is Debbie Gibson with a privileged backstory and lower self-esteem.
That's entertainment's dirty secret — the story never changes, just the characters. Which is essentially what Blaze's mentor, House of Krazees founder R.O.C., told his suburban Detroit protégé early on in the game. In Blaze's case, the stage persona is that of a reincarnated gang member who was killed in the late 1980s.
"He kind of told me back then, 'You have to keep doing this, because your voice doesn't fit what you look like at all,'" says Blaze, who was born Chris Rouleau. "Keep doing this and slowly it will pop. And he was right."
Rouleau started like any 17-year old, with a big dream and a modicum of business sense. But after two decades and a long stint with ICP's Psychopathic label, that's no longer the case.
"I was the greenest guy ever," laughs Blaze, recalling one of the first times he encountered the House of Krazees crew at a record store in Mount Clemens, Michigan. "I was promoting a record that I hadn't even started recording. I was the first person to make fliers for something that wasn't recorded yet."
The rapper has since released six full-lengths and three EPs, including last month's The Casket Factory, which reached No. 89 on the Billboard charts. On his current headlining tour, he'll also be hawking an exclusive tour EP called The Casket Maker. Both find Blaze working his particular brand of beefy moribund horrorcore, which manifests itself in tracks like "Worm Food," "Ratchett" and "The Way U Look B4 U Die."
Blaze teamed up with former House of Krazees/Twiztid rapper Jamie Madrox to record The Casket Factory for the producer's Majik Ninja label. He says the decision to part ways with the Insane Clown Posse franchise just felt necessary.
"It was time for a change of scenery, just to do some new things," he says. "They [Psychopathic] had a lot of other things going on, and they still had other acts to push too. It just seems a little easier for us now, because there's less to push."
Still, Blaze is psyched to see old homies at this summer's ICP-sponsored 17th annual Gathering of the Juggalos. In the meantime, he'll be out there flogging The Casket Factory with his clown-inspired Lazarus act that promises a second coming. Of sorts.
"It's only going to get stronger," predicts Blaze, "and I just want everybody to come along for the ride."