How dark and demented should hip hop be? Former NYC based rapper, Cage, certainly delivers a heady dose of hell fire and brimstone with his latest album, ‘Hell’s Winter’ on Definitive Jux.
Almost two years in the making, ‘Hell’s Winter’ reinvents the menacing Cage edge and introduces live instruments, hooking up with the guitar talents of Matt Sweeny and the bass of Yo La Tengo’s James McNew, crunching it out on the opening track, ‘Good Morning’. The record also features production by the inimitable DJ Shadow and an appearance by the one-and-only Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys, giving it his best Dubya impression on ‘Grand Ol Party Crash’. The rest of the album features a frenzied brew of bloodthirsty hip-hop talent. Getting their hands dirty on the production side are RJD2, Blockhead and Camu Tao.
Born in Germany to American parents, the album illustrates Cage’s troubled upbringing. His father was a heroin addict who was dishonourably discharged from the Army – the young Cage was forced to help his father jack up. His father left him at 6 years old, and he continued to be physically abused by those who were supposed to care for him the most. Kicked out of high school in 9th grade, he turned to drugs and at 16 years old he was put on probation, but after several violations found himself facing jail. His mother convinced the judge that he was mentally unstable and he was sent to a psychiatric hospital. During an 18-month stay he was used as a guinea pig for a new and untested drug called Prozac. Cage became suicidal and made several attempts to kill himself, he later referred to this period in his life as his "rap college", as he spent his time honing the visceral and dramatic writing style he has to this day.
Cage has worked alongside artists such as MF Doom, Subroc, Pharoah Monch and EL-P, steadily building himself a rep as raw underground MC, however his rise to notoriety has been far from easy as his drug addiction has taken hold, Cage penned a single ‘Agent Orange’ which went on to become a landmark record of NY underground rap, propelling Cage into cult status. From this success he went on to record with High And Mighty and The Smut Peddlers, selling over 50,000 copies of The Smut Peddlers ‘Porn Again’ album in 2001. Cage then went on to record a triumphant first solo record ‘Movies for the Blind’, he also started rap group Weathermen, which comprised of good friends Camu Tao, EL-P, Aesop Rock, Yal Balls, Tame 1, Breeze of The Juggaknots and Vast Aire.
Cage and Definitive Jux founder EL-P talked about making an album that would truly realise his desire to take his art to another phase, resulting in his signing to Definitive Jux Records. The two worked together to bring these ideas to life – the result is ‘Hell’s Winter’, a cathartic and radical statement of a tortured boy turned man; a detailed, imaginative and often disturbing look into the dark territory that Cage had so closely guarded.