Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
Things have never been easy for Chris Palko. The man who became the rapper Cage, has had a long and ugly history of getting shit on - as a young boy, as an adolescent, as a teenager, as a grown man. It's a cycle that seems to continue to revolve around a mind that isn't capable of ironing out any of these permanent wrinkles. He is a damaged man and he will always be a damaged man and this alone makes him a fascinating artist for our times. Palko has been tainted with a lasting memory of tying off his father's arm with tourniquets so he could shoot up heroin, beatings at the hands of his stepfathers, childhood drug abuse, hospitalization as a child for mental illness that was another nightmare altogether where experimental drugs were tested on patients and he was often restrained in beds with belts for hours on end. It was not good and living with all of those demented realities stuffed into and still active in a head doesn't make for restful nights or days. It's all hard to move on from and so we're faced with some of the tragic, dark matter that weighs on him all these years later. He gives it all center stage, unable to downplay or mask the gruesome and incessant demons that have chosen him as their servant, claiming squatter's rights on his bones and muscles. He has learned to live with these poisonous monsters and they're actually helping him write some of the most cutting and descriptive hip-hop songs of the past decade, as he produces all of his skeletons, one-by-one for everyone to hear and see. He doesn't do it for any other reason than to process the thoughts himself, helpless to pretend as if he didn't have these sickened undercurrents flowing through him like swollen rivers full of scabs, tears and a roaring kind of rage that only can come from an honest place. The place that Palko introduced us to on "Hell's Winter," - his first masterpiece, released in 2005 on Definitive Jux Records - is slightly improved as we hear the continuation of the story on this year's "Depart From Me." Even if that's so, the title of the record says a lot as you're still hearing from a man who sounds as if the best thing that could possibly happen to him, the thing that he wants the most in all of life, is to just get away from himself. He wants to leave everything that he's bottled up with, everything that is still eating him from the innards out and just skin himself away from all of that bullshit. He wants to be gone, to light himself on fire to try and exorcise all of those devils from their many caves and crevasses that they've been hiding out in, below sight but not sound. They've been making themselves felt and heard for decades, pushing their wants into his bloodstream as inside and outside jobs, both literally and figuratively. One song on the new "Depart From Me," is an interesting piece of escalating psychosis, of the velocity and the decibels of the voices within reaching new heights of nervous energy and demand. The chorus from "I Never Knew You" goes like this, "It's like the sky opened and God handed you directly to me/I know it sounds crazy but so is life, I'm sinking/And feeling like your heart is beating solely for me," and is a simple story about animalistic longing, the music punctuating the ravenous desires and the lengths to which the protagonist will go to in order to get the object of affection, of privilege. It's as if there's no way to possibly escape those desires and urges that just bang on the door, pound on the head until both are busted up and toppled to the ground. Cage is a slave to the devils, but he continues to rage and kick through the wreckage, hoping to find some kind of way out.
Cage Official Site
Definitive Jux Records