Cage performs with Less Than Jake on Wednesday, December 9, at the
Just because an artist evolves doesn’t mean his
fans will. So, while Chris
Palko, aka Cage, may have experienced a personal epiphany that’s taken his
music in a new direction, he doesn’t blame his fans for not wanting to come
along for the ride.
See, the rapper’s latest, Depart From Me, is
hardly a rap album at all. Rife with indie-tronic synth and raging guitars
(courtesy of ex-
Hatebreed guitarist Sean
Martin), it follows up on the direction hinted at by his Darryl
Palumbo 2005 collaboration, “Shoot Frank,” off his second album, Hell’s
Winter. Only, this time, there are hardly any beats at all. There’s also a
more positive tonethough only slightly more positivewhich is
equally bewildering given the darkness Cage sings about.
His father was
an abusive heroin addict, whose crazy, rebellious streak he emulated. A wild kid
who was beaten by his stepfather and uncle, Cage got into drugs and was
committed by his mom to a psychiatric hospital as a teen. There, he was among
the first test cases for Prozac,
and he attempted suicide with shoelaces and the tape from a Big
Daddy Kane cassette. Such trials are recounted throughout his catalog, and
his personaa decadent, nihilistic, drug-addled MCwas cultivated in his
single “Agent Orange” and 2002 debut, Movies for the Blind.
dropped the drugs and degrading sexual undertone on Hell’s Winter, but
his latest even attempts to short-circuit some of the self-hate and angst. It’s
expressed on tracks like the punky “Fat Kids Need an Anthem,” which keenly
dissects his former food issues, and “Captain Bumout,” which repudiates his old
image, suggesting “there’s more than being in a club, getting drunk, one of us
throwing up and waking up like we’re in love.” One catalyst for both the change
in sound and expression is his friend and protégé Camu Tao, who died of cancer
“After he passed away, my entire world fell apart,” Cage says.
“I had never been so wounded in my whole life. I had been through so much. I
felt like in life, as a little kid, gritting your teeth and clutching your
fists, you can take anything, but then the grown man just is
But, really, the change began several years ago, when Cage and
his tour mates watched videos of their performances and became dissatisfied with
the stale elements of typical hip-hop.
“We saw ourselves walking back and
forth on the videotape, trying to say ho,” Cage recalls. “After a while, you get
tired of doing the same thing over and over. And, then, it’s either join in on
the reindeer games or start your own.”
They watched videos of Black
Flag and Iggy
Pop, trying to adopt rock mannerisms. The change in music comes out of the
same impulse, as Depart From Me represents an attempt to bring the sound
in line with the stage show. To that end, Hatebreed’s Martin joins Cage and his
DJ on tour, playing guitar and keyboard parts. And, as such, even old songs are
getting a facelift.
Meanwhile, Cage’s spirit has already gotten one.
Watching his friend die of cancer made his bleak attitude hard to
“I couldn’t come in and say, ‘Hey, listen to my songs. I know
you’re dying, but listen to my songs about wanting to die,'” he says. “I didn’t
know what to do, so I started making songs that were a little
While he understands his fans’ frustration with the new
direction, he couldn’t care less about pissy blog rants or reviews.
I was 16 years old, I was selling crack and was a buck-fifty, in people’s faces
with box cutters. I wasn’t sitting on the Internet, telling people they’re
faggots because I don’t like their music,” Cage says. “People don’t get it. The
record’s called Depart From Me, dude. You don’t get