Cage’s album from 2005, Hell’s Winter scared and impressed the hell out of me. Chris Palko weaved his way through a harsh, dystopian sounding album of a personal hell of abuse, institutionalism and drug use that made hip hop turn it’s cheek. It was a violence that was a far cry from gang banging bullshit that went from being telling white America what was up as a way to sell records and put no talent ass clowns all over MTV, replete with women in bikini’s and dollar bills “raining” from the sky. While Hell’s Winter may not be It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back it was a far more personal and self realized album then Amerikkka’s Most Wanted.
Since then it seems Cage went way underground. The promise of his follow up Depart from Me seemed to be pushed back and pushed back with a lot of secrecy and not much in the way of pre-release material that Def Jux, the mega underground label that Cage calls home, is known for letting out. So when news that he would be prefacing the new album with a free download EP came this winter I was stoked.
At five songs and just 16 minutes Cage does a lot on I Never Knew You. It’s got the slow dark and dirty coming at you with the title track. It’s got a fucked up party song closing it out with “It’s the 80’s Again”. It’s got scrary, stalker lyrics, it’s got hopelessness and loss. It packs a bite for 16 minutes and it definitely leaves you wanting more. Cage, a master of making his listener salivate, cock teases you quickly, and leaves you breathless, blue balls and all.
Cage has the distinct misfortune of releasing an album after Aesop Rock and El-P both released some of their best and most left field work to date. And for me Cage has always seemed like the little brother or cousin tagging along with the big boys. He’s got the talent like those around him and maybe he has to overcompensate because he’s not getting his due, but I Never Knew You shows Cage growing into his own. He may not spit fire like Aesop Rock and he may not have the obsessive production skills as El-P, but he does have a wild imagination and through his almost calm, yet disturbingly easy delivery Cage is poised to deliver 2009’s best hip hop album.
In a world full of T.I.’s and T. Payne’s and Lil Wayne’s and auto-tuning bullshit trying to sound like emotional robots Hip Hop badly needs Cage to step up and scare the fuck out it’s constituents. The flannel clad, Kurt Cobain looking white boy seems to be raps least unlikely unsung hero, but if hip hop keeps letting sand bagging crying as rich boys like Kanye keep ruling it’s course, it’s gonna look like shit. Cage is gonna shove coal in your mouth and punch you in the ear, but when you finally come to, your gonna thank him for it.