Cage: Bringing Out the Dead

There comes a time in every individual’s life when a person looks in the mirror and asks, “Do I like what I see?” While not many expected it, Cage has gone through an epic transformation in which he drastically changed his lifestyle, his music, his attitude and even the way his blood streams in his […]

There comes a time in every individual’s life when a person looks in the mirror and asks, “Do I like what I see?” While not many expected it, Cage has gone through an epic transformation in which he drastically changed his lifestyle, his music, his attitude and even the way his blood streams in his veins. Since rolling with 3rd Bass’ Pete Nice and Daddy Rich over a decade ago, Cage went on to drop cherished singles on Bobbito Garcia’s F##### ‘Em Records. As the acclaimed underground dissolved, Cage found himself on Rawkus alumni High & Mighty’s Eastern Conference imprint. The underground vet furthered his rep for his gore filled raps, drug banter, and verbal s### – but according to Cage, that was never really an accurate depiction of who he is. Chris Palko seeks to change.

Looking to reverse the self-inflicted misconceptions and take his career on a different path, Cage has delivered the most important work of his career with his new album Hellz Winter. The record finds Cage delving into his troubled past, and in turn, ditching the murderous and misogynistic rhymes he is known for. So, reader, leave your feelings about Cage at the door, and observed the evolution of the artist as a young man. Cage spilled his life changing story to Why the move from Eastern Conference Records to Def Jux for your new album Hellz Winter?

Cage: Well, there are a few reasons for the move. One being, I felt that I had hit the ceiling with Eastern Conference years ago. You know, they weren’t really doing much, they weren’t really spending any money. And the second reason; there was just a lot of shady s**t going on, as far as money was concerned. I wasn’t seeing money for things they were profiting from, even down to merchandise. I have never seen a dime from a single piece of merchandise that was sold with my name on it. On Hellz Winter’s “Public Property” you go over the E.C. situation, so how much money do they owe you?

Cage: As far as the actual number, we are working on that. I have lawyers looking into that right now. [They] made a good 30 or 40 thousand dollars that I didn’t see a dime from. “Public Property” for me, was basically a way for me to vent. I was putting it out like, “We don’t talk, I don’t talk to you.” The last time I spoke to them was around October 2004. They don’t have any money, and they have no artists. They have artists doing one-off’s with them. What did you see in Def Jux that made you believe in them and want to sign?

Cage: There was one time when E.C. and Jux were equal. Then Jux went on and got offices, and E.C. didn’t. Jux started doing videos and things like that, and started becoming a real company. Another problem with E.C. that I had was, they would dump all their money into the High & Mighty. No matter how much their record sales would continue to drop, they would just keep putting money into themselves. They didn’t put any money into my project. They spent like ten g’s on a video for their Highlite Zone album just so they could get played on MTV2 and Subterranean one time. I made more money signing to Jux, than I have with Eastern Conference the past year and a half before I came with Jux. You are having big meetings about your release and your talking about different approaches and strategies. You go up into the office and there are 13 or 14 people there. E.C. never even had a secretary or an office. Musically, how would you say you have grown and progressed as an artist from Movies For The Blind to now with Hellz Winter?

Cage: Well, this is the first time I have actually taken anything serious. With all the releases prior to this, I have always known I had an ability to write a song really fast. Especially when there wasn’t really any subject matter, it was all the same. With this record, I said, “If I drop dead tomorrow, I don’t want my last words to be some f**king rendezvous with some groupie.” With Movies For The Blind, it was a cool record, but at the time, we knew we were going to put “Agent Orange” on it. Because making singles back then was like an album – you would have so many singles. I felt if I stepped out of it too much, there would be all these songs and “Agent Orange” would sound completely out of place. So I made the record with “Agent Orange” in mind and in that frame of mind. And I go back and listen to that album now and I’ll be like, “What the f**k was I thinking about?” A lot of the s**t I said on that record I address on “Paranoia” on Hellz Winter. Everything I said on Movies was because of my buzz. I was completely on mad drugs and with this record, it was a matter of a complete life change, not just artistically. As a man, I completely don’t agree with any of the s**t anymore.

When I decided to make this record, I gambled. I wanted to talk about my life and I deal with issues that have plagued me since adolescence. I’m dealing with my father’s heroin abuse, child abuse, drug addiction – I just wanted to talk about real s**t. There is plenty of kids who listen to my music who aren’t trying to hear what I am saying right now, I’m sure of that. They want to keep you in a box, and as an artist, that is not what you want to do. Now I’m over the misogyny aspects, now I’m just like, “What’s the point? Wow a b*tch sucking my d**k, wow how original.” Even the braggadocios s**t, I was done with the whole battle-rap thing. It’s just a bugged out place to be in right now. I got this record which is essentially a pivotal point in my life right now – musically and in life in general. You debuted on Pete Nice’s [3rd Bass] solo album. In the last decade, how has the White kid in Hip-Hop’s role changed?

Cage: . I came up in Rap music in a time where it was nothing like this. I came up in a time where if you rapped and you were in a club, you were one of three or four White people period at the party. Now, I do a show and its 95 percent White kids- depending on where the show is. I got the. “Wannabe, the w#####,” all that s**t. It’s like kids today, who is going to call them those names? The ten other friends who dress exactly the same? One day I just woke up and said, “I’m a grown ass man. I’m not dressing like a child anymore.” I was wearing Timberlands everyday like I just left the f**king construction site or something. Everything changed! It wasn’t just the music, it was my mind, my physical appearance – everything! When was the bottom?

Cage: I had a long time girlfriend of like seven years just bounce on me like two weeks after taking her to Costa Rica for like two weeks. So you come back from paradise, just trying to settle back into things, and this girl just bounces and breaks up with me the day before her birthday. So the “Subtle Art of the Breakup” on Hellz Winter is about her. And me not really caring because I had cheated on her, but at the same time having never dealt with abandonment issues as a child, because I was always the dude who stuffed everything in a box and when that box gets full I just make another one. Basically, I was on this downward spiral. I was going reclusive, I was up to 230 pounds, and I’m 5’11, so I was physically fat. One day I ate like a half ounce of mushrooms and I woke up in hospital room with cigarette burns in my forearm. And I had kind of bar coded myself with flashes from the elbow down to mid-arm where the cigarette burns were. So I woke up in the hospital, and they apparently gave me something to put me to sleep. I woke up, put my s**t on, grabbed my phone, and literally fled the hospital. I was afraid that because of my mental health background, I would get committed. So I broke the f**k out, fled the hospital, and got home around 9:00 in the morning. Then what?

Cage: I wasn’t the same person anymore. I hated everything I had done prior and I hated things that I had said. I was in a car and my music came on and I was just like, “Turn that f**king s**t off!” It just annoyed me. I hated everything that I have ever done. We were watching The Wire first season, and one of my worst songs on Movies For The Blind, in my opinion, “CK Won”, and that s**t was in an episode of The Wire. So that s**t came on and I was listening to the lyrics and I had offended myself! You’re still coming back and shedding better light on issues, like your childhood. Breakdown the track “Stripes” for us…

Cage: “Stripes” is about my father Bill Murray, [ironic coincidence] and he was an MP stationed in West Germany. Basically, he is like 19 years old and my mother is about 17, 18, and she is pregnant with me. So they are stationed in Germany, and he is f**king doing heroin and selling heroin. So he gets a dishonorable discharge and he ends up coming back to New York, so it’s basically a story of my mother and my father. I’m my father’s spawn and then I have this bulls**t in me that comes from this dude. It is basically the story of all that s### and the anger I have for that cat and the frustration with it. But at the same time, it’s for my mother. How she had to deal with all that s**t and that’s why in the song it’s like, “With her back against the wall, she can hear death singing in her.” The song touches on her issues of not wanting to live or deal with anything, and the abuse she suffered. My father was a path of destruction and anyone in his way suffered pain and misery. So the song is definitely a serious song. It’s designed for anyone who can relate to that s**t, and doesn’t have a soapbox or a way to vent and put their s**t out. I remember growing up and going through s**t and listening to specific records that would help me deal with it. . I don’t really know if people are relating to it, or people are just getting enjoyment out of my suffering. Which is I guess, what people like anyway. I have always been a fan of the tortured artist.