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New York City rapper Cage (Chris Palko) is best known to mainstream audiences for one of two things:
1. His association with actor Shia LaBeouf, a fan of Cage's music, who directed Cage's music video "I Never Knew You" and the short film Maniac, featuring Cage and Kid Cudi as a pair of serial killers.
2. A feud with Detroit rapper Eminem, who Palko once claimed ripped off his style. Palko has since admitted that he may have overreacted, since both rappers started out at pretty much the same time, and Eminem could not have ripped off Cage's style, having already developed his style in a separate rap scene without ever having heard Cage's music (this inconsistency hasn't stopped Eminem Fan Dumb from accusing Cage of ripping off Eminem's style, even though it's as impossible as Cage's previous claims).
Cage's lyrics are distinguished from most rappers in that they are extremely personal, although sometimes exaggerated to cartoonish levels (especially on his debut Movies for the Blind), and even though many of his albums and appearances on mixtapes and compilations feature dark portraits of entirely fictional characters, the personal touch has gotten Cage a great deal of appraisal as a lyricist and artist of great talent.
Palko was born a Military Brat in Würzburg, Germany to American parents. His father, Bill Murray (not to be confused with the actor) was dishonorably discharged for selling and using heroin, and the family was sent back to the United States where they lived in Middletown, New York. Murray would often force Palko to pull homemade tourniquets around his arm as he injected heroin. At the age of eight, Palko's father was arrested during a standoff with state troopers after threatening his family with a shotgun.
By the time Palko was kicked out of high school, his mother had remarried twice, and he was beaten by his stepfather Frank. Palko began using PCP, cocaine, LSD, cannabis and alcohol, and was sent to live with his uncle on a German military base, where he was beaten and sent home after a year. Palko was arrested several times for drug possession and fighting in the streets. When he faced jail time for violating probation, his mother convinced the judge that he was mentally unstable, and he was sent to the Stony Lodge psychiatric hospital for a two week evaluation. He eventually ended up staying in the hospital for eighteen months, where he was a part of a small group used to test Prozac. After being misdiagnosed and placed on the drug, he became suicidal and made several attempts to kill himself, including hanging himself with his shoelaces and saving his lithium dose for a month before ingesting all of them at once.
Palko later called his experiences in Stony Lodge "college for my rap career"; as a Shout-Out to A Clockwork Orange, he adopted the name "Alex". As Cage Kennylz, he was featured on Pete Nice and DJ Richie Rich's album Dust to Dust. Palko signed to Columbia Records, but could never complete a satisfactory album due to his constant drug use, and was kicked off the label. Success came in 1997 when Palko released the single "Agent Orange", produced by Necro. A notable incident early in his career occurred when Rick Rubin attended one of Cage's early concerts and dismissed him as a "wigga" and left the performance.
In 1999, Cage started a supergroup called The Weathermen, alongside Aesop Rock, Tame One, Cage, Yak Ballz, El-P, Breeze Brewin and Camu Tao, whose death led to the disbanding of the group. Cage did not complete an album until 2002, when he released Movies for the Blind, a Cult Classic that was well-respected by Hip Hop fans and critics, but Palko later dismissed as being too random and fragmented, and said that it glorified drugs. Cage also had a poor relationship with the label that released the album, Eastern Conference Records, and soon left in favor of a contract with another independent label, Definitive Jux, and released an even more personal album, Hell's Winter, which was less fictionalized than Movies for the Blind.
His most recent album, Depart from Me, has been appraised by music critics as a highlight in the fusion of Hip Hop and rock, as well as his most personal album to date.
Not to be confused with actor Nicolas Cage, avant-garde composer John Cage, the Heavy Metal band of the same name, the 1989 action film of the same name and its sequel, both starring Reb Brown and Lou Ferrigno, or the Marvel Comics character Luke Cage.
- Movies for the Blind
- Hell's Winter
- Depart From Me
Cage and his works provide examples of:
- Alternative Hip Hop
- Anti-Love Song: "I Never Knew You", to a nightmarish extent.
- Ax Crazy: In "Among the Sleep" ("ax in a dead whore")
- Big Applesauce: Cage's hometown is New York City, and he often makes reference to New York in his lyrics, especially in the song "Good Morning", off his Def Jux debut Hell's Winter
- Black Comedy: A lot of Movies for the Blind. One example being "Down The Left Hand Path": He convinces a group of teenagers to commit suicide, then they haunt the wrong address (because they're "stupid dead motherfuckers").
- Dead Baby Comedy: Frequently occurred in his early material. Notably, the reference in "Teenage Death" to New York's "two burning middle fingers", as well as other references to the September 11th attacks (such as suggesting that the terrorists should have flown a plane into the MTV building as well) on the same album, which came out less than a year after the attacks.
- Dream Within a Dream: "Among the Sleep" contains this. Among the events occurring in the song include a school shooting and committing suicide in a church, wondering if he'll end up going to heaven, going to hell, or just wake up...which he does, followed by him taking a bong hit and turning the TV to A Clockwork Orange.
- Gallows Humor: "Suicidal Failure" is partly this, partly Nightmare Fuel.
- Horror Hunger: The cover of Depart From Me.
- Kids Rock: On "Beat Kids".
- Military Brat: Raised on a military base until his father was discharged.
- Political Rap: "Grand Ol' Party Crash", with Jello Biafra as "The Dubya", who, by the end of the track, snorts cocaine and says "I'll fuck anything that moves!"
- Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Rick Rubin called Cage a "wigga".
- Rap Rock: Depart from Me.
- Some notable samples in Movies for the Blind:
- "Probably Causes Paranoia" takes dialog from Six Feet Under about marijuana and PCP, and smoking a joint dipped in actual embalming fluid.
- "Agent Orange" samples Wendy Carlos' performance of "The Funeral of Queen Mary" from A Clockwork Orange and dialogue from Shogun Assassin (the latter of which was previously sampled in GZA's "Liquid Swords").
- "Under Satan's Authority" has samples of alien language from Mars Attacks (Film).
- "Pussy, Money And War" ends with a sample from a Mortal Kombat video game saying "Cage wins!"
- More A Clockwork Orange samples in "Radiohead", the B-side of the "Agent Orange" single.
- "Ballad of Worms" samples I Would Hurt a Fly by Built To Spill
- Some notable samples in Movies for the Blind:
- Shout-Out: The multiple A Clockwork Orange references and samples in his early work. And the They Live-inspired cover art of Movies for the Blind.
- Stalker with a Crush: "I Never Knew You"
- Take That: A couple of lines on Movies for the Blind take shouts at Eminem:
Used to pistol-whip until Shady made it look pussy
- The Rival: Eminem was once this. At one point, Cage decided not to continue with the feud, and moved on to more personal lyrical subject matter, and away from the more typical Hip Hop elements of his early work.
- Write What You Know: A lot of Cage's music takes a very autobiographical approach. For example, many of the tracks on Movies for the Blind were inspired by his actual experiences in the Stony Lodge psychiatric institution.