Depart From Me
Label: Definitive Jux
Like another well known white rapper, Cage has made a career out of baring his soul through haunting, gruesome albums that reflect his sordid and troubled upbringing. Labeled as both an “emo” or “horrorcore” artist, Cage has been building up a fan base with his extremely personal records, garnering critical acclaim with 2005’s Hell’s Winter. After an absence from the music scene, Cage has returned with Depart From Me, an album he has described as even more personal and revelatory than his other work. While Cage’s lyrics remain well-crafted and informative, with his latest, he’s attempted to go with a more guitar and synth-oriented sound, which comes off as extremely hit or miss, particularly when the tracks are more guitar oriented.
Depart From Me has been described as “an exorcism of sorts” by Cage himself, and “Dr. Strong” would confirm this, with Cage detailing his mental history briefly: “My name is Chris Palko and I am a former patient of Stony Brook Hospital.” The song starts off with a chugging guitar sound that complements Cage’s intense flow and adds a real fear and intensity but his chorus turns this otherwise earnest dissection of his life into a 311 knock-off, complete with annoyingly reverberated vocals chiming, “Down/ Why you gotta bring me down?” making this lament meaningless and trite.
Depart From Me succeeds when Cage remembers he’s a hip-hop artist first but most of this album fails to conform to that idea. “Eating Its Way Out of Me” sounds straight out of a horror film and as a subdued Cage flows over a tight, buzzing synth, the mood of despair is captured perfectly. Songs like “Fat Kids Need an Anthem” struggle under their own concept, with Cage caterwauling about his past weight and drug issues but the song loses its impact since Cage slips into self-pity mode, normally sinking any kind of soul-revealing. By the time he’s ranting about having bitch tits while watching Fight Club, the song has become as wearisome as the distorted guitar track it’s built around. His attempts to sing and perform instead of rap fall flat, particularly on “Teenage Hands,” where he shouts and screams like a hardcore singer, complete with metal-press guitars which make the subject matter second nature to the downright boring construction of the song.
Album closer “I Never Knew You,” which is also the first single off the album, actually ends up being a bright spot in this otherwise hazy record. Accompanied by a slowly climbing, intimidating piano loop, the guitars act as chapter markers as Cage gradually speeds his flow up to match the intensity. As he tells the story of being in love with a girl he sees from afar, you almost feel his sadness. As he puts it: “the sky opened and God handed you directly to me/ I know it sounds crazy but so is life/ I’m sinkin,” and the emotion is one of the genuine moments. Fear not, Cage fans, as he returns to form near the end of the track, where he reminds said girl “perish the thought/ You should cherish the words that I’ve got in my mouth/ The only words that can truly explain how I got in your house.” “I Never Knew You” takes a love story from afar and adds an interesting, if creepy, twist and ends up a standout. The backing track also manages to skirt the line between good and overbearing, though crunching guitars should really have a quota on records these days.
Depart From Me really suffers most from Cage leaning more towards guitar-oriented tracks, which are an ill-fit to his flow, and the results end up making him sound like a Linkin Park tribute band. Aside from this sonic misstep, Cage’s lyricism is still sharp as ever and this album promises that there might be something great coming soon, if he can figure out a better way to match his cadence than just silly, lazy “rock” riffs.
by Rafael Gaitan