The tortured and visceral lyrics of underground rapper Cage (Chris Palko) come from a life of pain, paranoia, hard drugs, and hard living. His father was MP in the U.S. Army, stationed in Wurzberg, Germany, when Cage was born. The family lived there until Cage's father, named Bill Murray, was busted for selling and using heroin and sent back to America. Landing in Middletown, NY, Cage's father continued using heroin and didn't bother concealing it from his son, going as far as to have the young Cage tighten the tourniquet around his arm. A standoff with the state police after threatening his family with a shotgun landed Murray in jail. It was the last time the eight year old would see his father.
While in high school, Cage went home to a physically abusive stepfather. Drugs became a serious problem for the teen, leading to expulsion from school, getting kicked out of the house, and various arrests for various crimes. Facing serious jail time, Cage's mother convinced the judge to send her son to a mental institution instead of jail. Sentenced to 18 months in the Stony Lodge Psychiatric Hospital, he became a test patient for the new drug Prozac. His depression deepened and suicide attempts led to solitary confinement. It was there that Cage had nothing to do but write his thoughts on paper.
Released from "the Lodge" and confident with his writing skills, Cage began practicing his rap and eventually cut a demo. Meeting Pete Nice of 3rd Bass led to Cage's first appearance on record, a guest vocal on "Rich Bring 'Em Back" from Nice's 1993 album Dust to Dust. Appearances on DJ Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia's legendary N.Y.C. radio show got his name out and lead to friendships with the KMD crew, the late Subroc, Pharoahe Monch, and producer El-P. Nice and Garcia were now working on a sub-label for Columbia and encouraged Cage to make the major-label jump. Too strung out on drugs to record a worthwhile demo, Cage put his career on hold and descended deeper into drug abuse.
Garcia formed his own Fondle 'Em label in 1997 and gave Cage another try. This time he was ready and focused and recorded three successful underground 12"s for the label, including the revered "Agent Orange." He then formed the Smut Peddlers with Mr. Eon and producer Mighty Mi. The group was signed to the hot underground label Rawkus in 2001 and released the album Porn Again that same year. Going solo again, Cage signed with the Eastern Conference label and released his full-length solo debut, the chilling Movies for the Blind, in 2002. The album was well received by critics and underground hip-hop fans, but 2003's Weather Proof didn't catch fire. That same year he formed the superstar group the Weathermen with Camu Tao, El-P, Aesop Rock, Yak Ballz, Tame One, Breeze, and Vast Aire. The group's album The Conspiracy was to be the last work Cage would record for Eastern Conference, leaving the label over alleged non-payment. Cage also decided he needed to be more open in his writing and stop playing a character. While his new writing style was no less blunt or shocking, it was more genuine, something longtime friend and associate El-P noticed and began to champion. Cage and El-P began work on his next album, enlisting the help of RJD2, Camu Tao, DJ Shadow, Jello Biafra, and Yo La Tengo member James McNew. The album, Hell's Winter, was released by Definitive Jux in 2005. The occasionally bracing Depart from Me, an album with an even nastier sonic disposition, followed nearly four years later. ~ David Jeffries, Rovi