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Cage: Hell’s Winter

Cage: Hell’s Winter

Label:Definitive Jux
Release Date:2005

Cage plays Sonar Dec. 9.

By Raymond Cummings | Posted 12/7/2005

We all miss Eminem—nothing-to-lose circa-1999 Eminem. With Shady-esque flows, a fatalism similarly spiked with jokes, a backstory equally dark and skin equally pale, NYC’s Chris “Cage” Palko stands poised to potentially inherit Em’s abdicated, angstin’ hipster fan base. Substitute El-P for Dr. Dre, anti-Dubya bile for Bubba-era poverty, and an addict father for a crazed wife and mother. Add punk iconoclast Jello Biafra and indie-rockers Matt Sweeney and James McNew, subtract buzz-killing skits, and you’ve got a perfect cultural storm brewing.

Cynicism comes hard, though, when the outcome is so dope that even the posse cut smokes. Cage, Aesop Rock, El-P, Tame 1, and Yak Ballz—the Weathermen, collectively—mesmerizingly rep themselves over the serpentine guitar riffs producer Camu Tao uncoils in “Left It to Us.” The DJ Shadow-produced “Grand Ol’ Party Crash” finds our hero on orange-alert edge, sputtering paranoia between Biafra’s satiric Dubya imitations as “Baby suicide bombers hurl suitcases in a nursery” and U.S. Army units raid New York. On the sinister “Too Heavy for Cherubs,” Cage recalls unwillingly helping his father shoot smack—“wrapped my rubber snake around his arm and made me pull it tight”—and Em’s most bitter complaints suddenly ring hollow.

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