Cage Explains Lyrical Renaissance On New Album
Exclusive: Cage tells DX why his next album bridges between Movies For The Blind and Hell's Winter, and mourns Camu Tao.
Since the mid-‘90s, rapper Cage has been notorious for his sexually explicit, drug-fueled tales of depravity. Yet when he released his sophomore solo album Hellz Winter [click to read] on Definitive Jux in 2005, fans were surprised to find the notoriously twisted emcee delving more and more into his personal demons and focusing less and less on his degenerate exploits. Now, in 2009, Cage is set to release is third album Depart From Me on July 7 on Definitive Jux, and he this time around, he aims to go even further into his personal life. He describes how his mentality towards making music has so drastically changed over time.
“[While recording] Movies for the Blind [click to read], I was on tons of angel dust,” said Cage to HipHopDX last Thursday. “[With] Hellz Winter, I was trying to quit doing all these drugs, and I kind of got my shit together I think for the most part. Depart From Me, I just didn’t care anymore. Getting myself to record [and] into the process of this record was like pushing a dead animal with a stick. I just didn’t really give a fuck. I didn’t care about me, I didn’t care about music or anything. My best friend was dying, and all I had was negative things to say. I think the means in which I would search for music and inspiration [are] so close to the edge that eventually, it disrupts your life. I think Hellz Winter is a bridge between this record and Movies for the Blind.”
One of the most readily apparent departures on his latest album is the use of more organic instrumentation as opposed to samples. Cage says that the Rock-infused production came about from the need to match the energy of his live performances in his music. In addition, he explains the sheer economic practicality of using live instruments for the beats as opposed to samples.
“In 2005, me and Camu [Tao] were on the Hellz Winter Tour and we so desperately wanted to change what we were doing, that we started performing differently,” noted Cage. “I think we were both probably drunk one night, and we started thrashing around on stage, like a child throwing a temper tantrum. And we were watching the tapes of it…and we got so into it that it was like, ‘Dude, that was powerful.’ So we started [doing that because] for the most part, a lot Hip Hop shows are kind of like a guy walking back and forth, telling the crowd what to do. We were like, ‘Let’s just flip it up. Let’s take the unwritten rules of Hip Hop and throw [them] out and just write our own and do what we want’…our shows just got so crazy. [We were] diving in monitors, pulling monitors on my head, just blacking out.”
He later added, “The music [on Depart From Me] came along because, then 2007 rolls around and you’re working on a record, and you’re like, ‘We have to make the music now meet the stage show.’ The stage show was way, way too energetic for the music we were making. [On Camu and my] records, we both went the direction of, we’re going to be singing on these records, these records are going to be [about life], from start to finish, and still turning all this other shit out, pop format [with] indie sensibility and mix a different brew. That’s where the live instrumentation came into play, as well as not being able to pay for samples. Could you imagine paying thousands of dollars for production on your record, and then on top of it, you have to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 per sample on every song? You can’t afford to make records like that unless you’re on a major [label] or you only sell 2,000 copies of your record and it’s so below the radar.”
Cage also discussed the evolution of his rhymes since his 2002 debut Movies for the Blind. He says that the content of Depart From Me finds him discussing personal issues as opposed to the raunchy, hedonistic braggadocios of Movies For The Blind. In addition, he notes the drastic change in the structure of his lyrics, finding himself moving further and further away from a 16 bar verse format.
“I kind of feel like moving away from that record into Hellz Winter, I kind of looked around at what everybody was doing, [and] it kind of seemed like rap music was just a big pissing contest…for me, anyway, to be motivated to do [Depart From Me], I had to do something that’s more challenging other than writing songs…explicitly describing how I fuck women and fantastical drug [use]…There was a lot of Movies For The Blind in the writing process [of Depart From Me] because it was wanting to feel fucked up…it is true to life in song. I feel like all the writing I did before, there was no filtering process…I feel like the filtering process just got tighter [on Depart From Me] and now I’m only saying things to be effective, rather than…’I’m going to write the illest 16 I’ve ever written every time I try to write a song.’ I stretched that idea out to trying writing the whole song as a whole, rather than a collection of 16’s…you could go to Movies For The Blind and take 16’s and swap them out with other 16’s throughout the record…and if they were to fit, it wouldn’t change the meaning of each song."
In a recent interview with Hip-Hop Official, Cage described Depart From Me as “an exorcism of sorts” of his innermost demons." Although he feels that his past experiences provide an apt cathartic inspiration, the exorcism to which he refers has only brought these problems into the forefront instead of actually solving them. Yet he hopes that the album will ultimately help others who are dealing with similar issues as he did.
“My life’s story’s kind of out there, so I’ve never really cared,” noted Cage. “I’m just exploiting my past. I’m just taking back. If I can profit off of horrendous shit I was forced to endure…I was robbed of my child hood, and now you’re telling me I can make art and profit off of it? That’s fucking awesome…I think everybody sits around waiting for that bolt of lighting to hit you in the head, that inspiration. I think there is a point in the duress, what alcoholics call ‘a moment of clarity,’ [when] you just find this comfort zone and it all comes out. The biggest songs on the record I wrote within [an] hour.”
He then recollected, “I remember the song 'Eating Its Way Out of Me,' I was at [El-P's], and he had this weird thing he was working on. He played it, and as he was playing it, I had the hook already. I bounced it down to a MP3, put it in GarageBand on my Mac, put on the headphones, and as we sat on the couch, I just freestyled a song. I went back, kind of made sense of the mumbling, and we went upstairs and we dropped it…we didn’t re-record it [afterwards in the studio]…because it just had a vibe to it. I was out of my mind. I might as well have been a blind man being walked in front of a microphone. I was just out of it. The song had become more of an escape for me than [any other] ever had…the record is an exorcism of sorts, but it’s a failed exorcism. It’s like you scream and everything pops out of you, but then it just lands on the floor and it’s still there for you to kick around. I’d like the record to help. There’s a part of me that if the record was geared toward anyone, it was geared towards being 16 again…right before I would get heavily into drugs and kind of [show] there is an option. You can be yourself and you not become maybe a drug addict or a sociopath, just an abusive dude crying out. I kind of pity myself on the old record when I hear it, like ‘My God, this dude needs a fucking hug and a glimpse of a better day.’”
Check out Cage's free EP I Never Knew You [click to listen].
Depart From Me is available July 7 on Definitive Jux Records.