Before I formally review “Depart From Me” I want to make two facts about myself abundantly clear:
1. I am a Cage fan. I have been listening to Chris Palko for about a decade and have steadily defended him in multiple heated arguments with my boys over the years. I have seen him perform live four times and regularly listen to his whole catalog from “Agent Orange” to “Hell’s Winter.”
2. I am not the typical anti-experimentation Hip-Hop head. I find the artistic growth from artists like Eminem, Outkast and Nas refreshing and I am the only member or my social circle willing to admit I was kinda feelin’ “808’s & Heartbreak.”
With that being said, “Depart From Me” is by no means horrible, but it may turn off some long time Cage fans because it’s way more “Hot Topic” than “Against All Odds.” The overwhelming majority of the sonic backdrops and song structures on this record dive head first into the indie-rock/metal/emo/industrial sounds hinted at on 2005’s “Hell’s Winter.” The bulk of this production in provided by Hatebreed’s F. Sean Martin, with only a few contributions from Def Jux faithfuls El-P and Aesop Rock, this makes the boom bap of earlier Cage classics like “Radio Head” and “Too Much” conspicuously absent from DFM. Added to the decidedly rock-influenced soundscapes are the song structures that are not the typical “16 bar verse-hook-16 bar verse-hook-16 bar verse-ad libs” typical of most Hip-Hop records. Every song contains lyrics that are either sung, screamed, mumbled or moaned and not actually “rapped”, and while this works well on some songs (“Nothing Left To Say” and “Fat Kids Need An Anthem” particularly), it is harder to digest on others (lead single “I Never Knew You”). When Cage choses to actually rap, he can still spit with the best underground MC’s in the game, the only problem is there is not nearly enough of it to satisfy fans that have been eagerly awaiting his return to the game since 2005.
As far as subject matter, Cage continues to mine his youth of drug use, mental hospitals, domestic abuse, crime and sexual escapades to good effect and while fans might suspect he has already run all of these topics into the ground they will most likely be pleasantly surprised with the new twists on them. Two events addressed for the first time on this album are the death of his best friend (and insanely gifted) Camu Tao on the blistering “Nothing Left To Say” and his own dramatic weight loss on “Fat Kids Need An Anthem.” The latter contains maybe the most telling lyric on the album: "I was happier when I was fat and on drugs.” While I am in not position to judge this statement as I have never been fat or on drugs, it perfectly illustrates the Cage of 2009. He is possibly the most compelling figure in Hip-Hop and is firmly torn between the angel dusted lunatic of “Movies For The Blind” and the sober, responsible adult on “Hell’s Winter.”
“Depart From Me” is not for everyone, but for fans interested in genuinely genre-expanding music it is a must listen and along with last month’s Street Sweeper Social Club’s self-titled debut is further proof that there is still hope for successfully bridging the gap between rap and rock.
If you like "that next sh*t" : 4 (go get it!)
If you are a typical RAP (not Hip-Hop) fan that has bee brainwashed by the radio: 1 (go buy Rick Ross' s album instead)