Some things in music are almost guaranteed to cause a knee jerk negative reaction among middle class “intellectuals” such as all of us. One of those things, as last weeks post rather painfully illustrated, is girls being openly sexually liberated beings. Another, relevant to this post, is self pity.
In a post-emo subcultural climate, everyone is still scared of being tarnished with that 3 letter 4 letter word, and so any sign of emotion is looked upon as almost something like an exposed weak spot, ripe for mockery and accusations of “going emo”.
Of course, this is a pretty ridiculous state of being, as self pity, irrational bitterness and selfishness, and self hatred, are just as valid forms of expression as any other, and even the most jaded cynic (in fact often them more than most) will have grounds to relate to this kind of material on. If you don’t then congratulations on your perfect life!
Anything will become sickening, generic, and dull with too much exposure though, which was the problem with the “emo era”, which we are still very much in the backlash from. This is just natural though, and the inevitable guarantee of demise of anything that becomes popular for a while. Its gets saturated, becomes a self parody, and people start to mock it and lose interest.
This week I have been jamming a shit load of Cage, an NYC rapper who is probably my favorite hip hop artist ever. Cage is extremely bitter, self pitying, and were it not for the genre, easily accusable of being “emo”. I think doing rap makes you immune to that accusation. Anyway, while I believe anyone has the right to be bitter and self hating, cage definately has a greater claim than most. From his wikipedia entry:
Palko was born in Würzburg, Germany to American parents. His father, Bill Murray, was stationed on a West German military base as a member of the military police. Palko lived there until the age of four when Murray was dishonorably discharged for selling and using heroin, and the family was sent back to the United States where they lived in Middletown, New York. Murray would often force Palko to pull homemade tourniquets around his arm as he injected heroin. At the age of eight, Palko’s father was arrested during a standoff with state troopers after threatening his family with a shotgun. By the time Palko was kicked out of high school, his mother had remarried twice, and he was beaten by his stepfather. Palko began using LSD, mescaline, cannabis and alcohol, and was sent to live with his uncle on a German military base, where he was beaten and sent home after a year.
Palko was arrested several times for drug possession and fighting in the streets. When he faced jail time for violating probation, his mother convinced the judge that he was mentally unstable, and he was sent to the Stoney Lodge psychiatric hospital for a two week evaluation. He eventually ended up staying in the hospital for eighteen months, where he was a part of a small group used to test fluoxetine. After being misdiagnosed and placed on the drug, he became suicidal and made several attempts to kill himself, including hanging himself with his shoelaces and saving his lithium dose for a month before ingesting all of them at once. He was illegally restrained over twenty times for periods of up to thirteen hours at a time by straitjacket and ten point bed restraints.
So while cage gets cred from being a far more genuine fuckup than most, he gets extra props from me for being a relatively lone rapper, especially in such a “collabo” centric genre. While he has collaborated with some relatively unknown artists from the underground, and forming Smut Peddalers with some of the dudes from The High and Mighty (of Tony Hawks pro skater 2 fame, B-Boy document, check it out!), he managed to make enemies of most of them in the end, having had beef with everyone from Necro to Eminem. So ultimately, while most rappers generally become parts of collectives, with crews to back them up and rap with, Cage ultimately just had himself and his self hatred. This feeling of excommunication is frequently touched upon in his work.
Cage’s incompatibility with other rappers, labels, and anyone who might help him, seems to have come quite primarily from his abuse of pretty much every substance known to man, as well as his fucked up upbringing and natural distrust and aggression towards pretty much everyone. When he recorded his debut “Movies For The Blind”, he was pretty much constantly fucked up, and most of the songs were one take jobs with little care as to the quality, as evidenced from the very raw sound.
Movies for The Blind is the only cage record I have any interest in, being the only one he was in a really bad state for. After that, more people started to care about him, and consequently he cleaned up and became less of a fucked up crackhead scumbag. Predictably, this made his music afterwards boring, much how the same thing happened to Eminem when he became successful. The present day Cage seems even ashamed of the record, having said:
that the album “sort of glorified drugs” and that he felt the album was “crazy for the sake of being crazy […] [It] was just kind of an angsty, bullshit record. A few songs on there I liked, and I had a few things to say that were fragmented in there within a lot of randomness”
Unfortunately, this is what in my opinion made the record so awesome, with the fragmented nightmarish bleak reality it painted.
One of my favorite cage songs is “suicidal failure”, which, along with Pig Destroyer, I view as one of the most sincere & accurate musical depictions of heartbreak and rejection ever committed to mp3. It’s bitter, irrational, unreasonable, self pitying, self hating, sickening, pitiful, and self indulgent, just like in real life. I can relate to this song almost word for word.
As well as all the above descriptions, the song also manages to be quite darkly comic, especially the mocking description of being discovered by paramedics half dead under the Brooklyn Bridge.
Remember how good things used to be?
(Although I seem.. and appear..)
Remember how good things everything used to be?
(.. to the naked eye to be normal..)
It used to just be so good
It used to just be me and this girl;
(.. thoughts grow haunted inside my head)
yeah, right.. rrright!
(.. then strike! Pull out my naked eye and with this..
my mask of sanity’s about to slip!)
Sittin in my room with a razor blade
Thinkin all my days are played as much as my single needs to fade away
Shoot myself in the arm and start bleedin
Don’t wanna go yet, stick a straw in my wound and taste my heart beatin
Fuckin bitch left me and I ain’t even peaked yet
(Fuck all that noise playboy, this leak’s wet)
Smoke a bundle to the face lace my brain and neurons
Carvin all my downfalls into my fuckin forearm
(Cage snap out of this, it’s just a girl)
It’s just the world, it’s just a life, it’s just a rusty Rambo knife
wedged between my ribs scratchin my heart up tonight
I’m gonna pull this shit off in front of all my friends
Went swimmin under the Brooklyn Bridge tryna catch the bends
Didn’t swim deep enough my head imploded ten percent
Floated to the surface, the paramedic’s like – what’s this stench?
(I want everbody to back up, he’s still alive)
I’m a suicidal failure, look my life’s a failure
I can’t make it in rap even my birth’s an error
Do what I can to catch a quick death
but I’m meant to be here and that’s the fuckin hell I live with
Took the phone off the hook, ate multi-colored pills
Washed it down with Absolut and started writin out my will
Give my dog bootlegs PS2 and DC
To my girl who left me when she said, “Pick me or PCP”
Since I love to smoke I thought it was a joke
Tried to hang myself and I fell free from the rope
Broke both my arms, my neck smashed my femur
Got up somehow and limped in front of a beamer
Cracked my rib cage, look what you did Cage, you’re dying
but I’m not dead yet I’m still trying
Cut my wrist and walked past some crips bleedin red
in hopes that I get shot in the fuckin head
I drank a bottle of Jack, sniffed three bottles of kitty
In the middle of the freeway walkin to the city
So much PCP I changed my name to watermouth
Pumpin Masta Ace I walked into a jewish Slaughterhouse
Throw myself on the hook, now that’s the chorus
Got split from my neck to my dick, now that’s what gore is
Hollow man look at all my dangling parts
Dropping to the gutter with a piece of you in my heart
Little piece of shit that I couldn’t fling from my chest
Should of stayed alive long enough to kill the fag you’re with
but right now, my skin is gettin stripped off
Each one of my limbs is ripped off covered in thick sauce
My head hits the conveyer, I’m not thick and a prayer is sick
I’m watchin a movie alone and you suckin some guy’s dick
Six seconds left when I die I’m gonna find her
on some Poltergeist shit while my face goes through the grinder
I also very much enjoy the sound of the “cliché” violins in the chorus, as almost to say, yeah, I know I’m being self-pitying and unbearable, fuck it, I’m gonna stew in my own miasma and indulge in my self hatred.
I feel the last verse hits the spot perfectly, past all the black humour and gore. Lines like “Should of stayed alive long enough to kill the fag you’re with” and “I’m watchin a movie alone and you suckin some guy’s dick” pretty much perfectly and bluntly encapsulating the all-consuming rage, paranoia, and unreasonable judgement that comes with being fucked over. Meanwhile, the more graphic metaphorical representation in lines like – “but right now, my skin is gettin stripped off, Each one of my limbs is ripped off and covered in thick sauce” -is both striking in its graphic nature and accuracy as a physical manifestation of the emotional pain of heartbreak, and brings back memories of slamming onto my bed and imagining myself being ripped apart, in an almost Hellraiser like fashion.
My favorite cage song though, and indeed probably my favorite rap song ever, is the disturbing, epic, and nightmarish “Among The Sleep”, which, on top of one of the most epic beats ever used in rap, and probably what The Snowgoons have always been trying to achieve but never quite getting, has some of the most brilliant NYC style rapping ever. The lyrics are inspired by some of the more memorable nightmares that cage has ever had in his colorful mental history, with his time in a mental institute, and general pessimism.
I won’t bother dissecting the words, as it’s just such a rich field of fucked up lyrics that I can’t really chose any one section over the others, instead, just listen, and revel in the fucked up vibe, while having the comfort knowing that while things can suck sometimes, at least you aren’t as fucked up as Chris Palko was.
I’m seconds from meeting what the Mossberg had to offer
And feed my thoughts of Christ to the altar
I wake up on a red floor
Axe in a dead whore
My dick chewed up, why I let this bitch give me head for?
Pigs tryin’ ta kick down the door, I’m out for me
Opened the sliding glass door and hopped off the balcony
Fell 30 flights to cars on 10th Av.
Landed on a FedEx-disguised meth lab
And after it blew up
I woke up and threw up
Stuck my hand in my pants, my shit ain’t chewed up
Wiped the puke from my face
Then leaved this place
With a 4-5 in the waist
At an elitist pace
No breathing space
I step out and show face
Within 3 minutes I’m approached for H
Then a shotgun to neck, now loose the weapon
And my skull fragments painted the sky for seconds
Back to my brain like my brain is a home
While I roll with the fame I still aim at the throne
All my peers all sleep and I’m the only one not weak
Or am I unconscious dreaming I’m making a speech
Is this reality or my memory getting mileage
Am I staring at the sun or blood vessels in my eyelids
Do I make music or is music making me
Is this really all death or just my awakening
I pick my head up, with a face full of drool
Look around the classroom, now I’m some geek in high school
Get fucked with in the hallway and can’t do shit
But write names on bullets and fill a few clips
No need for rags and vodka, got a locker
With enough fire-power to war with helicopters
First click to pass, I’m clicking to release
Each adolescent fist holding 4 police killers
And I ain’t paying for the clips I’m spendin’
When I shoot up the crowd like a heroin convention
Feds storm the building for the sick boy with balls
Made of steel, put shit through toilet stalls
See my teachers dead through holes in the door
And alerted the cops outside, holdin’ the floor
I exit the bathroom, enter a vet parade
Getting shot the fuck up but smoke some pig on the way
I open up my eyes to get cracked in the face
Six times, while I’m asked for combos to a safe
My wife on the couch, dying, raped, in shock
While the gunmen argue on where to take the Yacht
Assuming I’m rich
My own boat
And if I don’t start speaking I’ma loose my throat
They start chumming the water with my dead hoe and laugh
Force me to see great whites snapped on the lower half
Lobbed off my arm, threw it in, no guns to shoot
Think of 3 past deaths and find an escape route
All I have to do is wake up, lift the mast
And get shot off the boat and my back to get whipped in half
I wake up screamin’
With a shotgun in church, feindin’
To kill myself, but I don’t know if I’m still dreamin’
50-50 chance I’ma die and go straight up
Or straight to hell, either fuckin’ way I’ma wake up!
Boring present day cage, who now looks disturbingly like Owl City/Rowan, hard to believe this guy spent time in a mental institute and recorded “Among the Sleep”. Of course, I’m happy for the guy for getting over all his problems, and having put the past behind him, but it kina sucks how that means no more awesome fucked up rap music. Also looses props for being ashamed of Movies For The blind. I wonder if he hangs out with hipsters now? Maybe he IS Owl City? Have you ever seen them together? Maybe he got tired of the negative and decided to write happy autotuned songs for tweens?