Cage, 'Depart From Me' (Definitive Jux)

Critical Mass
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by Mosi Reeves

"This monkey on my back is still flinging shit at me,"announces Cage on "Nothing Left to Say," his third album's harrowing opening salvo. In years past, that meant getting into fistfights with other rappers, being photographed with cocaine-stuffed baggies, and complaining to anyone who'd listen that Eminem bit his style. Cage is still outrageous -- check "I Never Knew You," where he imagines himself stalking and (possibly) murdering a woman. But Depart From Me, which arrives after 2005's post-rehab lament Hell's Winter, sounds more convincing than anything he's ever recorded.

Cage's depressed, phlegmatic voice is at the center of the storm as Depart From Me boils and burns, with producers El-P and F. Sean Martin building an epic, propulsive squall of feedback, surf guitar, and programmed beats. The album includes odes to childhood trauma ("Beat Kids"), weight issues ("Fat Kids Need an Anthem"), and off-color jokes about dating underage girls ("Teenage Hands"). Even "Nothing Left to Say," a magnificent tribute to the late, underappreciated MC-producer Camu Tao, is darkened by cynicism: "The day you passed away people think you're checking your MySpace."

Depart From Me offers no answers, just a gnawing sense that Cage's 12-step recovery has only empowered him to critique his self-loathing from every possible angle.

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