On 2003′s Weatherproof EP, Cage lamented on “Haterama”, “Even Bobbito said ‘Fuck it I quit’.” At the time, the indy hip-hop scene was in full swing, despite Stretch & Bobbito’s retirement from a scene they largely helped create. The movement would still flourish healthily for another five years, built upon the sales of 12″ vinyl and albums from labels like Eastern Conference and Def Jux, that were much stronger than what was being offered in the major label market. At that time, Cage, his crew – and his competitors – showed no signs of slowing down. Then the internet happened.
While file-sharing was still a bit of a fairly new concept at the time, the people it the hardest were the indie artists and retailers. Album leaks killed the CD market, while Serato and digital DJ platforms killed the vinyl. HipHopSite.Com witnessed this first hand, as CD and vinyl sales would steadily decline over the next few years, leading to a cease of its retail operations. Distributors like Fat Beats and Caroline (the biggest indie distributor at the time) soon followed suit, and eventually both of Cage’s labels – Eastern Conference and Definitive Jux Records – would fold too, among many others. The move to digital music wasn’t the only paradigm shift the indie hip-hop scene wasn’t ready for, but many agree that this is the one common thread where the industry failed as whole.
Cage’s last album, Depart From Me, released in 2009, was one of the last albums to be released under the Definitive Jux banner. While the label was battling its own financial issues at the time, the fact that this record received mixed reviews did not help the matter. Cage was experiencing a successful stint in the indie rock scene, and this record resonated with it, finding a whole new audience for the longtime underground rapper. However the backpack audience did not appreciate the shift, as it moved too far away from his original sound. His second album, Hell’s Winter, seemed to be the sweet spot of meshing the genres, that almost everyone dug.
Fast forward to 2013, it seems like it’s been a lifetime since we heard a new album from Cage, despite the fact that not even five years have passed. With so many institutions of indie hip-hop disappearing, we almost assumed that we might never hear from Cage again. But last year, news popped up that Cage was back working with longtime producer Mighty Mi, and he would soon release a new album on Eastern Conference Records.
The first offering from Cage and Mighty Mi was “The Void”, a dubstep fueled collaboration with vocalist Sherry St. Germaine, produced by Michael Mayeda. While the track was dope, and was a success, cracking the hip-hop charts on Beaport, Cage and Milo ultimately decided that it wasn’t them, and took things back to basics for the sound of Kill The Architect. The end result is a resounding success, as Cage has created one of the best albums of his career.
The sound of Kill The Architect is all it’s own, as he doesn’t try to remake Movies For The Blind, nor does it bleed into rock territory as he did on Hell’s Winter. It’s a complete 180 from Depart From Me, and presents the darker, twisted side of Cage that we haven’t heard from in years, over raw, yet melodic hip-hop beats.
The biggest change here is how understated the production is. Many of the tracks are very sparse and laid back, such as the disturbing opening track, “Lamb Of Nothing”, which finds Cage setting the stage with lines like “Up to no good like the night before Halloween / Put your fuckin mask on and follow me / Through the colony / Marijuana all in me / Still cold and evil / Throw your kids off a cliff like a golden eagle.” Yes, Cage is back.
He carries a largely apathetic attitude towards things, however this does not stunt his lyrics in the slightest. His cavalier, uncaring attitude comes out on songs like “Fuck This Game” and “They Suck”, saying out loud the things that many of us only think about. This might be best displayed on the somber “You Were The Shit (In High School)”, a condescending list of comparisons between himself and the random bros.
Milo digs deep to pull out some off kilter grooves on tracks like “Cursed” and “In Your Fur”, showing he has not lost his knack for hip-hop production over the years, and if anything, has improved. Songs like “Watch Me” and “Road Kill” bring back a sound long lost, while the production dips back into his heavier Hell’s Winter style on songs like “The Hunt” and “This Place”, both likely mined from some respectable rock records.
While Cage has said that tracks from Depart From Me draw the biggest response at his shows, that album’s new sound came at a price of some of his longtime followers. Yet an artist’s evolution is to be expected, and with Kill The Architect, he comes full circle. He doesn’t try to relive past glories, whether that be any of his previous records, he simply builds upon the foundation of his catalog. While the indie hip-hop scene may have seen it’s best days some years ago, Cage proves that true artistry will always prevail.
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