What follows below is a detailed life-long history of Chris Palko, aka Cage. While there is a whole lot of information here, none of it is filler; everything detailed below was instrumental in making Cage who he is at this point, and the story below is one of the most insane, crazy, tortured and triumphant stories you could imagine. Cage’s life has gone from watching his father shoot heroin, to addiction and violence and mental institutions to cutting an album for Columbia Records and being a rising star in the heyday of the NYC independent rap scene, to the final culmination and personal triumph that this album has become. It’s a brand new record from someone who has been through more extreme circumstances than most people could ever imagine, and has come out triumphant and a better person because of it, and whose artistic vision now reflects this.
Born in Wurzberg, Germany to American parents. His father, Bill Murray, was an MP in the US army stationed on West German military base where Cage and his parents lived until Bill was dishonorably discharged for selling and using heroin. When he was 4, Cage and his family were sent back to the US where they took up residence in Middletown, NY.
When they got to Middletown, his father continued to abuse heroin, often making Cage assist by pulling homemade tourniquets around his arm. His father left them suddenly with another woman. The last time Cage saw his father, he had a standoff with the Middletown state troopers after threatening his family with a shot gun. He was arrested and Cage has not seen him since. He was 8 years old at the time.
By the time his mother was on her third marriage, Cage was getting kicked out of Middletown Highschool during his freshman year. His stepfather would beat him up, punch him in the head, even leaving a scar over his eye. Around this time, Cage started using drugs (LSD, mescaline, weed, alcohol)
His mother sent him to live with his uncle (a Vietnam vet who never retired from the army) on a German military base for a year. That uncle hated him, beat him up and sent him home to America after a year.
Chris started getting into all sorts of trouble, including getting arrested (for drug possession, fighting in the streets, etc). He was 16 years old at this point. He was put on probation for charges, but after several violations found himself facing real jail time. His mother convinced the judge that Chris was mentally unstable and instead of prison he was sent to the Stony Lodge Psychiatric hospital for a 2 week evaluation which turned into an 18 month stay.
During his stay at "The Lodge", Chris was part of a small group of medical guinea pigs who were chosen to be the test subjects for a new and untested drug called Prozac, which hadn’t hit the market yet. Misdiagnosed and placed on Prozac, Cage became suicidal and made several attempts to try and kill himself (first by hanging himself by his own shoe laces, then by saving up his mandatory lithium doses for a month and ingesting all at once). He was subsequently put on suicide watch.
He was restrained over twenty times for periods of up to 13 hours at a time (illegally), sometimes by straightjacket, sometimes by 10 point bed restraints. Cage would later refer to this period in his life as his "rap college". He would spend his time doing the only thing he could, which was go deep into his mind and hone his imagination into the visceral and dramatic writing style he has to this day.
After being subjected to Lithium, Prozac, and a host of other drugs (and then even more drugs to counter the side effects produced by all the initial medication), Chris went from being a troubled teenager into a legitimately bi-polar young man.
He was eventually released on outpatient program and christened himself Alex, after the protagonist from A Clockwork Orange.
18 years old, fresh out of the lodge, Cage decided to pursue his the talent he honed while in hell and try to become a professional rapper. He made a demo, got a manager and was introduced to Pete Nice of 3rd Bass fame. Pete featured Cage on his solo effort "Dust to Dust" on the song "Rich Bring ‘Em Back" in 1993. This was his first appearance on a rap record.
Through Pete Nice Cage met fledgling radio personality Bobbito Garcia who had just started his soon to be legendary late night mix show with DJ Stretch Armstrong. He was invited up to the show several time, earning a rep in the emerging underground NY scene as a savage and raw new MC with an original style based on his tortured life and demented imagery.
Through his connection with that show, he met and formed a strong friendship with the KMD (whose front man Zev Love X would eventually be known as MF DOOM) and formed a very strong friendship with the late great Subroc. Cage was the last person to see Subroc alive before he was killed. He also became associated with and close to: Kurious Jorge, K-Solo, Godfather Don, Artifacts, Pharoah Monch, El-P (who actually worked with cage briefly in 1994 on a 3 song demo now lost to the world), the Juggaknots and many more.
Bobbito and Pete Nice started a label through Columbia Records called Hoppoh and was on the verge of singing cage as one of their first releases. At this time cage was heavily abusing drugs and every time he got into the studio he was too high to record anything that Columbia thought was worthy of a major label release.
Frustrated and dejected, Cage put his rap dreams on hold and moved back to Middletown where he got deeper and deeper in drug abuse and found out he was having a child.
In 1997, Cage’s friend and mentor Bobbito Garcia started his own independent label Fondle 'Em Records, and offered cage a twelve inch deal. Refocused and determined to get it right this time, Cage penned the single Agent Orange b/w Radiohead. The single would go on to be one of the landmark records of the golden era of NYC underground/independent rap music and propelled Cage into cult star status.
After a few more singles with Fondle ‘Em, Cage met and became friends with Philly to New York transplant rap group The High And the Mighty. He formed a group with them called the Smut Peddlers, and Rawkus (who were riding high on albums by Company Flow and Mos Def, to name a few) offered them a full length album deal through Eastern Conference’s imprint, Eastern Conference. The record sold over 50 thousand copies and solidified Cage’s status as a rising rap star in the independent scene.
Cage went on to do more records with Eastern Conference including his first solo record Movies for the Blind. The record was the realization of the very character he became through his tortured early years, relying on raw, savage, often cruel, misogynistic, gritty and rebellious attitudes he had formed through his earlier years. The record struck a chord, selling 15 thousand copies in just 2 weeks, and his legion of dedicated fans grew ever bigger, attracted to his visceral and dangerous persona and music. He traveled the world several times over in support of the record and became a major draw in the independent show circuit.
Soon after he started the supergroup Weathermen, comprised of good friends Camu Tao, El-P, Aesop Rock, Yak Ballz, Tame 1, and Breeze of the Juggaknots.
Restless with his artistic direction and feeling trapped by a persona created out of his troubled youth, he found himself at a crossroads. He felt as though he was squandering his writing abilities and catering to music with content that only scratched the surface of what he was about. He no longer wanted to project crazy for the sake of crazy and grew tired of showing the results of his past and how they reflected on his personality. Instead, he wanted to explain why he was the way he was and wanted to make a record that he could play for his daughter someday; a record that reflected the man he was now while at the same time finally shedding light on the source of his rage, pain and rebellion. It was at this point that he and El-p started to seriously talk about making an album that would truly realize his desire to take his art to another level. They cautiously talked and imagined this transformation for over a year, culminating with his signing with Definitive Jux records. El-p and Cage worked together to bring these ideas to fruition, and the result is a cathartic and radical statement of a tortured boy turned man. A detailed, imaginative and often disturbing look into the dark territory that Cage had so closely guarded from the fans that loved him.