Like many white rappers, Cage preemptively turned his race and family psychodrama into a joke before rivals could use them against him. Before signing with Definitive Jux, Cage took a long, hard look at himself, and in a jarring break with hip-hop tradition, grew the fuck up, moving beyond the juvenilia and scatology of his early work for bracingly honest autobiographical storytelling. Depart From Me, Cage’s feel-bad second Definitive Jux album, offers listeners another jagged ride through his tortured psyche.
Over Sean Martin’s production—angry electronic noise and muscular guitar—Cage explores his pet themes of depression, dysfunctional relationships, drugs, and the lingering aftereffects of childhood trauma with vivid, surrealist imagery and unrelenting candor. The album-opening “Nothing Left To Say” establishes a mood of visceral despair as Cage contemplates the impossible choices of people who cling to drugs as “vices that are something to hold onto as you fall into nothing.” Then he offers a sneakily moving elegy for his late friend Camu Tao disguised as a scathing attack on pretenders exploiting Tao’s name. Cage’s life has been so dramatically fucked-up that Shia LaBeouf wants to film his biopic, but Depart suggests that there’s no place more terrifying than the human mind. Cage spent his early hip-hop days mining formative traumas for cheap laughs. He’s spent his Definitive Jux career transforming his pain into messy, impressionistic tragedy. The result isn’t just more satisfying, it’s often funnier, too.