A lot of time in between albums can be a gift and a curse for rappers. For some, it gives them a chance to perfect their style, while others use it as an opportunity to create a new sound. On the other side, however, an artist can lose focus. Nearly four years after his highly-acclaimed sophomore album Hell's Winter [click to read], Cage [click to read] chose a mix of the last two options, implementing a rock sound on his latest effort Depart From Me.
The album-opening "Nothing Left To Say" [click to listen] plays out just like it should, transitioning from a light, eerie intro into a backdrop drenched with synth and drums while Cage wears his emotions on his sleeve. Displaying rhymes of suppressed memories, he raps, "When you're all alone and you think of home / Places you may have been and who you've known / This beauty they speak of I cannot see / As I imagined as a child it's make believe." Immediately afterward, the listener is welcomed with "Beat Kids." Over a distorted bass line, Cage relives his abusive childhood, which brings a dark aesthetic that fans have grown to appreciate. While this latter track does a fairly good job at blending Rock and Rap, the best example comes in the form of "Strain." With an unleashed beat from Aesop Rock [click to read] that complements Cage's delivery, the record makes out as the albums strongest performance.
As seen in his previous work, Cage is not afraid to touch on topics that could potentially make his listeners tune out. But whether the issue deals with dating an under-aged female ("Teenage Hands"), or telling drug addicts, friends and his mom to fuck off ("Kick Rocks"), Cage is able to make it an entertaining venture to say the least. This same rhetoric is most evident on "Fat Kids Need An Anthem." Poking fun at his weight problems in the past, Cage rhymes, "This is nothing to kick dirt on, if you're thin you'll get your flirt on / If you're fat you make love with your shirt on" while also stating, "I figured if I lost the weight I wouldn't feel like shit anymore, but guess what I still feel like shit!"
Somewhere along their journey to blend rock with Cage's usually infectious rhyme scheme, the emcee and his main producer F. Sean Martin lose sight on creating an album that integrates both genres with ease. Despite a catchy hook on "Dr. Strong" [click to listen], the record seemingly goes nowhere. Likewise, on "I Never Knew You," an aggravated Cage sounds more like he's whining than giving us a recap of a failed relationship. Even more disappointing, the albums least favorable record is "Eating It's Way Out Of Me," produced by past collaborator and label mate El-P. This track, which Cage explained was a one-take record [click to read], falters with a lazy delivery and mumbled words from the usually poignant emcee. If Movies For The Blind [click to read] was an introduction to Cage's surreal reality, and Hell's Winter focused on the elements that created this life, Depart From Me is his valiant push to break away, yet to no avail. With that said, it will be interesting to see what experiences Cage takes away from Depart From Me and uses for his next project. For the sake of himself, and his fans, let's hope it doesn't take another four years.