Cage | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Cage's latest, the autobiographical 2005 album Hell's Winter (Definitive Jux), is a big departure from the lurid shock rap on which he built his reputation, but it still makes 8 Mile look like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Born on a West German army base, Cage (aka Chris Palko) moved to the States with his parents at age four after his father was discharged for using and selling heroin; in "Too Heavy for Cherubs" he describes helping him tie off to shoot up. Palko was eight when he saw his dad, who'd already left to be with another woman, for the last time--Mr. Parent of the Year was in a standoff with state troopers after threatening the family with a shotgun. As a teen Palko started using drugs himself and was beaten by a stepfather and an uncle. On probation for a multitude of petty crimes, he violated its terms repeatedly but, thanks to his mother's intervention, ended up in a psychiatric hospital instead of jail. During his 18-month stay, which he refers to as "rap college," he was prescribed medication that provoked multiple suicide attempts--as an escape from the pain, he worked on sharpening his rhymes. You can hear the results in his vivid, urgent style, which on Hell's Winter is paired with kaleidoscopic and disquieting production by the master of desolation, El-P. Yak Ballz, C-Chan & the Govone, DJ Krazy Glue, the Aristacats, and Coolzey & DJ Johnny Sixx open. a 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $15, 18+.

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