Album: Movies For The Blind
Label: Eastern Conference
Rating: 9.5 / 10
Reviewer: DJ MF
Perhaps no other roster in hip hop today has the potential that Eastern Conference has amassed in the last couple of years. With releases by the High and Mighty and the Smut Peddlers in the last couple of years leading the way, along with the incredible buzz that Copywrite has been generating in the past and with his current LP, it was only a matter of time before the REAL heavy hitter of the crew, and probably the most anticipated of the roster to come out, Cage, would blow up.
It’s been a long time coming.
First heard on the underground classic ‘Agent Orange’, produced by Necro about 5 plus years ago, and on various singles since (all for the most part amazing), the career of Cage has been interesting to say the least. The original Necro association soon dissolved to give way to the current EC connects, and along the way there was the issue of some beef with another white MC you may have heard of. The only constant was Cage – the flow, the sick rhymes, the almost pornographic rhyme descriptions. The man is/was sick, no doubt – but there was an almost car crash-like fascination in listening to him.
Consider “Movies For The Blind” to be the ultimate car crash then.
Or better yet, title it ‘Porn For The Blind’.
To go off on yet another tangent, what Cage has done with this album is deliver EXACTLY what was expected of him. Make no mistake about it – that is NOT a diss. Too often, artists purposely try to be different from what’s expected, simply to prove a stupid point. Or, their true talent, or better yet, lack of talent, shines through, and expectations are sorely over realistic levels of performance.
From the beginning of this album, a short intro entitled ‘Morning Dips’, where Cage once again dips into his Clockwork Orange script, to the end of it, with ‘Pussy, Money, and War’, basically about, well, pussy, money and war, Cage does EXACTLY what you’d expect, but about 100X better than even your most optimistic prognostications.
Simply put, the opening 11 tracks of the album are one of the best sequences I have ever heard on an LP – even the skits. Granted, the last two of the 11 are older, but still – some albums don’t even have THREE good songs (you know who you are), so that in itself is pretty amazing.
Things start with the ‘That Smut’ vibe of the lead single ‘Escape To 88’, which features Mi on the production tip, and some incredible rhymes, including some nice digs at MTV and Eminem, and a scratched chorus featuring some of Cage’s most famous lines :
“Too bad no planes flew into MTV
I’ll never get a platinum plaque for MP3
Being blackballed by a white MC
Pause I guess that faggot found the right MD”
As frantic as the lead track is, the next one, ‘(Down) The Left Hand Pat’, is slow. After the digs at Em on the previous track, you’ll be surprised at the production (from Rush Red Spider) which sounds like something Dre would do if he had remained dope after ‘2001’. I mean, it’s uncanny. To top it off, Cage just sports one of the most ridiculous flows I’ve ever heard in my entire life on this track – multi’s all over the place, rhymes within rhymes… to be honest, I’d always thought he was a dope lyricist, but this is beyond even my best expectations.
Camu Tao’s production on the next track, ‘Teenage Death’ is also something to behold – a simple pounding bassline that wouldn’t sound out of place in a club, garnished with an absolutely beautiful harp that lends an almost playful and dreamy feel to the track. And again, Cage rips the shit out of the track, including a line about Donald Rumsfeld that had me rolling – Mi> ‘I drop food on my fr-enemies like Donald Rumsfeld.’ Leave it to the psychotic rapper to tell it like it is I guess.
And don’t worry, the hits keep coming with the faster paced clubby joint ‘Too Much’. Sporting an almost old school drum break that I keep thinking I should be able to recognize, and a jangly synth sample running over the bassline, the track, while being a little clubby, has the theme of paranoia running through it. The way Cage runs through the story is pretty cool and needs to be heard to really understand the way he weaves it.
A track that has been leaked for a couple of months now, ‘Stoney Lodge’ in next in queue, and like when I first heard it, it blows my mind. It ain’t your typical hip hop track, that’s for sure. To these ears, it sounds like something only someone like J-Zone could concoct. Think a crazy viola, almost in a classical sense, jutting in and out, and little if any bass accompaniment. And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Cage telling everyone about his internment in Stoney Lodge insane asylum, and the accompanying pyschosis resulting… or is that the other way around?
Before moving on to the Mighty Mi produced, ‘The Soundtrack’, I’ve GOT to mention the music he used for the skit ‘Probably Causes Paranoia’. I have no idea where it’s from, and it sounds suspiciously like Portishead, but DAMMIT Cage, you should have rhymed over that.
So, ‘The Soundtrack’. Mi’s production here sounds uncannily like El-P. Whether that is good or bad depends on whether or not you like El Producto I guess. On the plus side, things are kept pretty simplistic without too much clutter, letting Cage do his thing over a rambling, hyper paced drumline and bass stabs, with jutting keys interspersed. And oh yeah, it’s the ‘soundtrack’ to a murder being committed by Cage on his stepfather. So, really, it’s pretty genius – because much like RZA’s ‘The Heist’, the beat is basically mirroring the feelings of the MC.
The next track, rounding out the first nine of the new tracks on the first half of the LP, entitled, ‘Among The Sleep’ will stun you with it’s scope. The production, (this time handled by RJD2) will have your jaw on the ground, with it’s cinematic swooping violins that sound like something taken straight out of James Bond. Again, we’re dealing with some pretty brutal subject matter – this time in the same veins as Cage’s earlier track ‘Daydreams’, with Cage wondering whether what’s happening is real or a dream. Like I’ve always maintained – pairing brutal stuff like this with something as beautiful as this beat will ALWAYS work in hip hop. Contrasts are where it’s at.
The next two tracks, you’ve heard – Unlike Tower 1 (aka Tower of Babble 2), and Agent Orange. If you need me to tell you they’re dope, then you’re an idiot. And I don’t mean dope, I mean DOPE.
After 11 incredible tracks however, things finally fall apart with ‘CK Won’. Again, its Mi on the boards, recognisable mostly because of the funky 70’s sounding bassline… but it just doesn’t work. Too frantic, too jumpy. Perhaps that’s the plan, but something about it just doesn’t click to me.
Of course, like you’d expect anything else, we return to dopeness, once again with another old track, this time ‘Crowd Killa’, released on wax once already on the ‘Eastern Conference Presents 2’ LP. Once again – I don’t need to describe how dope this is. Beautiful violins, pure battle venom. Vintage Cage.
A track similar to ‘The Soundtrack’ comes after another skit, this time titled, ‘Holdin’ A Jar 2′. Another very fast drum break, and a buzzing bassline reminiscent of Camu Tao’s ‘Hold The Floor’, but sped up about 20X over. As we’ve come to expect from El-P’s production, this style is a little different from the rest of the album, but it’s undeniably still great stuff. Cage falters a bit here lyrically I think, simplifying the flow up a bit, but I think it’s more due to trying to fit into the beat than anything else. Thumbs up nonetheless.
Things end with the aforementioned, ‘Pussy, Money, and War’ featuring EC associate Copywrite. Standard ‘thug’ stuff, but with the obvious Cage twists on sex and violence of course. Mr. Nelson doesn’t do much other than the chorus, but even that is amazing, and the beat is another club banger. Don’t know how many women will be feeling the misogyny, but if you’re listening to Cage, you gotta know what you’re getting into I guess.
By my count, that’s 18 tracks total, 4 of which are skits. So 14 songs, only ONE of which I wasn’t feeling, and that is probably more due to my aversion to cheesy 70’s rips more than anything else.
Welcome to the club Cage.