Even against the pathology-ridden backgrounds of his fellow hip-hop artists, Cage's upbringing still retains some shock value. The son of a soldier addicted to heroin, Cage (Chris Palko) followed in his father's troubled footsteps; he was eventually sentenced to a psychiatric hospital, where he became a guinea pig for the drug Prozac. He survived several suicide attempts to become an aspiring rapper in the early '90s, a protégé of ex-3rd Bass-man Pete Nice. But his own heroin addiction caused him to blow a shot at the major-label brass ring.
Since then, things have been looking up for the demon-dogged MC. He's managed a successful career in the underground, working alone and as a member of the Smut Peddlers and the Weathermen. And his third solo album, the aptly titled Hell's Winter, is his bleakest and best yet, with guest appearances by such heavyweight fans as Jello Biafra, DJ Shadow, and Def Jux founder El-P. On this album, Bush-bashing political diatribes actually lighten the mood, as songs like "Stripes" and the title cut are part of a punishing autobiography that will make you glad you didn't have to live through it.