Christian Palko (born May 4, 1973), better known by his stage name Cage, is a German hip hop recording artist and actor from Würzburg, Germany. Cage is perhaps best known for his work under the labels Definitive Jux and Eastern Conference, as well as his 2002 debut studio album Movies for the Blind. Since his debut, Cage has released four albums, with the latest being 2013's Kill the Architect. He has also released two compilation albums and two extended plays.
Aside from his solo career, Cage is one of the founders of the underground hip hop supergroup The Weathermen, which was formed in 1999. He also established a group called Smut Peddlers, with hip hop duo The High & Mighty, publishing an album titled Porn Again, in 2001. He is also known for his collaborations with New Jersey rapper Tame One; the two are collectively known as Leak Bros. Cage was also one-half of the duo The Nighthawks, which paired him alongside fellow American rapper Camu Tao, until Tao's death, which occurred in 2008.
Chris Palko was born in Würzburg, Germany, to American parents. His father was stationed on a West German military base as a member of the military police. Palko lived there until the age of four when his father was dishonorably discharged for selling and using heroin, and the family was sent back to the United States where they lived in Middletown, New York. His father would often force Palko to pull homemade tourniquets around his arm as he injected heroin. At the age of eight, Palko's father was arrested during a standoff with state troopers after threatening his family with a shotgun. By the time Palko was expelled from high school, his mother had remarried twice, and he was beaten by his stepfather Frank. Palko began using PCP, cocaine, LSD, cannabis and alcohol, and was sent to live with his uncle on a German military base, where he was beaten and sent home after a year.
Palko was arrested several times for drug possession and fighting in the streets. When he faced jail time for violating probation, his mother convinced the judge that he was mentally unstable, and he was sent to the Stony Lodge psychiatric hospital for a two-week evaluation. He stayed in the hospital for sixteen months, where he was a part of a small group used to test fluoxetine, commonly used in Prozac. After being misdiagnosed and placed on the drug, he became suicidal and made several attempts to kill himself, including hanging himself with his shoelaces and saving his lithium (medication) dose for a month before ingesting all of them at once.
1991–2001: Career beginnings
When Palko was released at the age of eighteen, he pursued a career as a rapper, giving himself the pseudonym "Alex", after the protagonist of Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange. After hiring a manager and recording a demo, he was introduced to rapper Pete Nice, and Cage was featured on the 1993 album Dust to Dust. Pete Nice also introduced Palko to radio personality Bobbito García, who featured Palko on his program several times, increasing his reputation among New York's underground hip hop scene, where he became associated with KMD, Kurious Jorge, K-Solo, Godfather Don, Necro, Artifacts, Pharoahe Monch and El-P. Palko signed a recording contract with Columbia Records, but frequently recorded while intoxicated, and the label found his efforts to be unsatisfactory. Palko briefly put his career on hold and his drug use increased.
When García founded the label Fondle 'Em Records, he offered Palko a record deal, and Cage released a single featuring the songs "Radiohead" and "Agent Orange" in 1997, to success and acclaim. Following the release of The Slim Shady EP in December 1997, Palko accused Detroit-based rapper Eminem of imitating his style, however in the single "Role Model", Eminem raps that he received a Cage mixtape and recorded over it. After several more singles with Fondle 'Em, Palko met Mr. Eon and DJ Mighty Mi of The High & Mighty, and the trio formed the group Smut Peddlers, releasing the album Porn Again on Rawkus Records in 2001. The album peaked at #10 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, #43 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and #184 on the Billboard 200, while its single "That Smut" peaked at #9 on the Hot Rap Singles chart and #96 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart. In 2001, Palko's music was featured on the soundtrack to the psychological crime film Bully.
2002–2009: Eastern Conference and Definitive Jux era
Palko signed with The High & Mighty's Eastern Conference Records, releasing his debut album, Movies for the Blind, on August 6, 2002. It peaked at #12 on the Heatseekers chart, #14 on the Top Independent Albums chart, #58 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and #193 on the Billboard 200. Palko later stated, in 2006, that the album "sort of glorified drugs" and that he felt the album was "crazy for the sake of being crazy [...] . During this period, Palko formed the group The Weathermen, named after the left-wing political organization. The group released their debut album The Conspiracy on June 3, 2003, before Palko left Eastern Conference over alleged non-payment. An extended play, titled Weatherproof, was released on July 29, 2003.
Because Palko felt that he should no longer play a character, he began to take on a more open writing style, and signed with Definitive Jux, where he released his second studio album Hell's Winter, on September 20, 2005. Palko is quoted as saying "I make progressive rap, it's as simple as that. [...] I don't live for drugs anymore, I don't support them, and I'm not about to make a million songs about them anymore." Hell's Winter peaked at #26 on the Top Heatseekers chart and at #36 on the Top Independent Albums chart.
In a 2007 interview with American actor Shia LaBeouf, for Vanity Fair, LaBeouf expressed interest in starring as Palko in a possible film biography. On November 30, 2007, Spin reported that the film would go into production.
In July 2009, Palko released his third studio album Depart from Me, which was characterized as having a rap rock sound by Cage. LaBeouf directed the music video for the song "I Never Knew You", from Palko's Depart from Me album.
2010–2014: Kill the Architect
In late 2010, Palko appeared on American recording artist Kid Cudi's second album Man On The Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager, making a guest appearance on a track titled "Maniac". The two performed "Maniac", alongside indie rock musician St. Vincent, on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in November of that year. In March 2011, Cudi announced he would be releasing a short film inspired by the song "Maniac", co-starring Palko and directed by Shia LaBeouf, in October 2011. On October 30, 2011, as promised Cudi released Maniac, a short horror film, premiered via his blog.
Despite previously having a falling out with The High & Mighty, Palko announced in 2012, he would reunite with producer DJ Mighty Mi, to release a single titled "The Void", which was released on April 3, 2012 on Tribute Records. Palko has also recently started a new project with Sean Martin, called We Sold Our Souls. They released their first song "Super Baked", in March 2012. Cage also announced he will be releasing material under an alter ego, Sam Hill. The lyrics feature topics similar to Cage's early efforts on Movies For the Blind. On August 23, 2013, it was announced that Kill The Architect would be released on October 22, 2013 with Eastern Conference Records. A song from the album, The Hunt, was released on the same day.
- Movies for the Blind (2002)
- Weatherproof EP (2003)
- Hell's Winter (2005)
- I Never Knew You (2009)
- Depart from Me (2009)
- Kill the Architect (2013)
- Book of Sam (TBA)
- The Revenge of Chris Palko (TBA)
- Waterworld (2004) (with Tame One, as Leak Bros)
- Nighthawks (2002) (with Camu Tao, as Nighthawks)
- Maniac (2011)
- Spring (2014)
- Paint It Black (2016)