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Cage - Hell's Winter

Released on Definitive Jux, October 4th

It's been a couple of years, but Definitive is back with a new album that's worth a listen. Far more headphone hip-hop than big-room filler, this album is heavy on the esoteric lyricism and the inventive beats.

Cage has gone from a twisted caricature of himself to a presenting a more honest analysis of some pretty dark shit. Topics range from Bush-bashing, junkie dads, and molesting priests -- but the difference on this album is that Cage starts to show both heart and flow. Talent and drive came back to the man, and it's great to hear a dope MC still doing his thing.

The collaborations on this album are the core of this album. Rjd2's uptempo "Shoot Frank" is the dark horse, a pop-ish blend of electronica beats and John Legend keys. The elusive and wickedly talented DJ Shadow produces the political "Grand Ol' Party Crash". El-P, label founder, adds a lot of smooth edges to the rough songs. James McNew of Yo La Tengo shows up as a guest, as does Blockhead, adding a dreamy, soupy layer to two tracks.

All in all, if you haven't been listened to Def Jux in a while, or you've never heard it, this is a good time to check it out.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars