Halloween Goodies: Movies for the Blind, by Cage

by Dustin

mftb

Halloween is always a fun time of the year. The kiddos are out in spooky costumes collecting enough candy to become diabetic at eight years old, young adults are out in costumes slutty enough to make a stripper wince, and everyone is generally just out to have a good time. More importantly for this site however, there’s also a huge array of horror themed hip-hop out there to fit the mood of the season. We’re not talking about struggle-Juggalo horrorcore however. What we want to discuss is the artists that went deeper, combining horror elements with conventional hip-hop to create near-movie like albums.

Welcome to Extraordinary Nobodies’ first ever Halloween Week, where we will have a look at four of our favorite horror inspired albums for an entire week leading up to Halloween (though surely you have figured that out by now).

The first album on the menu is perhaps the least Halloween-flavoured of the bunch, but it’s got one foot firmly planted in the horror genre. Cage’s Movies for the Blind, released in 2002, combined shock rap with New York hip-hop in a way not many had attempted. Though he’s probably most notorious for a short lived beef with rap megastar Eminem, Cage’s first two releases are regarded by many as underground classics. Movies for the Blind started it all, and it’s a record that will leave you feeling utterly disgusted in the best way possible.

Lyrically, Movies for the Blind is the ultimate channeling of rage, drug abuse, and mental illness into bar after bar of tantalizingly shocking lines. Setting the tone is an album opener with Cage expressing an unbridled affinity for PCP and destruction. The album doesn’t quit either, with jump-scare like lyrics woven into even the most New York sounding tracks to keep you on edge. No content is off the table on this record. Murder, suicide, and violence find themselves as staples on what is a freak-show of atrocities. Dips into the norm are rare, but when they do happen it serves as a necessary break from the amazingly grotesque images Cage paints with his words.

Blue collar to corporate blessed the unfortunate,
Like when I put my foot down that bitch still aborted it,
Stuck the canister under my jacket like the lucky one,
‘Uh, sir you can’t leave with that,’ bitch this my fucking son!
(Too Much)

Unlike Hell’s Winter, which saw Cage take a more introspective approach to his music, Movies for the Blind lacks any form of self-awareness. It is an album with an emcee at his most unhinged, unloading rage and hate at anyone who will listen. It’s beautifully executed, and forces you to feel a level of discomfort that most horrorcore albums simply haven’t been able to achieve.

His charisma is also undeniable. It gets to the point that he nearly comes across as a sociopath.

I’m a suicidal failure, look my life’s a failure,
I can’t make it in rap, even my birth’s an error,
Do what I can to catch a quick death,
But I’m meant to be here and that’s the fuckin’ hell I live with.
(Suicidal Failure)

Interestingly, the production on Movies for the Blind is relatively subdue and typical for the underground New York scene at the time. The album featured production primarily by DJ Mighty Mi, but also the likes of El-P, Necro, and Camu Tao (plus a handful of others). With the lineup, it’s no surprise that the sound is so distinctly east coast. Movies for the Blind fools you into nodding along with the gritty production, while throwing lines about suicide and death in your face. The contrast is absolutely wonderful to experience; moreover, the instrumentals are brilliantly cohesive throughout.

Movies for the Blind may not be the ultimate Halloween record, but there are qualities to it that definitely make it a terrifying listening. It’s quite interesting how this album plays out like a series of short snuff films. It’s more disturbing than scary, but it remains as grimy today as it was 14 years ago upon release. Movies for the Blind is also a gem from a time where Definitive Jux and Eastern Conference (the latter of which would release the album) were just beginning to take over the New York underground scene. Whether you’re interested in records from that era, or just looking for something gory to celebrate Halloween, Movies for the Blind remains an underground classic that is wholeheartedly recommendable.

Not for the faint of heart, however.

Why it Was Good: A History of Violence, by Kuniva

by Apu

HOV

On December 16, 2014, Kuniva released his official debut studio project, A History of Violence. It followed a long stream of mixtapes (Retribution, the Midwest Marauders series, and the Lost Gold mixtape). Unlike the music that was on the mixtapes, Kuniva used all original production (primarily handled by Block Symfany, a production team composed of Rio Da Ghost and T.Boyd out of Michigan), and made actual fleshed-out songs, rather than just long verses and freestyles. Overall, it’s a very solid solo offering. It set the stage for him to grow and dig deeper in his later material.

The best part of this project to me is how Kuniva put it together. It sort of sounds like he sequenced the album very deliberately. The first 4 tracks seem like they’re from the perspective of a younger, more rowdy Kuniva. Those tracks tend to celebrate the street life. It opens up with the posse cut “Michiganish”, featuring Aftermath artist Jon Connor, Mass Appeal’s Boldy James, and Detroit legend Guilty Simpson. It starts things off fairly simply, being a competitive cypher of sorts. The following few songs, “Born Like This”, “Where I’m From”, and “Baileys In Bangkok,” all have a similar sort of vibe. They’re cocky and rowdy. They sound a little ironic and tongue in cheek, almost as though Kuniva was trying to rap the way a younger kid would rap. The content and the way it’s done makes me think he was talking about the street life, from the perspective of a kid living it, rather than someone reflecting on it.

Then comes “Derty Headz”, which is a very powerful song dedicated to fans of his and D-12. It has an anthemic hook and verses that drop all sorts of history about his career. He talks about Proof recruiting him for the group, the beef they’ve had, and the adversity they’ve faced from within since Proof passed. This song is the major turning point in almost every way. Here, flashes of reflection and maturity start to show up. From track 6 onwards, it seems to shift to his perspective now as a man nearly 40 years old after having seen massive success with his group, mournfully reflecting on the hard times in life but looking ahead with a drive to keep moving now that he’s out. “Light Work” and “Where The Hoes @?”, both offer fiery production and strong verses delivered with the hunger and confidence of a man who has seen his fair share of hardship. The title track, which is quite possibly the most personal and poetic song Kuniva has ever released, has him speaking on his past up to the point when Proof was murdered in chilling, almost uncomfortably rich detail, his voice oozing pain over him reflecting on it, and the album ends on “Shoutout”, which sounds like where he’s at now, looking forward into the future with hope after everything he’s been through.

The music on this project is good. There’s no denying that Kuniva is a strong rapper and has been doing nothing but improving since D-12 World. His delivery has become a lot more convincing and his writing has gotten sharper. The production is great too. Block Symfany (and Enrichment, on the title track) were able to provide Kuniva with a backdrop that deviated from the typical D-12 sound. It gave Kuniva the chance to step out of that style and develop his own identity, which is something that he hasn’t had the chance to really do much in the past outside of his Retribution mixtape. I think the first half of the album is a little shaky and unfocused at points, but every song from “Derty Headz” onwards is great. The title track might be one of my favorites of the entire year of 2014, period.

However, what really makes the album good is how it lives up to its name of being a “history”. Kuniva put the album together to actually make it almost like a song-by-song history of his life, from rapping competitively at the Hip-Hop Shop and living in the streets, to when D-12 were at their peak, and ending it with an adult perspective on life. It’s really special, because oftentimes artists don’t do that kind of thing when putting their projects together. You generally hear about Kendrick and the like putting their albums together in a manner like that, but honestly, Kuniva managed to pull off an album concept as well as anybody else. Even if it wasn’t fully intentional, he still clearly had an idea of progressing the sound and content of the project in a way that made sense, as opposed to putting the songs together in an arbitrary order and releasing it onto iTunes. That, to me, is what really makes it good, and not just another hip hop album.