Man, if you think Eminem had a rough upbringing, check out the backstory of Chris Palko, better known as rapper Cage: Born to a heroin-addicted Army father who made his young son help him shoot up, until he was arrested for threatening the family with a shotgun when Cage was 8. Teen years filled with serious drug addiction and crime, for which he spent 18 months at a psychiatric hospital, where he became a guinea pig for the then-untested Prozac, which resulted in several suicide attempts. Sabotaged his burgeoning rap career on Columbia Records -- where he landed after developing professional and personal bonds with Pete Nice, El-P, and the future MF Doom -- because of that unshakable drug habit. . . . If they ever made a movie out of Cage's life story, it'd make 8 Mile look like Chicken Little. Much of that drama, as you might imagine, finds its way into Cage's unsettling Def Jux debut, Hell's Winter, which pairs the rapper's gripping, venomous flow with crackling beats and gritty textures courtesy of El-P, Blockhead, DJ Shadow, and Yo La Tengo bassist James McNew. Anyone who thinks hip-hop is devoid of intensity these days needs to be at this show.

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