A smooth operator operating correctly
Cage knew he had something special with his new album Hell’s Winter. He knew he’d advanced beyond his psychotic drug-fiend shock-value persona and had crafted a powerful, direct, three-dimensional work, dealing with his history of child abuse and drug addiction without sacrificing the vicious, deranged edge in his voice. He knew he’d assembled a great collection of warped, heavy, woozy, spacey beats from the some of the best producers in indie-rap: El-P, DJ Shadow, RJD2, Blockhead. He knew his album was a tense, damaged masterwork, maybe the fullest realization of the Def Jux aesthetic yet. But he knew he was missing something. And what he was missing was a manic, way-overdone George W. Bush impression from former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra. Of course. Status Ain’t Hood spoke with Cage about his collaboration with Biafra on the track “Grand Ol Party Crash.”
How did you decide to work with Jello?
Shadow and I were talking about the music for the song we were going to do. He’d mentioned something about how the beat had a political thing to it, having all these voice samples. I was interested in it because I wanted to do something politically charged on the record, and it just so happened that maybe two days earlier, Aesop asked me if I would want to work with Jello. I was like, “Yeah, of course.” He was a name on a list of what-ifs, if we could get this person or this person on the record. And for the most part, we got pretty much everybody we wanted to work with. But the Jello thing was more of a fantasy at the time, and I told Shadow that we were throwing that idea around, that we had a contact to get in touch with him, and he was into it.
You were a Dead Kennedys fan when you were younger, right?
Yeah, I was listening to DK when I was twelve years old, just flipping out of my skull listening to that music, which made the whole ordeal even more surreal.
How did you get in contact with him?
He doesn’t have a cell phone; there’s no way to get in touch with him through phone. And he doesn’t have an e-mail or a computer or anything, so the only way to get in touch with him was through writing him a letter, so I had to basically write him an e-mail that was going to be printed out and mailed to him. That process alone was grueling because here I am writing an e-mail to Jello Biafra, someone who I’ve been listening to since I was twelve years old and thought no way in fucking hell would I ever be making music with this dude. To have to write him an e-mail to introduce myself and also to inquire for business, I had no idea how the fuck you go about writing that. I’d start off with “Hey Jello, what’s up?” No, no, backspace backspace backspace. Then it’s like “Jello, been a fan for a long time,” and then I’m like, Oh no, I sound like I’m sucking up, delete delete delete. I probably wrote about six or seven e-mails before deleting them all and then just going with something real basic. I sent it, and of course after I sent it, I was like, Fuck, I had something better in mind. I was stoked to do even the song. The fact that he liked it was an honor alone, and then him getting on the song was just fucking nuts.
So what did you get back from him when you sent him the song?
We sent him the song, and then probably a couple of weeks later, he sent us the sessions back. He went overboard. He really flipped out and gave us so much material to work with. He gave us seven minutes of him doing George Bush quotes. I let Shadow pick out what he thought was the best. Jello ended seven minutes of quotes the way he ends on the actual song, and I told him to pick out whatever he thinks works musically but definitely to end it the way he ends it. I couldn’t even pick them out because there’s so many fucking funny ones.
Was he rapping on it?
He actually sent a couple of takes of him rapping, and that was a mindfuck right there. That obviously wasn’t what we were looking for at all. When I wrote him the e-mail, I said I’m looking for just ranting, kind of like the shit that you get on “Die for Oil” or some of the spoken word stuff that he did. We weren’t looking for him to rap; we didn’t ask him to rap. But he sent a couple of takes of him rapping, and it was amazing to hear Jello Biafra rap.
What did it sound like?
It sounded very 80s. It was pretty funny.
Was he rapping in the George Bush voice?
One of the takes, he raps in the George Bush voice, and I actually liked that one. I wasn’t into the other one as much, but the one where he’s rapping like George Bush is amazing. Some of the lyrics I can remember because I’ve played it a million times. It was: “You too can die in one of my oil wars / The new crusade to settle dad’s old scores.” And the other lines I remember were: “When Jesus Christ comes back to Earth / We’ll burn some golf courses everywhere.” And then he says something like: “Everyone will be white, just like me / Except for my concubine named Condoleez.”
Do you remember any of the lines when he was rapping as himself?
No, I don’t remember too many of them. They were pretty much just the same kind of stuff, but just not in the George Bush accent. But when he put on the George Bush accent, that was hilarious.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 24, 2005