by Ben Arzate
Sam Hill is the alter-ego of New York hip hop artist Cage Kennylz, real name Chris Palko. Cage started off as a rapper known for saying controversial and off-the-wall things. His first single was “Agent Orange,” a song which sampled the theme from A Clockwork Orange and included promises to “fuck your head up like cornrows put in by blind giants” and “start bugging like an insect and lay larvae in your ear.” It shouldn’t come as a surprise that self-described death rapper Necro was the producer.
He continued on this angry, PCP-fueled tip on his debut album Movies for the Blind. This album included songs like “Suicidal Failure,” in which Cage graphically describes failed suicide attempts, and “CK Won,” a song that has the line “Chris Palko is giving these bitches mouthfuls / Then it’s ‘thank you’ notes on they face with scalpels.” Because of this, he was often put in the “horrorcore” genre with rappers like Necro and Esham.
Starting on his second album, Hell’s Winter, Cage took a more introspective turn. This one included more politically-oriented tracks and stories about his personal life. Cage stayed on this path with his next two albums, Depart from Me and Kill the Architect. I personally found those albums lacking and many of his older fans did as well, prompting some to want the older Cage back.
Cage must have recognized this as in 2012 he debuted his alter-ego Sam Hill with the singles “Misanthrope” and “Super Baked.” These brought back the violent, drug-oriented lyrics from the Movies for the Blind era, as well as bringing in some darker, trap-ish production compared to his newer albums. “Super Baked” even included a reference to Alex the Worm King, a character that often appeared in Cage’s earlier songs.
Despite this, a full-length Sam Hill project wouldn’t see a release until 2018 with Book ov Sam: Infernal Depths. From the title, to the art, to the subject matter of the songs, Cage fully embraced the “horrorcore” genre with this record. Almost every song is about murder, Satanism, the occult, and blasphemy.
The album starts off strong with “Prey to Jesus.” It’s a low-key song with dark minimalist trap production and a catchy hook, “I was pray praying to the beast.” It quickly lets us know what we’re in for with lines like “Flipping through demonic texts, starving like Ghandi /False acolytes only in it to be godly.” At only two minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome either.
“Sam’s Klvb” continues on the blasphemous, Satan-worshiping theme. This one probably has my favorite production. Its synths and samples are genuinely nightmarish and unnerving, and the drums hit hard. The hook is kind of weak, being a mumbled set of lyrics with some rather cheesy vocal effects, but otherwise it’s a solid song.
Surprisingly, both “Misanthrope” and “Super Baked” are on this album despite being six-years-old. They’re slightly altered here from the original releases. They also don’t really fit the Satanic theme present in all the other songs, but they’re probably the best ones on the album.
“Misanthrope” is an aggressive drug song with production that reminds me of early Three 6 Mafia and a hook where Sam declares “I don’t want to be a criminal or thug out/I just want to pick up a gun and blow your blood out.” “Super Baked” is another excellent song. The production and lyrics sound like an excellent mix of Movies for the Blind and Hell’s Winter era Cage. It’s probably my favorite song on the album.
Some moments here cross the line into campy. “Ouija Bored” is the worst offender. It starts off with a horribly acted skit about people playing an Ouija Board, has the weakest production on the album, and a bridge which sounds like something off a corny Halloween sing-along. “Tree ov Death,” while a much better track overall, also has a corny bridge with Sam Hill chanting about the Book of Life and Book of Death in a way that’s just kind of annoying.
Overall, despite its flaws, Book ov Sam: Infernal Depths is a promising start to the Sam Hill project. Fans of Cage expecting a return to the age of Movies for the Blind will be mostly disappointed as this goes in a different direction. This likely won’t win over any new fans either. However, it is a new and refreshing direction for Cage Kennylz and I think it’s his best since Hell’s Winter. If you’re also fascinated by the idea of a hip hop album about Satan and the occult, this is also well worth a listen.
One thing to note is that Book ov Sam: Infernal Depths is only available for streaming or download at the moment. However, vinyl copies are planned in the near future.