Roman historians and scholars are often divided on answering this one simple question: “Was Caligula truly insane?” Unpopular Roman Emperors ALLseem to be judged as “mad” to some degree by history, and there’s some sentiment that this is revisionist history at its finest. There’s little question there was a power struggle between Caligula and the Roman Senate during his reign, and that many of his public works were extravagant and/or self-indulgent, but as Emperors go that’s just about par for the course. Even the sexual depravity of which Caligula is so often accused as proof of his madness was not unheard of among the Roman elites. They acquired boredom in one hand as they did wealth and status in the other, and finding things to amuse/fascinate/shock themselves was always a challenge. The other side of this coin is that there are almost no accounts which do not portray Caligula as excessively cruel, unnecessarily sadistic, lustful and drunk off his own ego. As the son of a popular military leader he rose to power at the people’s ovation, and at first he played the role of a populist by cutting taxes and giving bonuses to the hard working soldiers, but in the end his personal steed Incitatus fared better than the public – living in a gilded stable while ordinary Romans lived in squalor. That same public was forced to worship Caligula as a living god.
“Kidnap the President with Krycek’s tactics
Laugh when he dies, dies infested with maggots
Micro-explosive that’s laced in his cell phone
Call the number, run trace, halfway to heaven blown
Got the mission, the glock stickin as the plot thicken
Glocks spittin shots at cops, posse shrivelin
Get in line for the lynchin and genocide convention
Cries of your henchmen that die in they own crimson
A god of war in the flesh, you can believe in me”
Ultimately the mathematics of history, no matter how much bias it may have, renders the equation “Caligula = insane” every time one adds up all the facts. This notion has survived thousands of years and actually grew in legend with each passing century. An attempt to film it over 30 years ago became legendarily one of the most reviled films ever made; in fact the motion picture may have been more loathed than the historical figure it portrayed. Insanity certainly seemed to be the order of the day making it – the writer wanted to disown it, a pornography king provided funding at the cost of inserting hardcore sex scenes, and actress leads quit rather that damage their careers filming the filth that was added.This movie found method in Caligula’s madness and accelerated it to a high degree. It’s wrongly assumed that the film was a failure though – the scathing reviews and rumors of just how pornographic it was actually made it a minor cult hit that turned a small profit. A testament to the film’s success is the dozens of different re-releases that followed, many of them deleting scenes of sex and depravity to either get a R rating or comply with local decency laws in the country it was screened in. A collector’s edition three disc set allows the truly dedicated to compare, contrast and study these versions.
There’s no question that the rapper Caligula draws inspiration from both the historical accounts of the Roman Emperor AND the infamous film that portrays him, as he actually samples from the soundtrack of the latter for the song “Sleeper Cell.” At first the cover art doesn’t lend itself to this interpretation as a Japanese assassin cries tears of blood while slitting another poor soul’s throat. Then again if madness be the order of the day, what does it matter if it be drawn Roman, Japanese or anything else? Interspersed between Caligula’s malevolent and Illuminati-esque rantings are the equally malevolent ones of Malcolm McDowell portraying the Emperor, such as his infamous speech declaring himself God and ordering the Roman Senate to affirm him as such. Songs like “Modern Rome” sound more like a Kanye West production than a Hollywood one, with sped up R&B samples and looped symphonic backdrops.
“We the proud sponsor of your nation’s invader
Mail 20 cents a day, you’ll pay for slave labor
Blame Reagan democracy on culture that we kill
While my Pagan city struggle to rebuild
If the people brown we pound the ground for oil
When the conscience found get drowned in Crown Royal
Heathens will teach us that Jesus was holiest
Treason as leaders sold secrets to Soviets”
Stylistically Caligula seems like a lost member of Non Phixion when it comes to both his wordplay and his overarching fear of a New World Order rising to crush us all. It should come as little surprise then that Goretex is one of his featured guests on “Godless Man,” or that other rappers equally fearful of a world government like Hell Razah and Shabazz the Disciple appear on “God’s Violence.” They also illustrate Caligula’s other inspiration besides the Roman Emperor and/or Malcolm McDowell – the Wu-Tang Clan. The more you try to deny it the more obvious it becomes listening to “Divine Madness” that this is the sort of release that one would have heard from a second or third string Clan member 12-15 years ago. Caligula is by no means a terrible writer and doesn’t possess poor breath control or delivery, but unfortunately an album full of dire and sometimes cryptic conspiracy warnings with a slew of underground guests has been done, and done again, and done again after that dozens if not hundreds of times. The biggest flaw here is that Caligula named himself after a historical figure who almost 2,000 years later looms larger than life, while “Divine Madness” is an album that (albeit decent) will not largely be remembered a year after its release. C just doesn’t stand out.