Rapper Barry Reese, known in the hip-hop world as Cassidy, gained attention in his hometown of Philadelphia as a teenager, for being one of the city's best battle rappers. At 15 he was the battle champ of Philly radio station 103.9 The Beat. A few years later, his crew, Larciny, got a deal with the Ruff Ryders label, but with the success of the label's other larger acts, Larciny was left to the wayside. In 2002, Cassidy won an infamous battle against popular MC Freeway (the legendary battle was caught on video tape) that put his name on everyone's lips in the world of rap music. Cassidy freestyled rhymes on a number of mix tapes and had his first big opportunity when he appeared on producer Swizz Beatz's 2002 album G.H.E.T.T.O. Stories. Swizz Beatz was so impressed by Cassidy that in 2003 he signed the young Philadelphian to his new label, Full Surface Records (a division of J Records). As the first important signee to his new label, Swizz had high hopes for Cassidy. "The chemistry between me and Cassidy is like the chemistry between me and DMX, me and Jadakiss, me and Jay-Z," Swizz told Vibe. "He's bringing the new era to rap."
In late 2003, Cassidy's first radio single, "Hotel" blew up the charts. The breezy, soft and radio-ready mellow tune (with guest vocals by R&B crooner R. Kelly) wasn't exactly what Cassidy was known for back in Philly, but the song was a hit. In the spring of 2004, Cassidy released his first solo album Split Personality, which debuted at number two on the Billboard charts. According to Cassidy, the album was split into three personalities or styles—hence the title, Split Personality. "It's the hard side and the more commercial side for the ladies. There's something for everyone," Cassidy said in a Vibe interview. Blender magazine's acknowledged Cassidy's mix of radiofriendly fare and street cred; "Know for his ferocious freestyles and knockout punch lines, Cassidy is the rare battle rapper who's adept at songcraft," wrote Chris Ryan. "On Cassidy's full-length debut, the babyface Philadelphia MC works the titular personality split: Glossy, R&B-flavored tracks front-load the album, while hardcore stompers bring up the rear," wrote Ryan about the gold-selling album.
Before fans would even have time to forget about Cassidy, by January of 2005, he had a new hit single on his hands. The rough-around-the-edges track "I'm a Hustla" suddenly began get spun non-stop on hip-hop radio stations across the country—much earlier than anyone expected. The track, which sampled from Jay-Z's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," wasn't initially intended to be a single, let alone a hit. "We were just putting it out for the streets, but the streets loved the song so much that we have to give them a visual to go with," Cassidy told MTV.com's Rashaun Hall. Because the track took off, debuting at number five on the Billboard charts, Cassidy and Swizz Beatz hurried up to make a video for "I'm a Hustla" and to speed up the recording and release of his next album.
Oh his official website, Cassidy described the narrative to "I'm A Hustla"; "Of course the song is about me. But there are a lot of hustlers in the world. Whether you have a nine to five, work in the strip club or sell bottled water on the side of the road, we're all hustlers. I'm not talking about drug dealers or being a thief. I'm talking to the people who are forced to use their brains to make it in this world."
While fans awaited the late June release of Cassidy's new album, I'm a Hustla, just two weeks before it was to hit stores, Cassidy found himself in a Philadelphia prison. On June 17, 2005, Cassidy turned himself into police after he was wanted for a murder case that took place in April. Police claimed that on April 15, 2005, Cassidy and two other men fired shots on three unarmed men during an argument in a Philly neighborhood, killing one of the men; 22 year-old Desmond Hawkins. The rapper was denied bail until his arraignment, "Where he was officially charged with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder, two counts of aggravated assault and various weapon offences," according to MTV.com.
On June 28, while Cassidy was in prison awaiting a possible trial, his sophomore album, I'm A Hustla, was officially released. According to Cassidy, the lyrics and beats were intentionally heavier this time around than on Split Personality. "It's harder and more street, but still commercial. I'm still trying to please the pop crowd, but I wanted to get a little more lyrical with them on this album," he told Hall. Shaheem Reid of MTV.com reviewed the album stating; "let's not forget that despite getting heavy spins, Cassidy is by no means a commercial MC. His roots are in battle rapping, and on 'I'm a Hustla,' he comes out swinging, almost like a pugilist who has a reputation for knocking heads off but barely won his last fight, getting the duke by a split decision." As Cassidy told Vibe, he'll always prefer battling for the streets rather than record sales. "If I talk to God right now and he tells me that I'll never make any money from music, I'll still battle cats. I just love the challenge."
I'm A Hustla, produced by Swizz Beatz, featured impressive cameos by Nas, Mario, and Fabolous but was overshadowed by Cassidy's legal woes. In mid-August of 2005, after new ballistic evidence showed that the men Cassidy allegedly shot in fact shot back, authorities reduced Cassidy's charge to first-degree murder and set his bail at $2.5 million.
Cassidy was cleared of murder charges in early 2006, but remained in jail for several months on weapons-related charges. Around the time of his release, a second single from I'm a Hustla hit the airwaves, "Cassidy (The Anthem)."
Split Personality, Full Surface/J Records, 2004.
I'm a Hustla, Full Surface/J Records, 2005.
For the Record …
Born Barry Reese in Philadelphia, PA.
Got his start as a battle rapper; signed with J-Records subsidiary Full Surface Records, 2003; released debut album, Split Personality, 2004; released I'm a Hustla, 2005; arrested and charged with murder, June 2005; murder charges dropped, 2006.
Addresses: Record company—Full Surface Records/J Records, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019. Website—Cassidy Official Website: http://www.cassidymusic.com.
Vibe, December 18, 2003.
Blender, http://www.blender.com/guide/reviews.aspx?id=2023 (September 5, 2005).
Cassidy Official Website, http://www.cassidymusic.com (September 5, 2005).
"Cassidy Comes Out Swinging On I'm A Hustla," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1495737/01112005/cassidy.jhtml (September 5, 2005).
"Cassidy Denied Bail, Booked Into Medium-Security Prison," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1504372/06202005/cassidy.jhtml (September 5, 2005).
"Cassidy Warns Cats Will Have Trouble With Personality Change," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1495737/01112005/cassidy.jhtml (September 5, 2005).
"Cassidy." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/cassidy
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