Apply Pressure 2

Beats: L
Lyrics: XL
Originality: L

Though Cassidy has released a handful of mixtapes since dropping his disappointing 2007 album, B.A.R.S. The Barry Adrian Reese Story, his latest, Apply Pressure 2, is the first to truly recapture the Philadelphia rapper’s killer instinct on the microphone.

From the start, Swizz Beatz’s former protégé is quick to prove himself. On the mixtape’s first track, “Let Me Hear Something,” he raps, “I don’t think nobody better than me in this whole world,” before unleashing a freestyle that clocks in at just under eight minutes. On “Dome Pushed Back,” Cass sounds far removed from his 2005 murder case as he boasts about his robust gun collection. And on “Do What You Gotta Do,” the self-proclaimed Hustla creates a catchy hustler’s anthem.

The problem, though, is that Cassidy too often relies on overused production efforts to get his point across. So while his freestyles over Jay Electronica’s “Exhibit C,” Snoop Dogg’s “I Wanna Rock,” and Red Café’s “I’m Ill” are impressive, other artists have already done them to death.

Fortunately, Cass reaches deeper into the past to update Black Rob’s 2000 hit, “Whoa,” with the rousing “Whoa 2K10.” His ferocious punch lines and slick wordplay reignites the passion he once showed when he made his rap debut in 2004. And if the exceptional lyricism on AP2 is any indication, Cassidy is still capable of applying the lyrical pressure to any of your favorite MCs. —Chris Yuscavage