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The Miseducation of Cassidy: How the Hustla Lost His Edge

I don’t really know anyone who’s planning on copping Cassidy’s fourth studio album, C.A.S.H., which stands for either “Cass a Straight Hustla” or “Cass Always Stays Hard.” I don’t think it matters either way.

If I told you eight years ago that I wasn’t looking forward to a Cassidy album, you would smack me harder than Carmelo did Mardy Collins in Madison Square Garden a few years ago. Fast-forward to today, though, and you would probably retreat the same way Carmelo did, after he backpedaled for his life back to the Denver bench.

What I’m trying to say is, Cassidy could have been a contender. He was primed for superstardom, and he came awfully close. Now, he’s just a talented rapper milling about on the outskirts of hip-hop.

Memory lane provides all the answers. Before Cass made his major label debut, he was known throughout Philly as an incredible freestyler, battler, and uh, hustler. Then, came his tete a tete with Freeway. Fortunately for Cass and probably unfortunately for Freeway, the verbal tussle was taped and released to the public. Cassidy instantly became a commodity. People were hyped. And remember, this was when battling was peaking. 106 & Park, Scribble Jam, and Smack DVDs were all the rage. (Respect to Freeway for battling someone less known: most rappers don’t want to battle anyone if there’s too much at stake).

With Swizz at the helm, people were salivating for Tha Hustla’s debut. Split Personality was the album to cop. And then, much in the way that Jin’s career was completely derailed by his awful lead single, Cassidy released “Hotel,” featuring R Kelly.  He then followed that with “Get No Better.”  Two sugary R&B pop radio-friendly records.

Before I state the obvious, think about this for a second. Split Personality was Cassidy’s major label debut, which means, in marketing dollar talk, that this would be his introduction to the national mainstream, aka MTV, radio stations, and casual hip-hop fans.

“Girl you wanna come to my hotel/Baby, I will give you my room key…”

That Kellz chorus was essentially Cassidy’s intro to the mainstream hip-hop world. Sure the song was a hit, but it was blood money. Split Personality went gold, but which 500,000 fans bought his album? Anyone from Philly? Smack DVD fans? I doubt it.

Even if you want to argue that Split Personality had some nice tracks, half the album was R&B pop. And even though a single is but just one record in an album, it represents the artist and leaves an impression, even to the hardcore rap fan. When pre-2002 Cassidy fans saw him neckin’ with Vida Guerra in the elevator for the “Get No Better” video, it made an imprint. It made fans wonder if this was the same dude who had this to say to Freeway:

”And it look like B, ahead of the rest/Cuz every verse you get pissed on like pregnancy tests/If the pipe your habit, then holler, I’ll price n’ bag it/Get powdered every hour like diaper rashes.”

Followed by:

“I need psychiatrics to strap me down, I got a track record ask around/I’ll snatch a clown, pat him down, take his cheese, then leave/And come back around, and do it twice/You see me and my back is down, I’m shootin’ dice.”

Freeway was so moved by Cassidy’s words that he refused to respond, instead muttering the now infamous, “Put a beat on… Put a beat on.”

After the album came out, reviews were mediocre at best, and Cassidy squandered much of his cred. Then came “I’m A Hustla.”  This was the perfect Cassidy track, in that it was hard, catchy, and had a Jigga sample in the chorus. Problem was, it was too late. Cassidy’s name was already tarnished by money-hungry marketing executives, who had incorrectly steered him into the green murky waters of syrupy sugar cane radio-ready R&B records. “B-Boy Stance” was a good second single as well. Too bad it was also too late.

Not all of the blame goes to his first album. Consider a rapper who catches a murder charge, jail time, and a near-death experience in a car crash, followed by a lengthy stay in a hospital. Said rapper has enough subject material to release the album of his or her life. Again, Cassidy had an opening. Unfortunately, B.A.R.S. disappointed.

The Apply Pressure series, as well as the linking with Carmelo’s Kross Over label garnered some buzz for the baby-faced hustler, but it’s still a far cry from his Freeway battle days. That makes me wonder: A Freeway/Cassidy rematch. It would help both guys’ careers, and remind people why Cassidy had so much hype to begin with.

Cassidy is maddening like that. So much talent and promise, but still no crown. C.A.S.H. is coming, but I doubt it will be king. What do y’all think? —Shlomo

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