Philadelphia, PA – To start things off with an understatement – the last two and a half years of Cassidy’s life have been pretty hectic. In March of 2006, he was released from prison after doing time for a murder charge and related weapons offence and within a few months of his release he was in a severe car accident which almost cost him his life. The accident caused a fractured skull which left Cassidy hospitalized for quite sometime and Doctors had speculated he would suffer from extreme brain damage as a result of his injuries, presumably ending his career as an A-Class lyricist. They were wrong.
“They said I could of been brain-dead in the wheel chair/But I’m standing in the booth and the skills is still here” – My Drink N’ My 2 Step
The 25-year old artist has had already had quite the career and banked some major accomplishments in a very short period of time; accomplishments almost unheard of these days for an album debut. Split Personality came in at number 2 on the Billboard Top 200, number 1 on the Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B charts and the lead off single “Hotel” featuring R. Kelly got comfortable in Billboard’s Top 10 singles while picking up various accolades and nominations.
With “I’m A Hustla”, the lead off single to his second album of the same name, Cassidy hit major charts worldwide with steady placement and the ringtone for the song was one of the first ever ringtones to reach platinum status – pioneering a trend which labels and artists alike have set their sights on heavily today.
Now, with a new found respect for the fragileness of life, Cassidy is back with the Barry Adrian Reese Story, more commonly referred to as B.A.R.S., which is a true to life recap of Cassidy’s recent trials and tribulations and the latest installment in his plan to breakdown his multiple personalities. The lead off single, “My Drink N’ My 2 Step” featuring production and vocals by Swizz Beatz has been well received by fans and has touched on his whereabouts since the Hustla album without straying the course of a party single for which it was intended. The follow-up single, “Innocent” gives a deeper look at the hard times Cassidy has been through and his new appreciation for the life he is living.
HipHopCanada.com caught up with Cassidy to discuss his career up to date, the unfortunate circumstances that have surrounded his career over the past couple of years and of course, B.A.R.S. — his newly released album. The Barry Adrian Reese Story takes you into the world of Cassidy and let’s you know why things happened they way they did. Here’s how the interview went down:
HipHopCanada: Cassidy, welcome to the HipHopCanada.com Community. This is the first time we’ve had you on the site… what’s your take on the Canadian hip-hop scene?
Cassidy: There’s definitely a lot of good spitters out there. I actually was in Canada a couple times and the dudes are getting in up there… there’s a bunch of good dudes out there… even the guy from Canada, what’s his name that came out? The [thinking] Jamaican…
HipHopCanada: Kardinal Offishall?
Cassidy: Yeah, Kardinal Offishall. I like a lot of his music, he be going hard. But I heard there’s a lot of other dudes up there running with him that’s going hard. Like they got their own little vibe, their own little accent, their own little sound… So I know they get it in up there and I’m waiting to go up there and get it in with them.
HipHopCanada: No doubt, so that being said, do you think you’ll be able to make it up here despite your legal issues? There are definitely a ton of people looking to see you in concert up north, especially with the release of your new album.
Cassidy: I don’t know, Canada is kind of hard. I just came back from Finland; you know what I’m saying? I definitely can go all out the country and go anywhere I need to go but… if you’re a convicted felon, Canada be acting funny unless you’ve got a good reason. But I’m pretty sure we’ll get it done in the future.
HipHopCanada: What makes Philly, Philly? Do you feel the city will ever truly receive the recognition it deserves?
Cassidy: [Thinking] I think Philly got a lot of talent and it got a lot of good hip-hop artists. They real lyrical like New York would be but then again, they got more of a swag like down South got because they not up north like how New York is. It’s like they got the best of both worlds so I feel as though they are going to get love all day everyday. And even at one point, like Jay-Z and a lot of CEO’s were only looking in Philly for artists because they knew that’s where all the artists were at. But now days, you know, times change and different areas start popping off at different times but Philly always going to do they thing.
HipHopCanada: When did you know battling was something you could easily do? Do you remember your first battle?
Cassidy: Nah, that would be hard for me to remember that but I know that’s how I used to get a reputation. Like, I wasn’t on the radio, I wasn’t on TV. So the only way I could get people to know me was to actually spit for them live… and the best way to spit for them live was battling because that was the most entertaining thing that you could do… and it would draw the most attention and have the most people talking. So that’s how I got my reputation back in the day for being a spitter. And I just stuck with it for a period of time until I could get the opportunity to get on the radio and get on TV… and then I tried to leave that behind, know what I’m saying? Because I didn’t just want to battle forever because it was purposeless once I got the opportunity to get on.
HipHopCanada: Do you get tired of the constant challenges and rumors that still float around till this day?
Cassidy: Nah, because there’s always going to be rumors. Like when you’re a celebrity and you’re on top of things, there is always going to be rumors… good ones, bad ones, there is going to be all types of stuff floating around. But at the end of the day I know I’m authentic, I know I never lost a battle and I know a lot of these names people be bringing up – it would be idiotic for me to battle them like, what am I getting out of it? If I could get 20 thousand dollars right now to go write 8 bars… like on an R&B song, just to write 8 bars… 8 little rhymes that’s not even that complicated I could go get 20, 30, 40 thousand dollars right now, right at this moment… then to battle and spit line after line, spitting some of the hardest punchlines in the world giving away 50 bar verses? 60 bar verses? Just giving away verse after to verse to battle somebody and then what do you get out of that? Nothing. What’s the end result? Nothing. You don’t get no money, you don’t get no deal, you don’t get no endorsement deal, you don’t get nothing! You just doing it just to do it and that would be foolish. That would be like Floyd Mayweather going out there and just fighting a boxing match for free. That would be idiotic.
HipHopCanada: So I guess I’ll just skip the question about you battling again anytime soon…
Cassidy: Well not unless the situation is setup to where I can benefit. Now, if there’s an artist that came before me that got more fans than me, that’s bigger than me, yeah. But if I just battle somebody that’s under me, it’s just going to be like I’m picking on them. I’m not going to get nothing out of beating them; you know what I’m saying? It’s so easy for me to do. I’d have to battle somebody that’s a legend… that came way before me, that’s on a whole other level like a Jay-Z or something. But I’ve got too much respect for the people that came before me that I can’t even see them… the people that came before me, the people that’s older than me… I can’t really see them having enough heart to battle a dude like me. And then the dudes that do got the heart… the only reason why they’ve got the heart is because they’re trying to just get a cheque, they’re trying to get famous so that’s why they’re willing to do anything. But they’ll realize that they don’t really want it neither so I can’t see me battling anyone but myself… on my new album B.A.R.S., you know, I battle myself. So that’s the only time you’ll get to see hear me battling which is when I battle myself.
HipHopCanada: Let’s talk about B.A.R.S. – The Barry Adrian Reese Story. You’ve stated the project is more of an auto-biography and more personal then your previous albums. How do you come at a project like that in terms of where to start, what to include and what to leave out… Was there a key message or ingredient that had to be in this “biography”?
Cassidy: Definitely, I had to talk about the murder and the two attempts that I caught, since I was facing the death penalty. And I had to talk about the nearly fatal accident, where I almost died and they thought I was going to be brain-dead. I wanted to talk about those 2 things and I wanted to talk about my relationship with God. Those were the most important things that I wanted to talk about. So there wasn’t really no strategy or no plan, I just went in and started working… and just talked about the things that were on my mind. It’s not like I needed to come up with a blueprint. It’s like, when you just do songs and talk about the things that’s on your mind, it’s going to all come to life like that because it was the perfect time to tell my story. So everything I was thinking about was something that revolved around real life; know what I’m saying?
HipHopCanada: Ok. So if B.A.R.S. was converted into a movie for the big screen, which actor would play you?
Cassidy: I think I’d play myself… or I’d play part of myself. I mean I can’t play myself as a kid or all through my life, but I think I would probably want to play myself. Same way that Eminem did 8 Mile and 50 did Get Rich or Die Tryin’… I’m writing up my movie right now!
HipHopCanada: Dope, that would be hot. How did you go about picking the single “My Drink N’ My 2 Step”?
Cassidy: I wanted to tell a story about me going to jail and getting in an accident but I wanted to do it in a way where people could still have fun and not be depressed, not be crying, not be sad. I wanted to do it in a way where people could still be happy. So, that’s the reason why I put it to an up-tempo beat and said I got “My Drink N’ My 2 Step” to celebrate the fact that I came home. So that’s the reason why I went with “Drink N’ 2 Step” because I was gone for so long and people knew why I was gone for so long… they knew I was fighting the murder and I went through the accident. So for me to come back and not mention it, it would have been funny. So I knew I had to mention it but I didn’t want to go too deep out the box. It was summertime and people wanted to go party and have fun so I didn’t really want to come out with a song that was going to make people depressed and have them crying at that period of time. Now I feel as though it’s appropriate… like I came with “Drink N’ 2 Step”, now I’ve got the “Drink N’ 2 Step (Remix)” with me, Kanye and Ne-Yo. But now it’s like summertime is over, it’s about to be wintertime, school started back up… you know, it’s colder outside and people are in the house more so now I can drop a deeper song like my second single that’s called “Innocent” featuring Mark Morrison. And it’s telling you the reason why I caught the murder case and the reason why everything happened how it happened. But the time is more appropriate… it’s less partying, it’s less out of school, less commotion, it’s more in the house listening… so people can take better now so that’s why it went the way it went.
HipHopCanada: You and Swizz have been working together for a good chunk of your career. You guys obviously must have great chemistry. What is a typical Cassidy/Swizz Beats studio session like?
Cassidy: The lights up high… I mean nobody likes sleepy sessions and we always like to stay up. Swizz is the only person I can say that is just as energetic as me and can put in as much work and stay up in the studio like me. Everybody else getting crunked out, went to sleep, fell out, know what I’m saying? We keep the energy up in there… sometimes we might pop bottles, probably smoke in the air… just a lot of dope shit bouncing off the wall. But we’ve just got a certain type of vibe that… I come up with an idea, or he comes up with the idea, it’s like we’re on the same page where we know where the other person is trying to go. So it’s like, it’s easy for us to get in the studio and make history because we’ve already got an understanding so it’s easy for us to work [together]. And on top of that, it’s not just like work where you doing work but you don’t like to do it. It’s like we’re having fun on top… it’s considered work but on top of that I love doing it so it’s fun… and Swizz loves doing it so we always have fun in the studio too.
HipHopCanada: No doubt, What’s your favorite cut on the project and why?
Cassidy: I look at all my tracks like my kids. You know, if someone asked a mother that had 14 kids, which one was her favorite kid, it would be hard for her to say that… Like she’ll probably say she loves them all the same.
HipHopCanada: I feel you. In your first album, Split Personality, you conceptualized the track order to represent 3 different personalities – Cassidy, Tha Problem and Barry Reese. Can we expect more concept projects like that in the future?
Cassidy: Well, I called the album Split Personality to let you know that I had multiple personalities and that I was going to be going in different directions throughout my whole career. The second album was going to be called The Problem… I have 3 different personalities, Barry Reese, The Problem and Cassidy. The second album was going to be called The Problem, but The Problem battled the Hustler in the beginning and lost so that’s why I called it I’m A Hustler. And this album is called the Barry Adrian Reese Story because Barry Reese is one of my personalities. So it’s making it make sense for the people. People didn’t understand why I was calling it Split Personality at first. Some people did but some people didn’t and now it’s coming to life, they understand how I… they can see it! On Split Personality, it was really Cassidy’s chance to shine. It was more records like “Hotel”, “Get No Better”, more Top 40 radio records… there wasn’t really any hard records or real conceptual records. But the second record was more street, it was called I’m A Hustla, so it was going hard, wild lyrical, wild songs about hustling crack on the grind and things like that. But then you come with the third album and it’s called the Barry Adrian Reese Story, my biological name… so it’s telling stories about the murder case, the accident, my relationship with God, my relationship with my family and friends; you know what I’m saying? It’s giving you another side of me. So each time around that’s what I tried to do and it’s all coming to light now. Now people can understand why I told them in the beginning I have a split personality, because it all makes sense. “Hotel” doesn’t sound nothing like “Get No Better”. “Get No Better” doesn’t sound nothing like “Drink N’ 2 Step”. It’s like, I make all different types of music. Like if you let an old person hear “Drink N’ 2 Step” and then let them hear “Hotel”, they’ll probably think it’s 2 different rappers… because it don’t sound nothing alike. And that shows you that I’ve got Split Personality to be able to pull that off.
HipHopCanada: Have you fully recovered from your accident? It’s been a year… looking back, have you changed at all since the accident as a person? Or has your perspective on life changed?
Cassidy: I just appreciate it more. You can’t take it for granted because you never know what’s going to happen. It’s not like I planned for the accident or God let me know, “Today you’re going to get into an accident”. You don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s why you’ve got to stay prayed up and appreciate what you’ve got when things aren’t going wrong.
HipHopCanada: Real talk. Is there anything you wanted to touch on that we hadn’t already discussed? Any message for your Canadian fans out here?
Cassidy: I want everybody in Canada to know that if you’re going through any trials and tribulations, any problems… any bad times, some of what I went through, then all you need to do is keep God first, stay prayed up and better your relationship with the Lord… and learn the reasons why he’s letting you go through those things. And once you learn that, he’ll set you free and pull you up out of that situation similar to the way he pulled me out of mine. So, you’ve just got to keep God first, keep your family second and keep your business third, and you’ll be good in life.
Written by Jesse “Dutchy” Plunkett for HipHopCanada (with contributions from Zale)