|Next Project:||C.A.S.H. Cass A Straight Hustla|
|Twitter:||Cassidy on Twitter|
When Cassidy sat down for his first Booth-exclusive interview following the release of his third studio album, B.A.R.S., the Philadelphia rapper’s story was already one of the game’s most compelling—from the involuntary manslaughter charge that led to his incarceration in ‘05 to the ‘06 car accident that very nearly cost him his life, the often grisly but always fascinating events of Barry Adrian Reese’s life have provided inspiration for such reflective jams as reader-acclaimed single “Innocent Man.”
Since then, the rapper’s tale has taken a few more positive, but no less action-packed turns; in addition to parting ways with his longtime label home of J Records/Sony/BMG and signing with Denver Nuggets all-star Carmelo Anthony’s Crossover Entertainment, Cass embarked upon a trip to the Middle East, becoming one of the first rappers to perform for American troops stationed in Iraq and Kuwait and deepening his religious faith in the process. Fans can expect to hear about all that and more on the emcee’s forthcoming C.A.S.H. (Cass A Straight Hustla) LP (which has yet to receive a solid release date); watch for the official lead single to drop this fall.
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ Z, Cassidy steps into the Booth to discuss the reasons he chose to align himself with a relatively unknown entity in the music business, his current personal and professional relationship with longtime mentor Swizz Beatz, and which of his musical personae will be taking center stage on his latest full-length.
Listen to the Interview
Cassidy Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy, “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a Philly veteran who, over the past few years, has received a new lease on life and his career. Newly signed to Carmelo Anthony’s Crossover Entertainment, please welcome my man Cassidy—how you doin’?
Cassidy: Yeah, yeah, yeah! I’m doin’ good, man. I’m happy to be here, man. I’m still recoverin’ from this party I had last night. It was a birthday party, and we was doin’ it real big and partyin’ heavy and drinkin’ a lot, so I’m still recoverin’ from that, but I’m doin’ real good.
DJ Booth: Happy belated birthday! That was actually the first thing I was gonna talk to you about.
Cassidy: I appreciate it, man. Good lookin’.
DJ Booth: For the longest time, I have always wished for the same thing on my birthday. It has yet to come true. Have any of your birthday wishes, in the history of all of Cassidy’s birthdays, ever come true?
Cassidy: All the time my birthday wishes come true! I just be wishin’ to stay safe, stay healthy, for my family to stay safe and healthy, and for God to keep blessin’ me with ideas and let me just keep my talent and keep goin’ harder than ever.
DJ Booth: From now on, when I have to make my birthday wishes, I might have you help me—how does that sound? [laughs]
Cassidy: Yeah, I don’t got no problem with that; I love to help people—especially you, Z!
DJ Booth: I appreciate it, Cass. We last spoke in the Booth in November of ‘07, so it’s been a minute. That was right around the time you released B.A.R.S.. So, why don’t you go ahead and fill everybody in on what has transpired for you since then.
Cassidy: When I dropped B.A.R.S., I had a contract with Sony/BMG/J Records. I got out of that paperwork. You know, I [had been] signed to them for my whole career, ever since I dropped my first album. They were always good to me and showed me a lot of love, but I don’t think their specialty was hip-hop, especially hard hip-hop, lyrical hip-hop like I brought to the table. I think they specialized more in pop music, R&B music, and things like that, so it was hard for them to figure out a way to get me off the ground the right type of way. And, once I got out of that paperwork, I’d been comin’ up with a plan to become an independent artist, to get my own production company and then man up a little bit—be my own executive producer, my own A&R. I always had plans of ownin’ my own masters and things like that, but I couldn’t really put those plans into effect, ‘cause I was caught up in some paperwork. So [I started building relationships], and lettin’ ‘em know a lot of ideas that I had in mind, ‘cause I needed people to invest. And that’s when I started bustin’ it up with Carmelo, lettin’ him know what I was tryin’ to put together and what I was tryin’ to do.
DJ Booth: It’s interesting you should say that, ‘cause I’ve spoken with several artists who have signed deals with professional athlete-backed indie labels. You knew you didn’t want to continue your career with J Records, but what exactly made you lead toward a relatively unknown commodity in the industry, like ‘Melo’s Crossover Entertainment?
Cassidy: My name, and the work that I put in, and what I do for the music business is known. I’m not lookin’ for ‘Melo to be an A&R or an executive producer, or to give me that type of advice in the music game, ‘cause I already know that and I’m in control of that. All I wanted [from] him was to was come to the table with ideas, bring the things that he could bring to the table as far as endorsement deals. And he was able to bring budget to the table that—well, I won’t say that I didn’t have it, but I didn’t feel comfortable spendin’ it on my own, ‘cause I’ve still gotta survive as a man. That’s the reason I wanted to partner up with Carmelo, and ‘cause our friendship is so crazy—like, we’ve got a type of relationship that I felt as though was appropriate for me to move forward.
DJ Booth: ‘Melo was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Baltimore, you, of course, are a Philly native, born and raised. So, besides the shared East Coast upbringing, what led you two together not only as friends but now as business partners?
Cassidy: Well, we had a relationship before we turned into business partners. I’m not sure how we got to this level, but everything happened for a reason, God worked it out the right way, and everything started fallin’ in line at the exact time that it was supposed to happen.
DJ Booth: Well, it’s obviously a marriage that hopefully will work out well long-term. Cass, you recognize that you have been out of the proverbial spotlight for quite a while, but the sentiment, not only on the phone now but, I’ve listened to your Apply Pressure mixtape, is that you don’t feel like it’ll have any negative effect whatsoever on the future of your recording career. Are you at all concerned that the time you have been away will affect you?
Cassidy: At first I looked at it as bein’ a bad thing and a negative thing, but now I’m lookin on it as a positive thing, because, even though I’ve been gone for a long time, I’m still a household name. Like, every time I’m in the streets, I’m in my car, I’ve got my hat real low—like, I can barely see myself in the mirror, but people still recognize me, scream my name, still wanna take pictures, they want autographs. So you know that you’re still doin’ something right. So, at the end of the day I feel as though the game’s goin’ in such a crazy direction, especially with online—like, you could go on YouTube or MySpace and see what I did, my whole career. So I’m pretty sure they’re gonna get updated quick, in the nick of time, and the people that do know where I come from are gonna be happy that I’m back.
DJ Booth: Absolutely! You mentioned being thirsty for that new music, and I’m sure that the new album is gonna quench the thirst of all of my longtime fans. Its title is “C.A.S.H.,” standing for “Cass A Straight Hustla.” Cass, you and I both know, your first three album were all recorded in the mode of your many different personalities. So, the new project, is it gonna be The Hustla and only The Hustla?
Cassidy: No. It’s gonna be a little bit of all of my personalities, but it’s gonna be blended right. So you’re gonna hear a lot of The Problem, a lot of The Hustla. It’s gonna be similar to the I’m a Hustla album: there’s gonna be a lot of uptempo songs, a lot of feel-good songs, there’s gonna be a lot of street songs, but, at the end of the day, it’s gonna be the perfect blend of Cassidy, of Problem, The Hustla, and of B.A.R.S. My other albums would only please certain types of people, but this album, I feel as though it’s gonna be the right type of blend, the right mixture to please a wider range of people.
DJ Booth: Cass, in our first interview, I asked you about holding back in regard to telling a real-life story on a record, and you said, “When you give too much, stuff’s gonna go over people’s heads—they might not listen,” and, as you just mentioned, appreciate. So, approaching this new album, do you think people will finally listen and be able to appreciate all that you’ve done and all that you’re telling them?
Cassidy: Hopefully. I’m good at predicting the future, but I can’t do it all the time, so hopefully they will understand. When I did the B.A.R.S. album, there were a lot of songs that probably did go over the average person’s head. That’s why [not everyone could] relate to the B.A.R.S. album. But the people that [could] relate loved it, because they know what it is, and they respect. They even respect a person bein’ from the streets and having the type of upbringing that I have, for me to even do songs talkin’ about the Lord. It took a lot of courage for me to do that at that point in time, so a lot of people respect that, but it did go over a lot of people’s heads, so that’s why I said, “This album is gonna be the perfect blend.” You know, I was with Swizz my whole career, and a lot of the concepts and a lot of the directions I went in [weren’t] my idea. Like, the direction that I wanted to go in wasn’t always up to me. A lot of people would come up with a lot of different concepts, and I would just jump on the song and do what I do.
DJ Booth: There’s obviously an increase in responsibility. So, does that make you nervous? Because, this time around, it is on your shoulders, squarely.
Cassidy: No, it makes me feel better, ‘cause, this time around, with me havin’ so much responsibility and me puttin’ in so much work, when I finally do blow up this time, I’m gonna be able to take the credit for a lot of things. Not everything, but the majority of things I’m gonna be able to take credit for, so I’m gonna feel better about it. Whether we win or lose, just like when you’re on the streets and you’re hustlin’, whether you do good or you do bad, you want it to be all on your shoulders, as opposed to having to rely on somebody else to come through for you.
DJ Booth: Well, like I’ve always told people, if you want something done the right way, you’ve got to do it yourself. Now you’re in that position.
Cassidy: Without a question. That’s the reason why me and Swizz are still family, but he allowed me to split from Full Surface, separate and start my own production company, because he knew that all the things that I’ve been through, and all the years that I’ve been studying, that I can handle it now.
DJ Booth: Let’s talk about that for a second. How is your relationship with Swizzy? Obviously you guys go way back—how did he feel about your departure?
Cassidy: Well, after I got out of my situation with J Records, I was still on Full Surface. We started Full Surface together, so I still have people with Full Surface, but he allowed me to have my own production company, and to go free. I had a lot of conversations with him, explaining to him why I wanted to go in this direction. He’s been helping me out since day one, ever since I first got into the industry, so I could never feel no type of way about Swizz—we’re always gonna be family. But as far as my community, it’s about the music, and every single and every song I do, that’s not the same—I’m able to just handle it myself, and do a lot of things myself. So now, when we talk, it’s not just based around the business, or, “When is my video gonna come?” or “When is this budget gonna open up?” or “Did you talk to Clive about this?” There’s no more of them type of conversations.
DJ Booth: We talked earlier about your extensive travels, and, this past spring, you spent some time in the Middle East with our troops. Cass, describe your experience overseas, and what it meant to you to be over there.
Cassidy: Well, I’ve got thousands of soldiers on [video] saying I was the first rapper out there, so that meant a lot to me. You know, when you talk about fancy places where rich people go, and you get massages and go on cruises, like, rappers scream that out all the time. But where the real drama’s at, and where people need you the most, they be scared to go. So, that was one reason I wanted to go: I always hear about Iraq and Kuwait on the news, but I never knew what it was really like. The news [media] tell part of the truth, and a lot of the stuff be made-up, so I wanted to go over there and see what it was like for myself. I wanted to support the soldiers.
DJ Booth: Cass, I spoke with Sean P. of the Youngbloodz a few months after he had returned from a trip to Kuwait, and he said that he had felt very safe the entire time he was there, and that surprised him, he did not expect to feel that way. How did you feel while you were there—did you feel safe and secure, or were you scared?
Cassidy: I felt way more safe than I do in America. Like, when I’m in my neighborhoods that I grew up in, or when I’m doin’ shows and travelin’ around, I feel way more safer over there than I do over here. In Kuwait, you’re allowed to go into the city, but in Iraq you can’t leave off the military base—not even the soldiers can. But there’s so many tanks around you, so many guns, everywhere you look it’s guns. You’ve got Kevlar vests, you’ve got helmets—it’s so many soldiers around you, that you feel like, if anything was to go down, you’ve got people that’s ready to rock out with you and do it legally. So [you don’t] feel as though, if anything was to go down, you’d have to fight a case, or do something illegal—everything was legal over there, so I felt a little better. And I knew that, at any given time, they always tell you the potential things that could happen, and you know at any given time, something could potentially go wrong, but that’s anywhere.
DJ Booth: When you were out there, did you do any Army training? Did they make you do push-ups or pull-ups or run through any courses?
Cassidy: We was able to go to the shooting ranges and shoot the guns, we was able to get in the tanks and things like that. They did show us around the whole base. We actually even went to the jails that they’ve got out there. We visited the jails, [saw] how the prisoners lived. The most incredible part is, though, we went to the ziggurat steps, King Shulgi’s tomb, the oldest archway known to man, I went through where Abraham was born. They built these steps for the Moon God, we went to the top, and when you go to the top it’s so high that you can see all of Iraq—we’ve got footage of that. So [those were] the memorable moments. I went to the edge of a mountain where Abraham used to live and I said a prayer there.
DJ Booth: Now, two years ago, I got the chance to fly overseas, and the only part of my trip that I did not like was the flight; I could not sleep on the plane, and that’s a long plane ride. Did you take any sleeping pills, maybe down a bottle of Jack before you left? How did you cope with the flight?
Cassidy: I’m so used to flying. You know, I fly all the time, all day every day, so I’m used to flyin’. Most of the time, when I get on the plane, I’ll be tired anyway. I never get any sleep anyway, so nine times out of 10 I can just go straight to sleep on my own.
DJ Booth: That’s nice—I envy you!
Cassidy: It wasn’t that bad of a flight. When I land, a lot of times, when I go do shows, and I land, [the promoters will] be waitin’ for [me] at the airport, and the first thing they ask [me] is, “How was your flight? Did you have a good flight?” And I’m like, “Don’t you see me right here? I landed safely, so that’s [good as far as I’m concerned]!” It’s good to me; I don’t care about the turbulence or all that nonsense or anything, as long as we make it there safely. You could have a flight with no turbulence and then crash—that’s a bad flight!
DJ Booth: Yep. That’s funny that you say that; I’m always asked the same question, and I’ve never thought about it like that. I agree with you completely. Well, obviously, your worldly experiences are only gonna add to the arsenal of topics that you’re gonna be discussing in your future material. Cassidy, for someone who has anxiously awaited an opportunity to pick up one of your albums, to purchase another one of your singles, tell them why, officially, you are back, and they should expect nothing but the best from you over the next year?
Cassidy: You’re about to start hearin’ nothing but music from me, and I’m about to saturate the game. Eventually, people are gonna get tired of hearin’ about me, and that’s how I want it. I just want them to know that, if they just hold me down for a little more time, I’m gonna come harder than ever.
DJ Booth: Well, you know what? You sound excited about the future prospects of your continued career, and it’s because you’re sounding so excited that you’ve got me excited, and I’m sure you have everybody else excited as a result. We anxiously await the brand new album. Cass, give everybody a MySpace, a Twitter account, so they can find out more about what you have goin’ on.
DJ Booth: Only recommendation I can make is, step the Twitter game up a little bit. I checked out the page, and I wanna say there were only about 26 updates from the last few months. A few more updates a day! [laughs]
Cassidy: I know, I know, man! I’ve definitely gotta step it up! That’s what I’m gonna do: I’m gonna step my whole online game up now.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. Well, Cassidy, I wanna thank you for takin’ the time to join me inside the DJ Booth. The best of luck, my friend.
Cassidy: I appreciate it, man—thanks a lot! I hope we can link up real soon and bust it up in person.