Cassidy :: I'm a Hustla :: J Records/Full Surface Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

I've always been a "read the fine print" kind of guy. I think I get that from my parents, because growing up they emphasized the old axiom "if it looks too good to be true it probably is" to me a lot. So when I see that Cassidy is putting both a CD and a DVD on the same album with a new technology called "DualDisc" my first thought was essentially that it was too good to be true. If it was this easy, why wouldn't every record label do it instead of packaging a seperate DVD in a special fold out inlay tray? Surely it would save them money on both cost of materials and cost of production, and if there's one thing we've all learned by now about the music industry it's that they'll squeeze a dime out of a turnip just to make an extra buck. I start looking for the fine print and sure enough, there it is on the back cover of the album.

"The audio side of this disc does not conform to CD specifications and therefore not all DVD and CD players will play the audio side of this disc."

WHAT THE HELL? Do the fine people at J Records and Full Surface Records mean to tell me I just spent $15.99 on something that potentially is only useful as a frisbee or a coaster? And damn, for sixteen bucks plus tax, that's one fucking expensive coaster. Some of you are saying "that's not possible, the label comped Flash that shit, he didn't pay for it." No, they didn't. There are a lot of indie labels and a FEW major labels that service RapReviews, but for a lot of the big shit we pay for it to review it out of pocket. I'm not complaining at all - I'm happy to spend the $16 if what I do helps the public to know whether it's worth $16 of their hard-earned money or not. For that reason you should be strongly warned that technically speaking, Cassidy's new album is not a "compact disc" at all. I got lucky - I have an Emerson Research discman that's old, beat up to hell, and the buttons on it tend to stick - by some miracle of technology the shit works in it. Your mileage however may vary greatly.

Cassidy doesn't need any more problems right now, because he's already got a shitload on his plate. The budding rapper was arrested on a murder charge on June 17th, his preliminary hearing was postponed from June 22nd until July 19th, and the judge denied him bail on appeal from the prosecution. That means that Cass was in jail on Tuesday, June 28th when his album was actually released in stores after months of delays and a title change. Originally the album's name was supposed "Personality Change," a play on the title of his first release "Split Personality" a la EPMD and all of their "Business" albums. That was undoubtedly changed due to the surprising success of the Swizz Beatz produced "I'm a Hustla." A repetitive Jay-Z sample, pounding drums and infectious melody that's REALLY fucking hard to get out of your head when you hear it made for what's undoubtedly Cassidy's biggest hit to date:

"I'm a hustler; I'm a-I'm a hustler homey
I got the product, narcotics for the customers homey
Fiend's open they be smokin like a muffler homey
Niggaz phoney so I only got a couple of homies
If you a hustler; I could-I could fuck wit you homey
You spend a couple of bucks I'll stay in touch with you homey
I get money I get 20 a K
I got 20 strips all doin 20 a day - ay!
I get cake from buds and haze I'm makin dubs
They hatin cause I'm on the grind like I'm makin love
Where cops got the block hot like Jamaican clubs
Cop weight, wait for a drought and then make it flood
Try to take my cake you gon' take a slug
But you can take my information if you takin drugs
Cause I could sell Raid to a bug
I'm a hustler I could sell salt to a slug"

Give the man his props yo, he even imitates the way Swizz stuttered the Jigga sample in his flow, and even though the narcotics salesman tale is a bit cliche he spices it up with funny punchlines. Unfortunately Cassidy may be going down the C-Murder and Shyne road where his life is imitating his art, and a long time in the pen is in his future. Hopefully while there he can take solace in the fact his album is appreciated on the outside by the public at large. With no pun intended, Cassidy's strongest suit always has been his personality. His vocals reach out from the records, grabbing your attention and keeping your interest. Cassidy has grown as an artist, showing a willingness to play with concepts like "The Problem vs. the Hustla" where he battles HIMSELF on the mic, two sides of the same man competing for dominance of his persona. Production is not an issue, as Cassidy has a lot of heavyweights contributing to "I'm a Hustla." Needlz provides an ominous pounding track with high synths and beat reverses on "Crack." Swizz continues to come off like an accidental genius on "B-Boy Stance" with a track so understated he either forgot to add the melody or did it on purpose - making the song doper either way. DJ Scratch smooths things out on "Can't Fade Me," which also has special guest appearances by Nas and Quan. L.E.S. gets even SMOOTHER on the 80's throwback R&B styled "Kick it Wit You" featuring Mario on the hook. Want more uncut dope? Nerve & Surreal are hot for newcomers on "Get 'Em," Neo Da Matrix comes correct on "A.M. to P.M." and the extra nice "So Long" is dropped by Drop with blessings from Mashonda and Raekwon. When Cassidy's not trying to hard to be the pharmaceuticals king or Philly's top thug, he can really drop gems:

"It's usually the beauty that attract me but perhaps she
was the right person her personality made me happy
And that's why I pursued her, I'ma dude that make manuveurs
If I choose then she whipped cause my dick as long as a ruler
She made me kind of crazy it's cool as long as I school her
I'm smooth as Grand Puba, and I could charm a computer
For us to conversate all it take to make an impression
Like a teacher lecturing when I'm speakin she takin lessons"

It's not just the words Cassidy says that make him type nice, it's the strong breath control he displays and the way he can interweave multiple types of rhymes into the same lines and keep them on point from bar to bar. With that kind of talent, it's really going to be a shame if he throws it all away on one stupid moment of violence. Innocent until proven guilty is a must, but let's face it Cassidy doesn't have Michael Jackson's kind of money and not every rapper is as blessed in the courtroom as Snoop Dogg was. It's nice to see they included the R&B remix of "I'm a Hustla" featuring Mary J. Blige on the album, and the flipside being a DVD is kind of a nice touch since it includes the entire album in enhanced stereo plus the bonus track "Bellybutton." I was concerned about this "DualDisc" concept but props where it's due since it worked out nicely; they even include the videos for "B-Boy Stance" and "I'm a Hustla" on the flipside. Here's hoping Cassidy can beat the rap so he can keep on rapping, because his hustle definitely sold this slug some salt without putting any salt in the game.

Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10

Originally posted: July 5, 2005