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[Split Personality] Cassidy Interview
Author: William Ketchum III

Barry "Cassidy" Reese seems to be poised for success. His humble beginnings as a young kid in Philly changed when he met his manager in a Philly barbershop; this manager was the brother of Dee and Wah, the co-CEO's of Ruff Ryders. A few years of warming the bench with group Larsiny, a legendary studio battle with Freeway and a chart-topping single with R. Kelly later, he's kicking off Swizz Beats' Full Surface record label with his solo debut, "Split Personality." William Ketchum III interviews Cass on his history with Ruff Ryders, the pressure of being Full Surface's first artist, and balancing commercial love and street credibility.

WK3: You're relatively new, so this is almost a required question; how long have you been rapping?

Cassidy: I been rappin for about six years seriously. But I been really rhyming my whole life, but I've looked at it as a job for six years.

WK3: How did you get hooked up with Ruff Ryders and Swizz?

Cassidy: Well my manager, he's the negotiator for Swizz Beats' father. Wah and Dee, the CEO's of Ruff Ryders, they his brothers. So I met my manager in a barbershop in Philly, in a coincidence type thing. He was feelin me, and he called me out to New York, and I met his brothers Dee and Wah and they signed me to Ruff Ryders. Cause when I came in New York I brought two cats wit me, and we signed as a group called Larsiny. That's how I met Swizz, cause he was the main producer over at Ruff Ryders where I was working. And when he started negotiating his label deal with J (Records), he said he wanted me as a solo artist. So I talked it over with my group and my management, we had a big meeting over at J with Swizz and Clive Davis. No demo, no music [or] nothing, I just spit for a couple hours straight with Clive, and he was lovin' me, so he finalized the Full Surface deal, and that's how I got over there as a solo artist.

WK3: What sets you apart from other Philly rappers like Freeway, Beanie Sigel, etc.?

"I don't got no sound that's a traditional Philly sound, I set the trends. What I do, the younger cats in that's running around in Philly tend to follow..."

Cassidy: Well first of all, my look, I look a lot different from these cats. So on tv, they [viewers] don't see me with the beard, or anything like that, so they can't compare me as far as looks are concerned. My sound is different, my voice (is different), even though we use a lot of the same words, we got a different type of accent, a different slur to our voices, cause we from a different part of the city. And I've traveled around, I've spent a lot of time in New York and different places, so I mix my slang up. We sound a lot different, we talk a lot different, different slangs, different parts of the city. And, what separates too me is that, they do what they do and I do what I do. I'm not tryin to follow no pattern, or I don't got no sound that's a traditional Philly sound, I set the trends. What I do, the younger cats in that's running around in Philly tend to follow right now. So, that's what separates me from them, I got a whole different approach in the game.

WK3: Your first single is with R. Kelly, but you're known to be a battle cat. How have you balanced mainstream popularity with street credibility?

Cassidy: I mean, just doing what I do. As far as staying on the mixtapes, still giving the streets bars on the radio, and doing what you did to get the streets to love you. And coming with the songs like Hotel, the radio songs that get play on MTV and BET, you can do them both at the same time. That's why I called my album "Split Personality." I got the category that's called "Cassidy," which is the ladies' man, where I do my commercial songs, with the playboy type image. Then I got the category "B. Reese," which is where I address more serious issues, come with the conscious type lyrics. Then you got the third category which is "Da Problem," where I come with the battle raps, and street styles, the grimey style. So I broke it down to three categories with an even amount of songs under each category on my album, and that's why I called it Split Personality. I did that so I could please all the audiences that I got.

WK3: Now about the album, who do you have guest-starring and producing?

Cassidy: Well Swizz executive produced my album, so you know he blessed me. And I worked with a lot of new producers, because I wanted a different sound. (I worked with) Chi Brown, Nardo, Oddisee, Neo, a lot of new cats. The only cat that was really doing his thing for a minute that I worked with was Rockwilder, the rest of the cats was new. And I have Swizz producing. I didn't wanna get a lot of producers that was flooding the game right now, cause my songs would sound similar to a lot of other songs that's floating around in the game. And I just don't know who'd favor that. Cats you never heard before.

WK3: In a freestyle, you said that you recorded this album in 4 1/2 weeks; were you for real?

Cassidy: Yeah, cause that's all they gave me. I went to Atlanta, and really in my 4 1/2 weeks, most of the time was spent you know, mixing the album, and tweaking the album and getting it sounding right and all that. Half of the time we were recording and writing, so we had a little bit of time to go to Atlanta. And when I went to Atlanta for that 4 1/2 weeks I did 30 songs.

WK3: That's ridiculous.

"...we had to narrow it down to about 16 for this album. That's why I'm already ready to drop the second album at the end of the year."

Cassidy: When we left Atlanta, my album was supposed to be in the works a little earlier than that, this is before the "Hotel" song and a lot of other songs. Even though they cut the budget and the time we were supposed to be recording, we handed in the album. We handed in our first album but we still had time to do stuff on our own, so we were constantly recording, and we did about 20 more songs. Then we had about 50 songs, and we had to narrow it down to about 16 for this album. That's why I'm already ready to drop the second album at the end of the year.

WK3: What's that one called?

Cassidy: "The Microchip."

WK3: You gained a lot of popularity from your battle against Freeway. I've heard rumors that you were including this battle as a track on the album.

Cassidy: No, the battle is not a track on the album, no.

WK3: You've been signed to the label for a while with Larsiny; how does it feel to finally have your solo debut coming out?

Cassidy: It feels good, it's definitely a beautiful feeling to be a fan of the hip-hop game and watching the industry for so long from the outside looking in, and now you're in the inside looking out. You're sitting in your hotel room, you're video coming on tv constantly, time and time again, and you're turning on the radio hearing your songs, and you're hearing freestyles with you (on them), people walking down the street with their headphones on listening to your music. It's definitely a beautiful feeling that my CD is about to come out. But it's also a funny feeling, especially when it's only four or five days away. I know that I've put in the work, and I know I'm a good person, and I know I've got good people working with my project, and I know I've got quality music. So I know I should do good, and I know that I'm expected to do good. But even if you do good, how good is good? Is one million good, is five million good, is ten million good, you know what I'm sayin? You never know what could happen; one day could change your career around in a 360, and it could be for the better or for worse.

WK3: How much pressure do you feel being Full Surface's first artist to release a solo album?

Cassidy: I wanted to be in a situation like this. I didn't want to come onto a label where there was already a big dog on the label, like signing to Rocafella where there's already a Jay-Z, he's definitely gon be the main artist, most of the money the label gets that year is definitely going to be focused on him. Or Ruff Ryders, where there was X and Eve already. There are good people running the labels; I just wanted to be in a situation where I was starting off fresh. Like you said, I'm the first artist, so all the pressure is on me to either make the label or break the label, and I like that. I like the pressure, and I like setting it off, because when you do good, that shows that you did it on your own. You don't have other artists that you piggybacked off of, you did it on your own, from the gristle. And it give you an opportunity to get as big as you wanna get, cause if you come in the game under somebody, you'll never get as big as them. Like no matter how much Beanie Sigel do, he'll never get bigger than Jay-Z, because he came in the game under Jay-Z. No matter how much Loon do, he'll never get bigger than X; no matter how big Drag do, he'll never do better than X because of the way he came in the game under him. So I never wanted to come in the game under nobody, I'm coming in the game on my own, making my own path. So then I could get as big as I wanna get, so there's no limit to how big I can get, and I can start my own thing when I got cats coming in under me. Even though I got Swizz, Swizz is a producer, so there's a difference when the producer is sayin "he's the nigga because," you know what I mean? A producer, even though he does beats, they [critics, listeners] not gon take his words for raps as much as the top rapper sayin that this is the next rapper. Swizz were to come on tv and say 'I got the next hottest producer,' then people will be like 'dag I gotta listen to him, cause Swizz knows what he's talking about as far as beats.' But as far as raps are concerned, I wanna hear it for myself. Like if Jay-Z comes and says I got the hottest producer, you may say he has good judgment in choosing beats, but you'd be like "let me hear for myself." You'd take Pharrell's judgement of a producer over Jay-Z.

WK3: Right, rappers know rappers and producers know producers.

Cassidy: Yeah, so even though I got Swizz backing me, I'm doing it on my own as far as raps and lyrics are concerned, so I can get as big as I want to get.

WK3: What's your take on the whole Eminem situation? About the claims that he's racist, and the songs that The Source came out with, etc.?

"If you're going to crack down on Eminem, I feel as though you should crack down on anybody else that's mouthing off saying a lot of ignorant stuff."

Cassidy: Well, I didn't ever hear the songs, or the comments that he made. So I can't really answer the question. But I did read in the magazine some of the stuff he supposedly had said, and who's me to say whether he's right or wrong or not? It's people that say crazy stuff all day everyday that's white and black. And I would be wrong to be like 'Eminem's wrong for sayin that, but everybody else can say all the stuff that they say everyday,' and that's the way and just fly with it. If you're going to crack down on Eminem, I feel as though you should crack down on anybody else that's mouthing off saying a lot of ignorant stuff. And that goes against freedom of speech, and that's what this country is set up for, for you to be able to say and do what you want to do. If you feel as though he was wrong, and if you feel as though you don't like what he did, I feel as though you should stop supporting him. Stop buying his music, stop listening to him, block him out your life, if that's how you feel. But if you don't feel if he's done anything wrong, continue to support him and let him go on with his life. There's a lot of people that's said a lot of things that I don't like, but that don't mean you should shut down their career, or they shouldn't come out with music, or you should make it a big deal. Making it a big deal is only making the situation worse.

WK3: Okay, last question. What do you think about the rap game right now?

Cassidy: Hold on, I want to say one more thing, I'll answer both questions. I think this just goes to show you, they made the kid {Eminem} so big so quick for what he was doing, and then it turned around (pauses) it's hard to say. The kid is white, so [because of] the color of his skin he's got a little advantage, so that's why he blew so quick and did what he did. But I feel the cats that's mad at him, they don't want to mess with him no more because of what he said, they shouldn't have supported him from the beginning anyway; they accepted him and they embraced him and made it seem like it was all love for him to be in the game, and they accepted him. And now he's doing his thing, and now it seems like people are trying to find a lot of ways to discredit how nice he is. I feel as though he's nice in whatever he says, he can spit. I don't know if he's guilty or not, I haven't heard him say anything or not. I feel as though if he did say it, he should apologize, whether he means the apology or not. But then again, I heard it was back in the day, years ago, before he signed a deal.

WK3: Right.

"And I feel that the industry right now is a little dried out. We need some real, true lyricists that's true to the game and taking it seriously..."

Cassidy: So I don't feel that he should apologize; whatever he said, he said, he should just keep doing what he do. Whoever feel funny about it, just stop supporting him. And I feel that the industry right now is a little dried out. We need some real, true lyricists that's true to the game and taking it seriously, that know where hip-hop came from and know where it needs to go and where they're trying to take it. [Hip-hop needs] Cats that's focused more on their lyrics, and coming up with real songs and doing original concepts, and not just trying to follow the same patterns just to get a little check. I feel as though the game always makes a 360, so it's coming back around to a more serious time. It's just going to take artists like me and other artists that's coming on and doing their thing to just bust open the doors and up the standards, and cats will have to step it up if they want to be able to do their thing in the industry.

Cassidy's debut album, "Split Personality," is in stores now.

Originally posted: March 16, 2004

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