Rappers can find themselves in difficult situations. They can have a tremendous buzz but still be unsigned. They can have a completed album on the shelves there is absolutely no demand for. They can be part of the hottest click one minute, and be all by themselves the next. Philadelphia’s Cyssero is, it seems, in a difficult situation. His album “Protege of The Game,” released in early 2007, continuously name-checks The Game’s Black Wall Street Records, but wasn’t put out by said label. It has a top-notch cover, but most of its tracks fade out so abruptly that they leave a distinct aftertaste of amateurism. With his latest being distributed in Europe, Cyssero’s situation may in fact not be quite as dramatic after all, but it’s clear that his press department is way off base when it claims, ‘He will undoubtedly be making waves on every coast as he delivers this rap masterpiece and proves he is Philly’s new Fresh Prince of Black Wall Street.

Fact is that Cyssero is no longer with Black Wall Street, and that at this point the album title “Protege of The Game” borders on false advertisement. Assuming it was an original title intended for a Black Wall Street release, it is just an embarrassingly plain name for an album. At least The Game’s own “Doctor’s Advocate” was a play on words (devil’s advocate) and a tribute to someone who may not have been involved in the recording process but had an undeniable influence on the artist (Dr. Dre). The equivalent of “Protege of The Game” for “Doctor’s Advocate” would have been “50 Cent’s Advocate” or “Protege of 50 Cent,” which obviously would have been laughable. Even moreso after The Game and 50 Cent’s relationship soured.

The next time around, with the album “Destined for Greatness” (scheduled for an early ’08 release), Cyssero will hopefully present himself as his own man. Looking back on the Black Wall Street material gathered here, Cyssero displays a knack for gun talk and a lack of personality. “With one nine and one trey-eight [/19138] like my zip code” Cys shoots it out with opponents, proclaiming, “I don’t wanna brawl, put the gun to one to y’all / I come with two straps, I’m like a Wonderbra.” When it comes to detailing the special bond between him and his burners, writer’s block is certainly not a problem: “Beef what you think you ’bout / till I press iron on your shirt like I’m tryina knock a wrinkle out.” He finds a brother in arms in The Game, who produces and features on “Fire in Ya Eyes,” a love letter to firearms similar to 2Pac’s “Me and My Girlfriend.” The quality of the vocals hints at a mixtape origin, but considering the mediocrity of the rest of the CD, the track has to be considered a highlight.

The other high profile appearance, Akon singing on and producing “Natural Born Hustla,” also suffers from subpar mixtape quality syndrome, as does “Big Dollas,” a badly tuned club track whose hook is an odd mixture of BIG references and 50 Cent-type slow speech. Lyrically, it rarely exceeds the level of “Just meet me in the VIP / a lil’ nigga do it BIG,” but occasionally Cyssero’s writing takes a decent turn: “I grip the shortie in the see-through blouse / after that I take her back to the see-through house / glass floors, glass ceilin’ / glass doors… one more glass gon’ lead to ass-feelin’.” The “Intro” provides another quotable, coincidentally involving glass as well: “I remember night school, couldn’t make it to the class / I was paper-chasin’, cakin’ on the ave., makin’ me some cash / My fiends like ball players, cause they either shoot or they take it to the glass.”

Further of note are “I Feel Ya,” a kite sent to street dwellers over a very solid Midwestern beat by Simon Illa, and “Stick Em” (the umpteenth reference to the Fat Boys original), an intimidating combination of a proudly stomping Nu Jerzey Devil beat and an invigorated Cys:

“Call me Crispy Creams the way I flip a O
You did it, but you did it slow
I didn’t, that’s the difference, though
No gimmicks, I just spit it how I live it, yo
Ain’t a nigga livin’ spit it how I spit it, yo
And my whole squad flippin’ snow
it just might be enough snow-flippin’ to start a blizzard, yo
Money gotta get made, I gotta get it, yo
Cops make it hot in the street, I’m Bleek Gettin’ Low”

If there’s a definite plus in Cyssero’s performance, it is his ability to flex different deliveries. The aggressive ones work best, whereas the more radio-friendly flows evoke the image of a rapper trying to be something he’s not. “So Fresh,” co-produced by Simon Illa and Scott Storch, has clearly too much sugar in its tank and is the type of pop rap not even Mase would want to get caught with. And what are we to make of a rhyme like “Fresh Prince of Phil, bitch / Nah I ain’t Will Smith”?

Will Smith he definitely ain’t, because that would require a certain amount of charisma. The Shortyo-produced “I’m a Ryda” (sampling the Chuck D countdown Bad Boy once got sued for) is dated, Lil Jon-inspired club hop, and while Cyssero relies on his lyrics to win over listeners, saying, “They feel my bars from the East to the West Coast,” it’s quite evident that his young, inexperienced voice just doesn’t possess the maturity needed for mass appeal. “Locked Up” starts out promising thanks to an Iron Maiden sample, but the track’s flat sound and the rapper’s Jadakiss mimicking cut any aspirations short. In an unexpected turn of events, the “Outro” finds him briefly dropping personal and paranoid rhymes over Jay-Z’s “You Must Love Me” and “Streets Is Watching,” respectively, before he spends a quarter of an hour talking about his relationship (or lack thereof) with affiliate-turned-foe Cassidy. Too bad that his schizophrenic battle between The Virus and Rockstar (two of his aliases), “Death of a Rockstar,” is conceptually reminiscent of Cassidy’s “The Problem Vs. The Hustla.”

Maybe it is no coincidence that many of the most successful MC’s of the past decade already were of a certain age. As much as they claim to grind, they are also able to enjoy the fruits of their hustle. The Roc, UGK, D-Block, Hypnotize Minds, Bad Boy, Cash Money Millionaires, The Diplomats, G Unit, Screwed Up Click, they all give off a certain coolness and composure. That type of savoir-vivre is as of yet absent from Cyssero’s art. He’s focused on humiliating competition. That works in the short term, but eventually wears thin. In other words, when he states, “I’m still butt-fuckin’ the rap game and I ain’t cum yet,” there has to come a time when he busts that nut and falls back.

Cyssero :: Protege of The Game