I’m A Hustla

Artist: CassidyTitle: I’m A HustlaRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Martin A. Berrios

Hip-Hop history will show that battle rappers rarely make a smooth transition into the mainstream. Trapped in their defensive ways, said rappers struggle at making well rounded album offerings. Enter Cassidy, the Philadelphia bull stepped upon the scene with what seemed a solid foundation. Well known for taking out Freeway in an impromptu one on one sparring, he was backed up and co-signed by Ruff Ryders hit maker Swizz Beatz. Scoring big with his R-Kelly assisted first single “Hotel,” he seemed good to go, but all these things that read so well on paper translated into his lackluster debut Split Personality. Now on the second time around, Cass tries to hit harder with I’m A Hustla (Full Surface/J-Records).

The disc starts off creatively with “The Problem vs. The Hustla.” In a unique twist Cassidy battles himself. His current “Hustla” persona takes shots at his earlier self’s credibility for spitting so hard on mixtapes, but twinkle toeing his way through his first two videos. The Split Personality Cass defends his honor by justifying pop success with his acquired wealth and love on the streets. The heavyweight title fight hoopla in between the verses gives the concept an added punch. The album’s most noticeable joint without a doubt is the title track “I’m A Hustla.” In what seems to be one of his most recent signature moves, Swizz loops and combines the infamous “I’m a hustla” and “Nigga ask about me” lines from Jiggaman’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder.” He makes the drums as loud as gun claps to intensify the track’s catchy hook. Cassidy’s delivery of his anything for a dollar M.O. seals the deal on this club staple.

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On “Can’t Fade Me,” Cassidy links up with Nas and his new understudy Quan. DJ Scratch comes through with some smoothed out production by hooking up subtle pianos and strings. Ironically and coincidentally, Cass ponders about the pitfalls of life, including prison. Cass also digs deeps on “The Message.” He discusses our culture’s imminent destruction over a Hotrunner production in the same vein of Wu’s forgotten gem “Hollow Bones.”

Cass does drop the ball with the repetitive subject matter. He covers the drug hustle twice more on “Crack” and “On the Grind”. Additionally he fails to connect when he tries to cater to the ladies. The collaboration with Mario “Kick It Wit You” comes off as forced and “Belly Button’s” unimaginative hook and sappy guitar licks result in an instant fast forward.

It has never been a question of Cassidy’s lyrical ability. The kid is nice. Overall he has stepped up his album game, but there is room to improve. With his current legal issues in mind, hopefully we’ll hear from him again.

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