Rhyme pugilist Cassidy has always been one to turn heads with his adept lyricism and knack for jaw-dropping quotables. A native of Philadelphia, he and his group, Larsiny, scored a deal with Ruff Ryders Records, making their debut on the Ryde Or Die Vol. 2 compilation song, "Ryde Or Die Boyz," as well as nabbing a slot on the Ryde or Die Vol. 3 bonus track, "Ruff Ryders All-Star Freestyle," the following year.
Cassidy and his groupmates tenure on Ruff Ryders never yielded an album, but Cassidy was scooped up by producer Swizz Beatz and signed as the flagship artist on Swizzy's Full Surface Records. Continuing to earn his stripes through standout guest appearances as well as a slew of rap battles, including his legendary matchup against then-Roc-A-Fella upstart Freeway, the rapper's stock rose to a fever pitch as he and Swizz began to cultivate what would become the rapper's debut album, Split Personality.
The album was deemed a mild success, debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 album chart and selling over 118,000 copies within its first week of release. Powered by the R. Kelly-assisted single, "Hotel," the album would earn gold certification and position Cassidy as a potential leader of the new school.
On June 28, 2005, Cassidy returned with his sophomore album, I'm A Hustla, but this go-round would be anything but smooth sailing.
After releasing the album's lead single and title-track to much fanfare and seeming to be on the verge of breaking through to the next level, Cassidy was arrested on charges of murder, attempted murder and reckless endangerment weeks before his second album would hit stores.
I'm A Hustla still cracked the top five of the Billboard 200 and managed to move 93,000 units within the first week of release. While many critics called his project an improvement in comparison to Split Personality, it ultimately fell short of the commercial success of his debut.
While Cassidy would eventually be convicted of manslaughter and only serve eight months in jail, his career would never recover, making I'm A Hustla his last shining moment on the mainstream level.
Now 10 years removed from this album touching down, we selected the five songs that best represent I'm A Hustla as the solid album that it was.
"6 Minutes"Featuring Lil Wayne and Fabolous
The aughts was filled with plenty of talk about who the punchline king of rap was and Cassidy decided to call up a few of the top contenders to spar with on the song "6 Minutes Of Death." Featuring Lil Wayne and Fabolous, Weezy opens up with a jaw-dropping lead-off verse, throwing down the gauntlet with a slew of relentless bars. Fab rises to the occasion himself but Cassidy takes it home and anchors the track with a deadly barrage of one-liners and witty quips.
"B-Boy Stance"Featuring Swizz Beatz
The festivities get jumping when Cassidy connects with Swizz Beatz for the golden era-inspired tune, "B-Boy Stance." Released as the second single from I'm A Hustla, the song was a modest hit due in part to Cassidy's legal troubles preventing him from promoting it properly. But the song still made an impact among east coast loyalists and others for its catchy hook and Cassidy's hard-boiled musings. The accompanying music video is also noteworthy for its satirical portrayal of 50 Cent, whom Cassidy had a dispute with at the time. Rap beefs aside, "B-Boy Stance" remains a viable selection at any jam or party.
"So Long" Featuring Raekwon and Mashonda
Cassidy gets sentimental on the Chris & Drop-produced heater, "So Long." Swizzy's ex-wife Mashonda provides an addictive hook, singing "So many nights I felt like crying (can't get you off my mind) / All this time I felt like dying (love's so hard to find)" and dropping well-placed adlibs that compliment the track perfectly. Wu-Tang Clan rapper Raekwon pops up on the second verse and makes due of his air-time in a big way and showering his dame with gems of wisdom. The elder statesman may have gotten off lovely, but Cassidy doesn't get upstaged by any stretch, dropping two lady-friendly verses full of slick talk and sweet nothings to make the ladies' hearts melt.
Produced by Neo Matrix, the rollicking banger "AM to the PM" boasts a sample of rock band Queen's 1984 cut, "I Want To Break Free," and serves as a playground for Cassidy's endless stream of hardcore rhymes. "Cut a bone out his skin, fish filet him when I see 'em / Then wire his grill, Kanye 'em when I see 'em / My young'ns on they job so I pay 'em when I see 'em / Turn boys to men, I Wanye 'em when I see 'em," he raps. The Hustla attacks the track with ferocity and catches a body with this album standout.
After the success of Split Personality, Cassidy had transitioned from obscurity to the prime time, but was intent on leap-frogging the competition. The rapper made a big splash in Spring of 2005 with the smash single, "I'm A Hustla," which prominently featured a sample lifted from Jay Z's hit, "Dirt Off Your Shoulder." Filled with potent lyrics by the rapper some had claimed to have chase radio spins on his previous album instead of focusing on rewind-worthy lyricism, the song was a hit on the streets as well as on the Billboard music charts. The infectious song helped solidify the Philly spitfire as a promising artist.