Pros: Swizz Beatz and Cassidy remain a great musical tandem.
Cons: Newfound maturity is undercut by gangster posturing on lyrically inconsistent album.
Bottom Line: To live up to his potential, Cassidy needs to finally decide on what type of music he wants to put out.
My Drink & My Two-Step
It’s been two long years since “I’m a Hustler” for Cassidy. Shortly before his 2005 album was released there was a shootout behind his house that left an associate dead. Initially charged with first-degree murder, he served 8 months for involuntary manslaughter. Soon after coming out of jail, a car crash left him in a coma with a fractured skull and a coma.
Rappers have long made artistic hay out of personal tragedy, so it’s no surprise that “B.A.R.S.: The Barry Adrian Reese Story” focuses so heavily on his troubled personal life. “Innocent”, the album’s standout track, gives his side of his legal troubles over a smooth R&B chorus and soulful piano chords. Calling himself a changed man, he credits his faith for his survival on “Leaning on the Lord” and “All by Myself.”
But while leaving the streets behind makes sense for Barry Reese, Cassidy the rapper hasn’t been able to make the same commitment. After all, his biggest hit (“I’m a Hustler”) revolved around drug dealing and bravado. The end result is a silly dichotomy – apologizing for the death of a friend after he cackles that he “beat a murder.”
On “I Miss the Game” he notes that too many rappers follow the same blueprint: “Now every rapper on some ‘bust that gat’ (expletive) / Cut that crack (expletive) / Forget that whack (expletive)”. Yet earlier on the album, he boasts that he “really sold pies” and “can talk that gun stuff / cuz I’ve done that gun stuff.”
Producer Swizz Beatz, the Dr. Dre to his Eminem, has been both good and bad for Cassidy. Club smashes like “My Drink & My 2 Step”, which almost any rapper could have made a hit, come with a burden of commercial expectations. So the punch-line rapper who earned his fame on the brutal Northeast mix tape circuit launched his career with the cheesy R. Kelly ballad “Hotel.”
Three albums into his career, Cassidy probably won’t become the star Swizz wants him to be, but there may be a place in rap for Barry Reese.