Cassidy Interview (by Timid)
Blowing up radio and video at the minute with his infectious R Kelly featuring ‘Hotel’ jam, Cassidy, a.k.a. “Da Problem”, is a major problem for all acts who rely on smoke and mirrors to mask their lack of microphone mastery. These qualities and respect for art are the reason Swizz Beats has knighted Philly’s Cassidy as the debut act on his new label Full Surface Records.
‘Da Problem’ has hit the scene – now what’s your plans?
Cassidy: I got plenty of plans, but I’m just going to take it one step at a time. Right now my ‘Hotel’ thing is bubblin’… it’s looking good as far as the video is concerned, as far as the radio play concerned, how the streets is responding to it – it’s crazy. So we just going to ride this till it peaks and after that we gonna drop the remix with Trina and R. Kelly. We about to shoot the video for that soon and then we gonna come with the second single.
Ok so you got Trina on the remix huh?
Cassidy: Yeah me R. Kelly and Trina. I think we might put Lil’ Kim on it still, I’m not sure yet.
That sounds like it’s gonna be pretty hot. How’d that come about with getting R. Kelly on the joint?
Cassidy: I was in Chicago with my A&R peoples and his A&R peoples so they set it up for us to meet. We went to the studio and we met him and his family. They showed us wild love. He was playing joints off “The Chocolate Factory” album that he came out with. Played his ‘Thoia Thoing’, and they played his ‘Step In The Name Of Love’ and all. And they was playing his wild new hits off the album… so we started playing them songs off my album and R. Kelly was feelin them crazy… so then we put in the ‘Hotel’ beat let him know the concept and he just ran with it and went into the booth and laced it crazy. Gave me the hook, a bridge, interacted with me so all I had to do was lay my verses. So I took it to the hotel for about a couple hours, came back to R. Kelly’s studio and laid the verses and it was done. Crazy. So it wasn’t even planned out or nothing it’s not like we was planning to go to Chicago to do a song with R. Kelly – it was just some spare of the moment shit that just happened. It was like a blessing.
Yeah usually a lot of hot stuff comes out like that the spur of the moment. The vibe gets you through it.
So you were on Ruff Ryders before with a crew and they kinda had you guys playing in the background. But now you are on Full Surface and J Records. Is the label doin’ you alright?
Cassidy: Well, really I was signed to Ruff Ryders and a group called Larceny, but they didn’t really have us put on the back burner. It’s just that it’s a certain procedure you got to follow – like they had wild artist already before we even got signed. They had Parle, they had Young One, they had The Lox, they had Drag-on, they had Eve, they had DMX, and each of the Lox was droppin solo albums. So they had wild albums coming out on the roster before we even got signed. So when we did get signed we already knew it was going to be a week. But we was waiting for wild long you know what I’m saying? We were on “Ruff Ryders Volume 2”, “Ruff Ryders Volume 3″… we were doing lil mix tapes around that time, but we didn’t really have the budget to move around like we wanted to. To be able to record and come out with shit and do shit like you want, you need a budget – you need the money to be able to do it. So they wasn’t trying to cut us no budget. It was really Interscope that wasn’t trying to cut us a budget, because they had so many other artists on the roster and there is only a certain amount of money to play with at a certain time. We had to wait… and while we was waiting we was getting out music together. So I started building my relationship with Swizz… so we was negotiating his solo while he was negotiating his own label deal up here at J Records with Clive. He said he wanted me as a solo artist, but the deal wasn’t finalized yet so we went and met with Clive, we had a big meeting. I rhymed for Clive for about two hours straight. Clive was feelin’ me – no demo, no music, no nothing – just street rhyming. He was just feeling the whole situation, so he made it happen and that’s how we got this Full Surface shit hoppin’.
So Full Surface is Swizz’s label and J Records is Clive’s company so you got one of the hottest hip hop producers AND a music industry legend behind you on this. Are you feeling any pressure on that?
Cassidy: Naw, that should take the pressure off you, you know what I’m saying? You could fall back cause you know you don’t got to rely on a big name producer to sell you a beat. Because even when big name producers be selling beats, they get their own in-home artists and give them the heat first. And the beats they sell is just like “that’s next”. When you got an in-house producer like Swizz then he gives you his main priority – you know you gonna get that heat first.
Right. How was it dealing and working with Clive Davis?
Cassidy: Working with Clive is crazy… Like working with Swizz, it takes a lot off his shoulders cause you know you can get a bang at any given time. Swizz done already sold 70 million records… he already know how to come up with a hit. So that take a lot of the pressure off you. Iinstead of being an artist signed to another type of label with no producer… just being a regular artist having to do it on your own trying go out and buy beats and find beats…that’s WAY more pressure than having an in-house producer, you know what I’m saying?
See the problem with J Records is you gotta get over that hump – they’re not a label like Def Jam that knows what to do to make an artist take off. But Clive – he’s not really use to dealing with rap, he’s used to dealing with pop music. So he’s used to dealing with music that already gonna start off on a certain level – Top 40 or something like that. So he knows how to take the music from a different level – and so you gotta get it to THAT level where they know how to deal with it. That’s ground work – that’s just me, Swizz, my niggas, my peoples that don’t got nothing to do with J Records. Because we got the Hotel song on our own. J Records didn’t know we was going to Chicago to do that. A lot of shit that we done is not because of J Records, it’s just our own movement. It’s good to have J Records behind you cause you know once you get to a certain level they’ll push you through the roof. But it still ain’t like hands down you gonna blow because YOU got to get YOURSELF to that level.
Everybody at J Records, different artist assigned to J Records, they got hundreds of artists up here… every A&R working with different artist, everybody got they own focus. So everybody’s not gonna believe in you like you believe in yourself, until it’s already poppin’ and it’s already a hit. Now everybody is believing it cause they see its Number 1 on the charts and the video playing all crazy and they see how big it is. So now everybody gon ride with it. But in the beginning, when we was trying to convince everybody that we had fire and we had crack and that it was going to be a hit everybody wasn’t riding. See what I’m saying? You got to get yourself past a certain level before your team gon ride with you and that’s with anything.
OK. So you came on the scene with a reputation of having battle skills both in the hood and on the radio. How did you get started battling?
Cassidy: I mean I been battling since the beginning of time you know what I’m saying? Ever since I start learning how to rap that’s what I first started battling cats. Spittin’ against my friends and all that just having fun. So after I started taking rap more seriously and my name started growing and I started getting more popular that was already my whole lifestyle. I used to go to Broadnarly and Philly everyday after school and just rhyme… just rhyming and battling cats everyday so that’s what I was used to. I wasn’t in the studio everyday. I didn’t have no budget and I wasn’t recording no songs. I wasn’t putting no albums out. I wasn’t on no mix tapes. All I could do was battle cats and just spit all in the streets, so that was my focus. Then after I got my weight up, and I got a deal and started doing music, I had to change my focus. Now my focus ain’t to battle niggas no more and build my reputation up cause I already got a deal. Now it’s to make this music and get these hits, so I can make this money – so my focus switched. But I could stay through that battle stuff that I was doing, it’s just that I don’t do it as much because that’s not my focus. I’ve got other stuff to worry about besides that. And I’m not going to benefit from battling no more.
The reason why I used to do that back in the day was because I use to benefit from it. If I use to battle somebody and rip they head off it would build my reputation. Wild cats are running round and start talking about me and that’s how I built my name up. Now everybody already know who I am, they already seen my battles and they already heard what I done did… they already knew stories about me they already done heard my music. So for me to battle now it would be defeating a purpose… it would be like “for what”? Only way I’d battle right now if it’s for a large amount of people, some type of bet or if it’s gonna be on live on the radio or t.v. or some type of big situation, you know what I’m saying, it ain’t even worth battling right now. Because if I battle somebody and I win it’s like “Cassidy won another battle he pickin on somebody else, he ate somebody else up.” And if the cats even show any type of resistance from going down, the niggas gon be like “Oh well Cassidy ate the first cat in the first round, but it took him two rounds to kill this cat.” So no matter how good I look it’s always gonna be negative for me, so it ain’t even worth it to battle. So even if a cat make it to the third round and still lose he still accomplished something like “I made it three rounds with him.” I mean its like Mike Tyson was knocking everybody out in the first minute. So if his fight last 4 rounds it seemed like a long fight and everybody was disappointed. And really it’s a short fight compared to everybody else fights, because he built a reputation for knocking people out so quick. So like Jay-Z and like Michael Jordan, I want to bow out while I’m on top of that battle shit. Right now I never lost a battle. Nobody can never say they chewed me up so I want to leave it like that.
You never lost a battle?
I gotta give you props on the Freeway battle. I haven’t seen the video, but I heard it and yeah you definitely rip it up.
Cassidy: Appreciate it dog, good looking.
I’m sure that was an interesting scene. You got Jay there taunting you, and you got the Roc standing there.
Cassidy: Yeah, my click was standing there. You know it was a lot of pressure on me. I mean not the Roc. I was more worried about my peoples, you understand. Because even though Jay-Z, he a big person in hip hop and he a boss as far as his camp is concerned… I don’t got to answer to him, I don’t gotta hear what he gotta say afterwards – he deal with his people. I was more worried about what D was thinking and what, Swizz and my peoples was thinking, so I had to represent for my click. But it definitely was a crazy situation with him being there and him talking so crazy like I was gonna lose before they came. And when they get there and I do what I do and then he’s so quiet at the end, I felt good, you know what I’m saying?
Yeah that was hands down ya’ll didn’t even have to go to the second round for that one.
Cassidy: I was so hungry and so confident in myself, I think that even if Jay-Z would have tried to spit at me I would have spit at him. Just because I was so hungry and so thirsty to just get into some situation. That’s why I didn’t show no signs of fear, no signs of being worried, none of that when I was battling – it was just all confidence. And it was showing through my whole body language… my tone of voice… I was just completely confident because I knew no matter what he brought to the table I always had something better because I’d put in too much work, spent too much time, and stayed up too many nights focusing on my music for somebody to come in there and be better than me. I put to much work in.
Before we go here let’s get a quick talk about the album real quick “Split Personality”. When is that dropping?
Cassidy: Last week in February, first week in March. February 24 or probably March 9th.
Yeah is there any specific concept you’re coming from with that?
Cassidy: Yeah the album is called “Split Personality” because it’s split in half, you know what I’m saying? There’s a more commercial side for the ladies songs like ‘Hotel’ and then a more thug side for the hood… the street bangers. So the cats that love me for the Freeway Battle they’ll respect one side of the album a lil more, and then the cats that know me for just ‘Hotel’ they’ll respect the album too. It’ll appeal to a large amount of people and it’s not just a one sided album. Then you got your songs that’s just real tough songs… feelin’ songs that fall kinda in between. Not commercial and not too radio, but not too hard and not too thugged. And it kinda fits my attitude because in real life even if you mad – you ain’t gonna be mad forever. If you happy you ain’t gonna be happy forever. Sometimes you mad, sometimes you happy, sometimes you depressed, sometimes you sad, sometimes you feelin smart… everybody goes through their different moods, and so that’s what I wanted to bring across on my album. I wanted to give you all them feelings when you listening to my songs.
When the album drops what’s the hottest joint on there that you definitely want everybody to hear?
Cassidy: I want everybody to hear everything!. But the main focus of the album is gonna be the singles. So ‘Hotel’ out right now with R. Kelly – I want everybody to focus on that right now cause that’s the single. That’s the whole point of a song being a single… its gonna be the main focus at the time. That don’t mean it’s the best song on the album, it’s just the focus at the time – it’s just what’s right for the time and what’s right for the set up, you know what I mean? And in a minute the Remix gonna be the focus, and then a couple months from now the second single is gonna be the focus, and then fans are gonna decide what the focus gonna be after that cause they all gonna have the album and they gonna pick for theyself. I love all my songs for different reasons cause it’s all dealing with different emotions.
You got any final words?
Cassidy: Yeah I just want to say the “Split Personality” album is gonna be crazy. If you a fan and you been holdin’ me down this far then keep holdin’ me down. If you don’t know about me, try to get some of my music and learn about me because I’m definitely a problem. Full Surface is the label, J Records cutting the checks, Ruff Ryders is my family and we’re not done, we’re gonna keep it moving. The album is gonna be sickening so look out for me. Peace.
Thanks again to Cassidy for taking part, and for the cats at Room Service for setting this up.