- (Photograph:Shanay Reed/Larsiny Family Entertainment)
Cassidy may have entered into the world of Hip Hop as a gangster rapper 10 years ago, but the 30-year-old, born Barry Reese, has endured numerous trials that have inspired him to bring people to Jesus Christ using the power of music.
While the Philadelphia, Pa. rapper told The Christian Post that he has always had a relationship with God, he readily admits that his faith grew after serving an eight-month stint in prison stemming from murder charges. After his 2006 prison release, Cassidy was involved in a near-fatal car accident that crushed his skull and left him in a coma.
Although the rapper had already made a name for himself in the Hip Hop community with two albums, he told The Christian Post that he felt compelled to become more vocal about his relationship with God after overcoming the two significant events.
"When I came from jail and recovered from the accident I definitely felt obligated to talk about my relationship with God because that's the only way that I could make it through those situations that I was in. That's why I did the album B.A.R.S and did a lot of songs like 'Done 4 Me' and 'Leanin' on the Lord' with Angie Stone," Cassidy told CP of his decision to feature faith-based songs on his mainstream rap release in 2007. "I just wanted to show people that you can come from the streets, you can be around a lot of different things but still have a relationship with God and be an artist and talk about it."
Still, the rapper, who has deemed himself "Da Hustla," admits that it is not easy to be a Christian rapper who also appeals to people from the streets like where he comes from.
"It's kind of hard because a lot of people in the world know me for what I used to be and love my music and respect me for that. So you don't want to lose fans, but there are also a lot of people that love me because I'm going in the direction of the lord," Cassidy revealed to CP. "It's hard to balance it out but I try to to the best of my ability. Another thing I don't want to do is at this particular point do all records about the lord or go completely in the direction of lets say certain gospel singers or things like that."
While Cassidy admits that he enjoys making faith-based records about his relationship with God, he thinks that more people will be impacted if he also releases mainstream rap music.
"I feel as though I can touch more people if I go in both directions because more people will listen. Sometimes if you do straight gospel music the only people that will mainly get a chance to listen to your songs will be people that are already in the church or the people that are already fan of gospel music," Cassidy told CP. "Those people are already familiar with the lord. With me, the type of music that I do and taking that opportunity to tell people about my relationship with God.. I feel as though I can bring a lot more people that wouldn't normally listen to gospel music or really be concerned with the lord to spread the word. I know that's what the lord wants you to do. That's pretty much the direction that I'm going in."
Over the past few years, Cassidy has not catered all of his music to appeal to Christian audiences. Some CP readers have even questioned if the rapper was more focused on promoting sin than glorifying God.
"Did you check out his latest CDs? C.A.S.H. and Mayhem Music. Did you even bother to read some of the lyrics," one person questioned about the rapper after reading the CP report "Rapper Cassidy Testifies Stronger Relationship With God, Identifies With Bible Book of Job." "This man is making money off his sin filled garbage that the youth are pumping into their ears everyday."
However, Cassidy told CP that people need to recognize that some of his songs are created for the purpose of entertainment, much like the films that Christian actor Denzel Washington stars in.
"If Denzel does a movie, killing people or cursing, talking crazy...that might not be necessarily how he is in real life. It's just a movie, entertainment. He's just playing a certain role. It's not like I'm acting like Denzel is, but it's entertainment," Cassidy explained to CP. "So a lot of the music that I make is based around that. But the records I make around the lord is how I really feel in my real life, my everyday life when I'm with my kids, when I'm with my wife, when I'm in church. That's the real me."
While Cassidy said he realizes that all people will not recognize that music artists do not speak the truth in all of their lyrics, he insists that he has never shied away from his relationship with God when making records.
"I don't want to really pass off a mixed message. I'm sure some people are confused because a lot of people take everything that an artist says as being the truth and being serious. For those people it might be a mixed message," Cassidy said. "Even in the community that I'm trying to entertain, I never second guess my relationship with the lord. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God and make mistakes. Even the people that the lord considered righteous in the bible make mistakes. But at the end of the day I still got a strong relationship with him and I put Him first before anything."
Although he does not plan to release records that solely appeal to Christian audiences at this point his career, Cassidy is gearing up to release an extended play musical recording that will solely focus on faith-based content. The rapper will team up with Pastor Jomo K. Johnson of Philly Open Air Church to release the EP that will donate proceeds to two charities in the Pennsylvania city.
"The record deals that I was tied into and the things I was connected with through my whole career, it wasn't really possible for me to come out with records about the lord all the time. Or, I wouldn't have been able to benefit financially with the things that I was tied into," Cassidy told CP. "This will be an opportunity for me to make a whole EP passing off a positive message talking about my relationship with God, letting people be able to understand no matter what business you're in or what you're dealing with in life you can definitely have a strong relationship with God. So that's the reason why I thought it would be a beautiful idea to do an EP with the Pastor."
Pastor Johnson also has a publishing company called GGIS (God's Grace is Sufficient), that is teaming up with Cassidy to release a biography on the rapper's life. While speaking to The Christian Post, Cassidy said he was also busy ironing out the details of the release of the two projects in conjunction with the pastor so that they could both debut by the end of next month.
Although the rapper is hard at work recording songs for his own solo music mixtape and album while working with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation's nationwide mobile condom distribution initiative Condom Nation, he insists that his main career goal revolves around bringing people to salvation through Jesus Christ.
"I want to make everybody that hears my music to get into the lord and have faith in the lord because thats more important than anything. You can talk about getting money and driving cars and partying and things like that. That's cool too some of the time because there are times when people want to have fun, when people want to have the finer things in life," Cassidy told CP.
He added, "But that's not as important as having your relationship with God. But there are stories that were written when the earth first started. Stories like Adam and Eve,people like Abraham, people like Moses, people like Paul whose stories got told up until this point and are alway going to get told because of the relationship they had with God. The bible is already written but there are still the stories that could be told that could have an influence over people's lives the same way those stories do. That's kind of how I want my life to end when it's all said and done."
The rapper who credits the Bible's book of Job for changing his perspective on life, said he believes that musicians have the ability to impact people more than pastors by sharing their stories and faith with listeners.
"I feel as though I can do that from being an artist. Sometimes it could be even more effective than being a pastor."
"Even if you're a pastor in a big church and you've got a large amount of people that come to your church, it could be thousands of people that come. You can only reach out to those few thousand people that come to your church every week," the rapper told CP. "But with music, sometimes I can drop a song or do an interview and the interview goes through the blogs and millions of people can see it. So that's the reason why even though it might be sending mixed messages, I like to do messages with a good message behind it and talk about my relationship with God because I know a large amount of people will be able to hear it. I could probably reach out to even more than the average pastor can. I feel as though even though I'm not a pastor and I'm not preaching the same way they are, I can still spread the word and talk about my relationship with God and get more people involved and get more people into the lord."
For Cassidy, bringing one person to salvation through Jesus Christ would be worthwhile. "Even if I only get one person to get in the church or get saved or develop their relationship with God, it was worth it and more important than anything else that music will bring to me," he told CP.
"That's the reason that I'm in the lane that I'm in and do what I do."