DJ Cassidy is probably one of the most lit, well-respected DJs to ever do it. Describing himself as a “global man of music,” the 39-year-old has been deejaying for 75% of his life — and hard work pays off. His impressive resume includes deejaying multiple birthdays for Diddy, Beyonce and Jay Z’s wedding, and even Barack Obama’s inauguration.
A young Cassidy growing up in New York was exactly how he is now: infatuated and obsessed with hip-hop culture. When it comes to passion, dedication, and work ethic, Cassidy embodies it all. He states, “That’s what got me into music and inspired me to be a DJ. I was infatuated with hip-hop since as far back as I can remember.”
Cassidy recently hosted his Pass The Mic Vol. 2 via Twitch, reeling in all the hip-hop legends from Run-DMC to LL Cool J to Chuck D to Rakim. While this was pure entertainment for music-lovers all around the world, the goal of the event is to honor and uplift the heroes amidst the pandemic: those on the frontlines of health, freedom, and justice.
The crazy part is, Cassidy has never had a sip of liquor or coffee, taken a drug, or smoked a cigarette his entire life. No caffeine, no soda, just pure natural energy. Flaunt caught up with Cassidy via FaceTime to discuss his first encounter with hip-hop, moving to LA,
Being from New York, when’d you fall in love with hip-hop?
I used to go to Central Park with my grandmother when I was 2, 3, 4 years old. She’d take me for walks. When we finished the walk, I’d be sleeping in my stroller. She’d put the stroller in her bedroom for me to nap it off. One day I woke up from my nap, there was a movie on TV called Breakin’. I became obsessed with the two stars, Turbo and Ozone, really my first hip-hop heroes. I went on to discover Run-DMC and Jam Master Jay, I idolized them. Between that time and my 10th birthday, I became obsessed with the idea of becoming a DJ and asked my parents for two turntables and a mixer. Received the greatest gift of my life.
How long have you been in LA? Do you love it?
2.5 years, I do. I prefer living here over New York. I’ve lived in New York City my whole life, but I’m very happy to be living here. I like the palm trees, it’s a vacation vibe. To a New Yorker, this is what you saw growing up on TV. This is Beverly Hills Cop, Beverly Hills 90210.
I’m surprised you waited so long to move here.
Well the music business moved here, that happened over the past 10 years slowly. I started coming here a lot, then I met a girl and found my girlfriend. She’s been with me for 4 years. She lives here, so we had a long-distance relationship at first.
How did you and your girlfriend meet?
We met on a set of a Sony Electronics commercial I was starring in, illustrating the journey of SONY electronics from their first electronic to the Walkmans of the 80’s to the tablets of today. She was in the commercial, that’s how we met.
What would you say are the biggest accolades of your career?
I’ve had many surreal, “holy shit,” career-definitive moments. Of course, one was performing at the White House for the Obamas, which I did over a dozen times. Played the President’s 50th birthday, the First Lady’s 50th birthday, both inaugurations at the White House. Those 8 years, which seem like yesterday, were surreal and life-changing. I never imagined it. I was 10 years old and really obsessed with hip-hop. Hip-hop’s my first love and my guiding force, led me back to discover all other genres of music.
In these moments like deejaying for Obama, what are you feeling?
Every party I did for him was at the White House, and I’m not talking about a tent in the rear of the house. If you look at the White House, the last window left of the front of the building is where the parties were. Obama’s 50th birthday was the first time I was in the White House. There’s 4 rooms in a row: Red, Blue, Yellow, Green. Eleanor Roosevelt created them. I’m standing in the Red Room which is right next to the party room. I’m looking out of the window at the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument.
The President of the United States, the leader of the free world — the most powerful man on the planet, the most important president of our time — is literally on a little, one-foot riser of a stage, about to announce me. He’s thanking his best friends for coming. My grandmother who’s now 93, (at that time, 83) has survived the Holocaust, has been through craziness and seen a lot in this world. I called her and said, “I’m about to go deejay at the White House.” She got emotional, I got emotional. That feeling never stopped. Every time I went back, I never became numb to that feeling.
What about Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s wedding?
Different, but similar. I found myself in a very small room with a very small number of people. The Obama parties were big with 500 people, Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s wedding was very small. I never say much about that wedding out of respect to them. It was their closest friends and family, very intimate. I was very, very honored to be asked to be the only source of entertainment. There weren’t multiple DJs, no performances. nothing except me. A big responsibility to entertain the greatest male and female entertainers of our time. I still feel honored by that, that memory has not become normal to me. I feel a real sense of pride that I was the person they chose to create their celebration for their most special night.
What are your favorite songs to play in a set?
It’s tough because I pride myself in playing all music for all people, all over the world. That’s been my motto for a long time. Even though I play different music for different people, I somehow sound like me no matter what. Someone asked me “what are you most proud of in your craft?” It’d be that. Through any genre of music, any era of music, any crowd of people, no matter what I’m playing and what I’m doing, I sound like DJ Cassidy.
Building that identity and sound through various genres and eras of music has been the greatest challenge, the greatest joy, the greatest sense of pride. My favorite type of music to play is the R&B music of the late 1970’s, early 1980’s. There’s a joy, spirit, and emotion in that music like no other, the greatest and most universal dance music ever created.
Talk about rocking a #BLackLivesMatter shirt during the entire Live and using your platform to speak up.
I’ve recorded 2 episodes of Pass the Mic so far, each was premiered with a live pre-show where I deejay for an hour and foreshadow what’s to come. It’s all one event. First time I wore a Black Lives Matter t-shirt was the live-pre show for Vol. 1. I wore a similar but different t-shirt in the actual Pass the Mic video for Vol. 2. I knew these were likely to be the biggest platforms that I’d have in our quarantine era. Because it’s the biggest exposure and platform live from my living room, it was a given that you should make a statement. Use whatever biggest platform you have at the moment to speak that truth.
The phrase “Black Lives Matter” is so obvious to so many of us that we take it for granted, but there are so many people out there to which it’s not obvious — to which it’s misunderstood, frowned upon, and negated. It’s so important for people who understand that phrase as second nature, to not take that for granted. Keep reminding ourselves we need to make it clear, because so many people don’t get it. Going into Pass the Mic, I wasn’t expecting this much of an overwhelming, widespread emotional reaction. I did it to inspire people, to make people feel good.
People received it so well!
What better place to make this very simple, very obvious statement that everyone in my world understands and believes in? It’s extremely important for people who are not Black to align themselves with the movement and make that statement, for people of all races, religions, and sexual orientations to show solidarity with each other. I truly believe that if we aren’t all equal, no one is equal. If we aren’t all free, no one is free. If we don’t all have justice, no one has justice. I truly, truly, truly believe that.
I couldn’t begin to count the number of messages I’ve gotten from people saying they’ve cried watching it, that it’s changed their life, that it’s brought happiness back into their life, that it brought them to a happier time, that it truly struck an emotional nerve of joy. Really emotional messages from people around the world who I don’t know, and from well-known artists who didn’t take part. The most touching reaction has been from the artists who participated, who’ve really shown a sense of pride and excitement in taking part. That touches me because these are my heroes. My R&B heroes in Vol. 1, my hip-hop heroes in Vol. 2. I look up to them. I idolize them. I admire them, hold them on the highest pedestal. For them to thank me for what I’ve done, is the most surreal feeling ever, I feel the most honored.
How easy or difficult was it to get everybody on board, and sync timing wise?
I don’t like talking about the technicality because it’s taken a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to figure it out. It’s not all done at one time. It takes a lot of weaving. Being a DJ for 3/4’s of my life has really taught me the art of weaving. Technology can be learned. I was new to this technology. I’d never been on a Zoom in my life, I knew nothing. I had to find and rely on people to walk me through the technology, but the art of weaving I’ve been practicing my whole life.
What can we expect from Pass The Mic Vol. 3?
I can’t give you any hints at all, but I’m working on Vol. 3. Vol. 3 will have the greatest finale that it could ever possibly have.
How was deejaying Puff’s 50th birthday?
To put it in perspective, I deejayed Puff’s 32nd birthday weekend in Miami. I was literally a child (18 or 19, first year in college). I was as honored by him entrusting me then, as I am by him entrusting me now. That’s another feeling that hasn’t gone away. Puffy can have any DJ in the whole world deejay his parties. For him to choose me for 18 years is truly an honor. He’s king of all parties in my mind, always will be. He invented the extravagant celebration as we know it, and I’ll forever be honored by those nights where he calls on me. I get as nervous for them now as I did when I was 18 years old.
What do you get nervous about?
The same thing any performer gets nervous of. You get jitters. You want to kill it. You want everybody to think you’re great. You feel it, you get butterflies.
Tommy Hilfiler had some nice words about you & fashion. How would you describe your style?
I like to make a distinction between fashion and style. Fashion is often looked at as the worlds of high fashion, runway fashion, fashion shows, and name brands. Truth is, I’m not very up-to-date on the latest fashion. I don’t wear big names or shop at high-end stores. The majority of my signature clothing is custom-made: my boater hats, my suits, my blazers, my military jackets. My staples, my tracksuits and my polos, are very much generic, classic, American brands.
I’ve always loved clothing, always had my own style from as far back as I can remember. I have this kindergarten class picture, all the boys are wearing these afterschool, sports program uniforms. I’m wearing red Converse Chuck Taylors, red pants rolled up really short, and a white Mickey Mouse sweatshirt. I’d wear that today. I always stood out from the other kids at any age. There’s 3 sources of inspiration for all my style: one’s Run-DMC, one’s Michael Jackson, one’s classic country club style. When you put those 3 in a blender, pour it out, the smoothie that comes as a result is DJ Cassidy. [laughs]