When Jay Z and Justin Timberlake needed a deejay for their Legends Of The Summer Stadium Tour, there’s only one person they called.
When President Barack Obama needed a deejay for his inaugurations and fiftieth birthday party at the White House, there’s only one person he called.
When Diddy, Naomi Campbell, Oprah Winfrey and countless other behemoths of culture need a deejay for their party, there’s only one person they call.
DJ Cassidy has been at the nexus of music, fashion and nightlife for more than a decade and has become the go-to deejay for your favorite rapper, pop star, business mogul, fashion icon and trendsetter. A longstanding bridge between disparate worlds, Cassidy has channeled his diverse experiences and analytic creativity into Paradise Royale, his debut album set for release in May 2014 on Columbia Records. Inspired by what he calls “the golden era of dance music,” Cassidy united the architects of the worldwide hits of the late 1970s and early 1980s with an eclectic list of today’s most revered recording artists.
Like his approach to deejaying, Cassidy’s approach to production is unbound by genre. It operates in a world where Robin Thicke and Jessie J team up with Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Earth, Wind & Fire’s Philip Bailey, Verdine White, and Larry Dunn (“Calling All Hearts”); where Chromeo links with Grammy winner Ray Parker Jr. and Jerry Hey, the iconic horn and string arranger behind Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall and Thriller (“You Got Me Up”); where R. Kelly, Usher, Passion Pit, Mary J. Blige, Cee Lo Green, Kelly Rowland, Ne-Yo, Melanie Fiona, Estelle, and John Legend all appear to create the soundtrack to your next night out. With thirteen superstar singers, twenty-two legendary musicians and a fourteen-piece string section, Cassidy has produced an album comprised entirely of original feel-good songs with no covers, samples or interpolations.
“Four years ago, I set out on a mission to bring the greatest and most universal dance music of all time back to the airwaves, back to nightlife, back to the dance floor,” proclaims Cassidy.
Paradise Royale is the culmination of a lifetime of deejaying around the world, observing people react and making people move. Cassidy’s career has been a life-spanning progression, growing from a teen playing for “narrow-minded kids who didn’t know much about music” to the VIP rooms of New York’s hottest clubs at eighteen. During a very late-night set at New York City hotspot Lotus, only two people were there to dance to Cassidy’s set. Luckily, one of them was Sean “Diddy” Combs, who, impressed with the youngster’s vast knowledge of music, quickly hired Cassidy to deejay at his 2001 MTV Video Music Awards bash. Jay Z heard Cassidy soon thereafter and began calling on him for all of his and Beyonce’s parties (including their wedding).
The offers snowballed, with Jennifer Lopez, Russell Simmons, Anna Wintour, Nas, Pharrell Williams, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and the hottest nightclubs around the globe recognizing Cassidy’s ability to move all people, with all music, all over the world. Regardless of where he was performing, though, one thing held true.
“No matter where I played, who came to see me or what music people expected to hear, I grew to view the uptempo soul music of the late 1970s and early 1980s as the greatest and most universal dance music of all time,” says Cassidy. “The classic records of that era not only worked, they killed, and put a spirit, emotion, and energy in the air like no other.”
To reclaim that feeling, Cassidy placed his twenty-five favorite songs from that time in a playlist in iTunes. He then put them in chronological order, with all the tracks (including Cheryl Lynn’s “To Be Real,” Chaka Khan’s “Do You Love What You Feel,” Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Much,” Kool & The Gang’s “Get Down On It” and Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out”) falling between 1978 and 1982.
Realizing that the same session musicians appeared on many of the tracks, the determined producer set out on a journey to track down the “men behind the music,” both heralded and unsung, to play live on the album. After channeling their prolific sound, Cassidy enlisted renowned songwriter Claude Kelly to co-write several songs and remained intent on finding additional modern voices to bring new life to the music. “I not only sought vocalists of my era to write and record original songs,” says the producer, “but vocalists of my era from all genres.”
That mission was no easy feat. The New York City native spent twenty months following R. Kelly around the country and making eight trips to the singer’s hometown of Chicago before they recorded the celebratory “Make The World Go Round.” Cee Lo’s participation on the anthemic “Light Up The Night” required Cassidy crashing a twenty-thousand-dollar-per-plate black-tie gala at which the singer was performing. After one conversation with Cassidy, it becomes apparent that stories like these are the rule, not the exception, the result of nearly four years of steadfast commitment to an ideal.
This ideal dates back to age three, when Cassidy discovered pivotal hip hop records like Run DMC’s “Sucker M.C.’s” and cult classic dance films like Breakin’. At nine years old, he begged his parents for two turntables and a mixer for his tenth birthday. He would then drive to record stores with his dad every weekend to buy vinyl and study the back of every record cover, learning who wrote and produced his favorite songs. Inspired by Afrika Bambaataa’s genre-defying style (“Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc and Bambaataa were my Superman, Spider-Man and Captain America”), a young Cassidy could be found deejaying talent shows and other school events before “hitting the big-time” with sweet sixteens at age thirteen.
The same ideal that manifested itself years ago now finds itself living in a fantasy world called the Paradise Royale, a place where allpeople unite to dance to the pulse of the human heartbeat and the soul of the human hand. “I’ve taken every party I’ve ever rocked, every record I’ve ever played, every foot I’ve ever moved, and transported them all to an imaginary land that lives within all of us,” explains the land’s resident maestro. “At the Paradise Royale, every person is welcome, every day is a party, and every night is a celebration.”