When President Barack Obama wanted a deejay for his Inaugurations and fiftieth birthday party at the White House, there’s only one person he called. When Oprah Winfrey celebrated the opening of her school in South Africa on New Years Eve, there’s only one person she called. When Jay Z needed a deejay for his wedding to Beyoncé and his Legends Of The Summer Stadium Tour with Justin Timberlake, there’s only one person he called. When Sean “Diddy” Combs, Naomi Campbell, Anna Wintour, and countless other behemoths of culture want 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 over half his living years, becoming 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 on Columbia Records.
“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. To achieve his mission, Cassidy united the legendary architects of the worldwide dance hits of the late 1970s and early 1980s with an astoundingly 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 for Cassidy’s debut single “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 for “You Got Me”; where R. Kelly, CeeLo Green, Usher, John Legend, Passion Pit, Ne-Yo, Kelly Rowland, Melanie Fiona, Estelle, and Mary J. Blige all appear to create the soundtrack to your next night out. With thirteen superstar singers and twenty-two iconic musicians, Cassidy has produced an album comprised entirely of original, feel-good songs with no covers, samples, interpolations, or machines.
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 pre-teen playing school carnivals and sweet sixteens to an eighteen-year-old playing the VIP rooms of New York’s hottest nightclubs. During one late-night set at New York City hotspot Lotus, Cassidy caught the attention of 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 Beyoncé’s parties.
The offers snowballed year after year, with Tommy Hilfiger, Russell Simmons, Jennifer Lopez, Pharrell Williams, Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz, Nas, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and the hottest clubs around the globe all recognizing Cassidy’s unique ability to connect to everyone, everywhere. Regardless of where he was performing, though, one thing held true.
“No matter where I played, who stood in front of me, or what 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 time put a spirit, emotion, and energy in the air like no other.”
To reclaim that magical feeling, Cassidy first placed his twenty-five favorite songs from that era in a playlist. He then put them in chronological order, with all the tracks (including Cheryl Lynn’s “To Be Real,” Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Much,” Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family,” Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration,” and Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out”) falling between 1978 and 1982. Finally, Cassidy made a list of every musician who played on each of the twenty-five songs. Noticing that the same names kept reappearing, the determined producer set out on a journey to track down the “men behind the music” to play live on his album.
After channeling the musicians’ prolific sound, Cassidy enlisted renowned songwriter Claude Kelly to co-write several songs with him and his production partner, Greg Cohen. Cassidy then persisted in finding additional modern-day writers and singers to bring a new voice 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 album’s second single, the celebratory “Make The World Go Round.” CeeLo’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 a four-year, 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 father every weekend to buy vinyl, study the back of every record cover, and learn who wrote and produced his favorite songs. Inspired by Afrika Bambaataa’s, Kool Herc’s, and Grandmaster Flash’s genre-defying style, a young Cassidy made it his motto to “play all music, for all people, all over the world.”
The same ideal that manifested itself years ago now finds itself living in a fantasy world called the Paradise Royale, a place where all people 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.”