How to Become Every Celeb’s Favorite DJ According to DJ Cassidy
The first time I ever laid eyes on DJ Cassidy was at a Conde Nast party, where he played the most amazing set full of 90’s throwbacks like En Vogue and Lauryn Hill… If ears could fall in love, this was def my ears’ moment.
Besides his music, his boater hats, pink cricket sweaters, and sick af style have become his signature. His style is so on point, you’d feel like a damn slob next to him in a Gucci gown. As if that’s not enough to put him permanently into the “impossibly cool” category, he’s played gigs all the way from Obama’s Inauguration to Beyonce’s wedding.
But DJ Cassidy is not like all the other DJs. Just try to find an uploaded set of his from any of the gigs he’s played… you won’t find it.
As a producer, Cassidy has taken his knack for collaborating with big stars to another level this time, with the recently dropped “Honor,” featuring Grace and Lil Yachty. While you’ll sadly only find a few singles of his on Spotify, you’ll have to understand that Cassidy carefully treats each song he produces as a work of art, which means that shit is rare and carefully plotted. He’ll go to any length to get it right — including literally chasing down Lil Yachty at a show and then booking the studio next door to the venue to play him the track.
The video for “Honor” is #everythinggoals since it was shot in a sick monochromatically decorated house in Palm Springs that’s remained unchanged since 1969. All the outfits worn by Cassidy, Grace and Yachty were custom made for the video. The pink room literally looks like a Barbie dream house.
This eye candy was directed by Sasha Samsonova, who’s photographed some sexy shots for Kylie Jenner. When Cassidy said he wanted something sexy, Sasha apparently replied with “all I do is sexy” — which was just the answer he was looking for.
Sick style and sick sets are just two parts of being one of the world’s coolest DJ’s ever, but how does one go from spinning records in their bedroom, to DJing for Beyonce’s wedding, to releasing tunes with Lil’ Yachty? Cassidy gives us his secrets on just how to make it happen…
If I wanted to be a DJ, where would I start?
My parents bought me two turntables and a mixer [when I was ten]. I went shopping for vinyl every weekend. I built my collection and I never left my bedroom, and that’s how I learned how to DJ. I think DJ schools that exist now are a great thing. Particularly if, say, you can’t afford to buy your own equipment. I think ideally, the number one thing, if you’re starting from scratch, pun intended, is to own your own equipment.
Tell us three things to do in order be a killer DJ.
One is the technical; that’s always the most important. You have to know how to work. If your job is to make smoothies, before you start tasting the mango and the strawberry, you need to know how to work the blender.
Two, is building the music library. And in building your music library, I recommend expanding your knowledge of music. I was so obsessed with hip-hop that I became close-minded. I thought that to fully embrace hip-hop, you had to hate everything else. But by looking up to the forefathers of hip-hop, I was inspired to open my mind to all kinds of music. I learned that they didn’t play hip-hop when they started, because there was no hip-hop. Every genre of music, they brought together in this melting pot called hip-hop, and that inspired me and led me to all kinds of music. While you’re building your music library, expand your knowledge of music.
The third aspect is that you need to know how to use your tools to play that music in front of people, and that’s one thing you can never learn in your bedroom.
What makes the best kind of DJs?
You need to read people’s energy and read people’s emotion, that’s what dictates what music to play, and that’s a skill that continues to grow your whole journey. Every time I play, I continue to learn how to read people and how to read them more effectively. In my opinion, the strongest DJs are ones that know how to reach all people, and how you reach all people is by being able to speak to all people with all kinds of music. I made that my mission as a kid. I wanted to be able to play all music for all people all over the world. That kind of became my motto as a young teen, and really still is my motto today.
Do you ever have a plan as to what you’re going to play for a gig?
I’ve DJ-ed for so many kinds of people and so many places around the world that when I walk in somewhere and see who’s in front of me, I immediately have this kind of Rolodex flipping in my mind. But instead of phone numbers and addresses, it’s songs. I rarely plan what I’m going to play. There’s exceptions to the rule where I do, but most of the time, when I attempt to plan, I end up ripping up the script. At the end of the day, there is no way to accurately predict who’s going to be in front of you. I used to use vinyl, which you couldn’t really plan, because you organized your record crates by genre. You didn’t start putting your songs in order, because you didn’t want to mess up your crates. Now, you trigger songs to a laptop, and you can make as many playlists and put the songs in order as much as you want.
People think being a DJ is glamorous from the start, what’s the worst gig you’ve ever had to play when you were starting out?
I’ve been lucky enough to say that I don’t have multiple horror stories. I do remember playing, early on in my career, when I was eighteen, at the hottest club in the Hamptons. It was called Conscious Point. And I had food poisoning or something. Fifteen minutes into my set, my stomach felt worse than it ever felt. I would literally put on a record and went to the bathroom, throw up, and come back. I somehow got through the gig.
Who was the first celeb you ever played for?
The night I met Puffy is really a career-defining night. I was playing at a nightclub in New York called Lotus, it was the hottest club at the time. It was pouring rain, it was three in the morning, and it was emptying out, and I see Puffy come out of the corner of the room — I was starstruck, but knew that I had to impress him. I was playing the dance music of the late seventies and early eighties, the soul, funk, and disco and R&B of that era, and he ended up dancing until five in the morning.
We stayed open late just for him, and at the end of the night, he walked by me and he said, “Where’s the DJ?” When I was eighteen, I looked like I was eight. And he said, “Who’s been here all night playing all these classic records?” And I said, “Me.” And he wrote down his name and number on a napkin and said, “Call me.” I was a freshman at NYU. God, I couldn’t even speak, and I just basically stuttered my way through a voicemail, and went back to class. [He called back and] said, “I’m throwing a party for the MTV awards next weekend. I want you to play.” So… P. Diddy’s MTV VMA awards, with every celebrity in the entertainment business in the room. I feel lucky enough to have many career-defining nights in my career, but that was one that truly stands out as a life-changer.
Explain your style, is having a quirky or elevated sense of fashion something you MUST do to be a cool DJ?
I wear blazers often that are custom made, but the way I wear them and what I wear them with, I don’t think would be considered dressy by most. I wear track suits and athletic wear more often than I wear clothes that would be considered “dressy.” I’ve never been a blue jeans and white t-shirt kind of person. I have always beat to my own drum when it comes to fashion. My mother has this picture of me in kindergarten, this class picture of my kindergarten class, and I’m wearing red canvas Chuck Taylors, red pants rolled up really short like Michael Jackson, and a white Mickey Mouse sweatshirt. And I kid you not, minus the Converse, I would wear that outfit today.
Was the boater hat meant to be a signature fashion item for you?
I’ve always been drawn to things that have a timeless and iconic appeal. It applies to music as well. The boater hat, became my signature in the most unintentional way — no one ever believes me when I say that. I started experimenting with fedoras a little over ten years ago, and it took me a couple years to stumble upon the boater. But you never see anyone wearing it. You never walk down the street and pass by anyone wearing a boater hat, let alone someone young. I bought one, experimented, and it just stuck. It became my signature with no intention whatsoever, and I love it because I can wear it to the boardwalk in Venice with a tracksuit or I can wear it to the Oscars with a tuxedo.
Tell us about the song “Honor,” where did the idea start? What was it like collab-ing with Grace and Lil’ Yachty?
Some tracks you find, they’re just magic; they bring out the best in writers, this track was magic. Everyone that opened their mouth just spit something amazing. [It’s] by far, the most poetically written song that I’ve ever released as a DJ Cassidy single. I was right that Grace was the right person. But then I said, “Okay, this needs a male perspective. What would the guy have to say to this?” I wanted the response to be not only for a male perspective, but through the language of hip-hop. So as with singers, I had an ongoing list of hip-hop artists I want to work with, and Lil’ Yachty was at the top of the list.
Is it true you’ve literally chased down some of the artists you’ve wanted to work with, including Yachty?
I was drawn to Yachty right away when I first saw him. Like me, his style is bold, it’s bright, it’s colorful. I didn’t even know him. I literally went from New York, where I live, to Philadelphia, to a Lil Yachty/Rae Sremmurd show. And backstage, his outfit caught my eye, my outfit caught his eye. I was wearing a vintage sailboat broach, and he immediately looked at my broach and my boater — he’s all about this nautical inspired fashion. So we hit it off on that level right away. I told him all about my project, and he was totally enthusiastic.
There was a studio next to the venue, I had it planned. I scoped out the neighborhood, that’s how I do. Look, you’re talking to the person who chased R. Kelly eight times over twenty months, to record a song… and I booked it, and after the show, [Lil Yachty] came to the studio. He killed it, and I couldn’t have been happier.
Even though you’ve worked with some of the biggest celebs, you seem to stay quite mysterious at the same time — is that something you do on purpose?
I mean, I’ve actually never been told that I appear mysterious, and that makes me sound way cooler than I am. Musically, as a DJ, I’ve never uploaded my DJ sets to the Internet — and that’s rare among my peers. I’ve always felt that DJ-ing is something that needs to be appreciated live. I’ve never wanted people to be able to lie down in bed or be on the treadmill and listen to what I did in front of a crowd. DJ-ing, to me, is a communal experience. As a producer, I like to treat new songs as a work of art, I like to treat each song as an event; but just in simple terms, I put it a lot into each record. I like to put as much time into each song as you would an album.
What’s next for you?
My career has always been three hundred and sixty-five days a year. I’m always DJ-ing, I’m always performing around the world, and I’m always producing music in the studio. And the never-ending list of artists I want to work with continues to grow and grow and grow. It’s full of superstar artists, it’s full of legendary musicians, and it’s full of new artists. I continue to add names to that list and I continue to create music with my production partner, Greg, and continue to recruit those artists to take that music we produce to the next level. And that journey of DJ-ing, performing, producing, and releasing is one that I don’t do in fragmental time periods. There’s no start and there’s no end — it’s ongoing.
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Photo by Sasha Samsanova