DJ Cassidy made it his lifelong goal to celebrate his musical heroes, and now he does just that. With his virtual Pass The Mic series, he finds his niche as we’re all quarantined inside our homes to deliver one of the most epic, memorable DJ sets the world has seen. If you had the pleasure of catching the first two, you already know the energy he brings. This isn’t just music, this is the OGs of hip-hop and r&b playing their part in healing the masses during this uncertain time.
With the highly-anticipated Pass The Mic Vol. 3 taking place last evening with legends from Teddy Riley to Keith Sweat to Boyz II Men, the bar has officially been set. Cassidy kicked off the highly-anticipated show passing the mic to Keith Sweat who performed “Make It Last Forever,” before passing to K-Ci of Jodeci. SWV, TLC, Shanice, Troop, Chuckii Booker, After 7, The Boys, En Vogue, Jade, Portrait, Entouch, Today, Full Force, Father MC, Christopher Williams, Johnny Gill, Bell Biv Devoe, Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant, Teddy Riley, and Boyz II Men rounded out the 40-minute set.
The crowd was feeling nostalgic with one user declaring “R&B lives forever!” “90’s had the best music period,” said another user, while someone else said “this is the soundtrack of my life.” Dougie Fresh and DJ Chill Will were also in the crowd.
In addition to the priceless music of the evening, Cassidy pays homage to the heroes on the front lines of health, freedom, and justice. Baller Alert had the pleasure of chatting with DJ Cassidy prior to the festivities to discuss how the series came about and what it took to get here.
With Pass The Mic Vol. 1 premiering in July featuring 16 artists and Vol. 2 in August featuring 35 artists, Vol. 3 showcases another 10 additional guests. And still, Cassidy has yet to leave his house in over 28 days.
He states, “Quantity doesn’t mean quality in all cases, but in this particular case, it actually does. I was inspired to conceive Pass the Mic during a phone call with Verdine White, founding member of Earth, Wind & Fire. Verdine and I are good friends, he’s a mentor and a friend. Pre-pandemic, we go to dinner almost once a month. We go to Mr. Chow’s in Beverly Hills, his favorite place. He has a table that’s his. We were FaceTiming in April, in the heat of the pandemic, when no one was leaving their house and people were still scared to take out the garbage.”
During the FaceTime, Earth, Wind & Fire’s “That’s the Way of the World” came blaring through his speakers, my Sonos. The second he hears the lyrics “hearts of fire creates love’s desire,” Cassidy instantly got a chill down his spine. Reflecting on when he received his DJ equipment on his 10th birthday, all he wanted was for Run-DMC to know who he was. This feeling of being able to connect with your musical heroes on a personal level is what sparked Cassidy to conceive the name Pass The Mic. The vision: sitting his living room, lighting the fireplace, dimming the lights down low, creating intimate late night vibes.
From there, he put on his black silk pajamas, picked up the phone, and called the legends of R&B from the 70’s and 80’s. Cassidy explains, “There had to be some existing level of trust because I had nothing to show for this concept. Called Verdine and Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire, Cheryl Lynn, Howard Hewett of Shalamar, Deniece Williams, Patrice Rushen, Kool & the Gang. I explained this crazy idea, they all went out on a limb and took a leap of faith that I’d somehow pull this idea together.”
What came together was Volume 1. He adds, “I never in my wildest imagination thought it’d evoke such an emotional response from people. I really mean emotional. I’m choosing my words wisely. People writing me, commenting, DMing, saying they cry every time they watch it. They’ve watched it a hundred times, it’s the greatest video on YouTube. It brought them back to a happy place in a non-happy time.”
In addition to the amazing feedback from fans, he received the same love from the artists who were equally excited to take part. For Khalis Bayyan, Kool’s brother from Kool & the Gang, who passed away a month ago, the sax solo he played on “Too Hot” on Vol. 1 might’ve been the last thing he did. Cassidy states, “He had such warmth. I’d known him for quite some time but we’d only met a handful of times. The warmth he had that day exuded, it was as warm as the sax solo.”
After Vol. 1 took place, Cassidy reeled in some help from his personal connections. Vol. 2 encompassed the Golden Era of Hip Hop from ‘84 to ‘92, enlisting the likes of Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Chuck D, Doug E. Fresh, and Rakim. Cassidy states, “That really was a dream come true. Every single artist on Vol. 2 was one of the rappers I idolized as a child, listening to their cassettes on my yellow SONY Walkman.”’
The first call he received after his livestream was from Run, who’s first words were “Cassidy, I’m so proud of you.” Chuck D had written him an email calling him King, LL Cool J shouted him out on IG Live, and Jill Scott told Cassidy he could retire now. With that, he immediately jumped into gear for Vol. 3, cherishing the element of surprise to the fullest. On that note, last evening celebrated the era of R&B between 1987 and 1992, when hip-hop transformed the sound of R&B into pop culture.
Cassidy explains, “At the foundation of that transformation in ’87 was Teddy Riley, so it was very important for me I recruited Teddy Riley. Another very pivotal artist involved in the transformative years of R&B is Keith Sweat, whose first album was co-produced by Teddy Riley. Another very important part of this era was all the transformative R&B groups of this era. Three of them happened to be female: TLC, En Vogue, and SWV. What was really important was to involve every member.”
Cassidy emphasizes the importance that when it comes to groups, you feature every member of the group. The excitement builds, and fans are still hung up on the prior guest when the next one shows. The grand finale? Boyz II Men.
“I remember being a kid and turning on MTV and for months and months in a row, Boyz II Men had the #1 slot on the Pop Rock Countdown,” he states. “Not even R&B, the Pop Rock Countdown. They’re so definitive of this era.”
If you had the pleasure of tuning in, you see how wild the chatroom gets. Not only are the fans able to converse with each other, but the artists are participating as well. Thank goodness for Cassidy & Pass The Mic!