Hey Mr. DJ
This article was originally published in Ambassador Magazine.
DJ Cassidy has been to Detroit a few times. “But for the life of me, I can’t remember what for,” he said, a bit embarrassed as we began our phone interview. But it doesn’t really matter. This 25-year-old DJ, born and raised in NYC, is a Motown Man. In fact, he got his first big break at 18 from Sean ‘P Diddy’ Combs when he stunned the famed producer by spinning old soul classics from Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. “Puffy danced until 5:30 in the morning … and as he was walking out, he said, ‘Where’s the DJ?’ And I said, ‘I’m the DJ.’ He couldn’t believe it.” Eventually, Cassidy convinced him. A week later, he was deejaying Combs’ party for the VMA awards, and he has played every one since.
The young DJ has also rung in the New Year with Oprah in South Africa; was requested by Jennifer Lopez to spin at her 2001 wedding to Chris Judd; is flown all over the world by Naomi Cambpell for her birthday extravaganzas; and is frequently commissioned by rap mastermind Jay-Z to spin at his parties.
In November, the jetsetting DJ will spin at the Detroit Institute of Arts gala. He’s excited to come into town, and promised to remember it this time. He also hopes to hit up the Motown Museum. “That’s one thing I haven’t done yet,” he said.
Growing up in New York, did you draw inspiration from the city?
“Certainly growing up here – in the Mecca of all that is music, all that is hip hop – has exposed me to more forms of music and the concrete symbols of what I wanted to do, besides being able to just watch it on a TV show. The city is still omnipresent in everything I do.”
You obviously still spin in the clubs, but you recently started moving into the studio as well.
“I met my production partner, dub-L, when I was 12 years old. We started to bond on the type of sound we wanted to create. Just by the nature of my job, a lot of the labels started to come to me to remix songs that they wanted to break in the clubs – some of the more recent ones were for Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Lopez. We signed O’Neal McKnight to our production company about two years ago and have truly created a sound that is unlike anything you hear on the radio.”
I saw the YouTube videos of your most recent birthday party. Not only did it seem like every celebrity in Hollywood was there, you also had Naughty by Nature and Big Daddy Kane perform. What was that like?
“When I was 19, I had my first birthday party, and ever since, I throw a big birthday party every year. And every year tops the year before, and every year becomes the greatest night of my life. Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh, Nice & Smooth, Naughty by Nature and Big Daddy Kane were always idols of mine, Every time I watch the videos, I still get a tear in my eye. It’s so nice to watch the people I’ve looked up to my whole life be there performing for me and my friends.”
What did you think is the x-factor that makes you succeed?
“I think what makes you a great DJ is what you play, when you play it and how you play it. And I think I do that great.”
– Mary Abraham