Digging in the disco crates
with DJ Cassidy
by Ericka Blount Danois
Most people know DJ Cassidy from his smash hit single with R. Kelly, “Make the World Go Round.” After Puffy discovered him, DJing in the basement of club Lotus in Manhattan, he blew up instantly, eventually DJing Grammy parties; MTV Video Awards; JLo, Beyoncé, and Kim Kardashian weddings; parties for Oprah Winfrey and Anna Wintour; and President Obama’s inaugural ball.
But he began his career as a ten-year-old kid, DJing teenage parties, talent shows, and eventually local nightclubs in New York City.
He’s been releasing songs and behind-the-scenes makings of the singles for his album Paradise Royale, which he has decided to release one single at a time. The cuts “Make the World Go Round” and “Calling All Hearts” featuring Robin Thicke and Jesse J. have been smash hits. Most recently, he’s released “Future’s Mine” featuring Chromeo and Wale.
His fourth single premiered on April 8 on the new HBO series Vinyl, directed by Martin Scorcese and produced by Mick Jagger. He’s also on board for the hip-hop Netflix series The Get Down, working on music for the show that takes place in the Bronx in the 1970s at the dawn of hip-hop.
Here, he goes back to his first love, digging through his crates, telling the stories of his selections for his album, Paradise Royale.
Change “The Glow of Love” (Warner Bros.) 1980
I had two songs on my playlist of inspiration by the same artist, but I allowed it because the artist technically wasn’t Luther, it was Change. The song just has a joyful spirit that is so definitive of every song on this list. It is so present on “Glow of Love.” The title is so perfect because the song really has a glow of love and the way Luther sings is so effortless, but also relentless at the same time. His staccato flow is so unique to him, not only on that song, but on “Never Too Much” as well. Change was produced by an Italian crew, this was one of the few songs on my playlist of inspiration that was derived from Italy.
Patrice Rushen “Forget Me Nots” (Elektra) 1982
This is another one of my favorites from the era. I knew that Patrice wasn’t just a singer, but she played. She played a lot of the keyboards on her record and she produced a lot of her records. She was a child prodigy. I loved her sweet, angelic voice and I wanted to have her involved on this album, so I recruited her to play a Clavinet solo on my single “Future Is Mine” featuring Chromeo. I also learned that “Forget Me Nots” was co-written by a man named Freddy Washington who is a bass player. He played bass on the record and he co-wrote the record and I went on to recruit Freddy to play on my Mary J. Blige song, my Usher song and my Kelly Rowland/Melanie Fiona duet. I was introduced to Freddy Washington through Ray Parker Jr. who I recruited to play on the album.
Cheryl Lynn “Got to Be Real” (Columbia) 1978
Speaking of “To Be Real” Ray Parker Jr. played on “Got to Be Real”—a classic. Seidah Garrett who wrote “Man in the Mirror” for Michael Jackson is a close friend of mine, and she was instrumental in introducing me to some of the musicians who played on my records. She and her husband, Erik Nuri, who has been in the music business as a manager for decades, drove me to Ray Parker Jr.’s house, and I was completely starstruck. It became an interview about him and his music. Before Ray Parker Jr. of “Ghostbusters” and Ray Parker Jr. of “Jack and Jill” and before his recording career, he was a session guitar player. He played on half of the records on my playlist of inspiration. One of the records was “Got to Be Real.” I recruited Ray to play on my Chromeo record, “Future Is Mine.”
First Choice “Love Thang”
This is the only song from Salsoul Records on this playlist. Salsoul, very much like Philly soul, had a very distinct sound, very string heavy. This is maybe my favorite Salsoul Record of all time. I was introduced to it by hip-hop, it was sampled by Chubb Rock on “Treat Me Right.” The breakdown of the song with the congas actually inspired the breakdown on “Calling All Hearts.”
Shalamar “The Second Time Around” (Solar) 1979
One of my favorite groups of this era. And this is one of my favorite songs of the era. A simply feel good celebration. As perfect on July 4 as it is on Christmas Eve. That’s really when you know you have an incredible song. I played most of these songs for events I have done for Obama.
Chaka Khan and Rufus “Do You Love What You Feel” (MCA) 1979
There were many Chaka records that could have gone on this list. “I’m Every Woman.” “Ain’t Nobody.” “Do You Know What You Feel” is a Quincy production and probably because of that sort of symbolizes better than those other songs kind of the sound I was going for. Quincy was really on the cutting edge of the transition between the ’70s and the ’80s. He was really kind of almost, naturally modernizing the sound of the ’70s and I think he really exemplified that in that song. I went on to recruit Bobby Watson and John “JR” Robinson of Rufus to play on several of my songs.
Teena Marie “Square Biz” (Motown) 1981
Simply a dance-floor classic of this era. She’s one of a kind. I don’t think I recruited any of the musicians that played on this song. But the piano roll at the beginning of the song inspired the piano roll at the beginning of my Kelly Rowland/Melanie Fiona song.
Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway “Back Together Again” (Atlantic) 1979
It’s so interesting its not uncommon for people to tell me that my John Legend/Estelle duet “When the Stars Come Out” reminds them of the song “Back Together Again” When my production partner Greg Cohen and I were working on the track, “When the Stars Come Out”—the first track we produced for the album and John was the first artist to record for the album—June 30, 2010. Our mind was nowhere in the hemisphere of “Back Together Again.” That song was not in our field of inspiration when working on the song. But it maybe was a subconscious thing. There are some influences that were really not deliberate. There were some parties where I would play all of these songs. All of them I play them at different types of parties. Some nights I don’t play all of these songs. I definitely wanted to play all of these songs every night.
Chic “I Want Your Love” (Atlantic) 1978
Like Michael Jackson, there could be endless amounts of Chic songs on this list. “Good Time,” “Freak Out,” “Forbidden Lover.” Sister Sledge songs go in the category as Chic, because they were written and produced by Nile [Rodgers and Bernard Edwards]. I didn’t want to put too many songs on the list by the same artists. “I Want Your Love,” has always been one of my favorite Chic songs, particularly the Dimitri From Paris remix, which re-sequences the song and makes all that much more epic and when I perform now at shows with my band. I always open the show with “I Want Your Love,” the remix. Nile, Quincy were just definitive in this style of music.
Stevie Wonder “Do I Do” (Motown) 1982
Stevie is interesting because he has spanned so many eras. From the Motown era to the present day, but this song is his definitive song that pertains to this era of music. It’s my favorite Stevie Wonder dance record. And one of the few whose musicians did not play on my records.
Sister Sledge “We are Family” (Cotillion) 1979
The Nile influence is self-explanatory. More than any song on this list, “We Are Family” is one of the most world-wide anthemic songs on the list. It has reached mainstream proportions that no other song on here has. When you can have a song so soulful and so real and so universally understood at the same time that’s magic, that’s what you strive for.
Earth, Wind & Fire “Let’s Groove” (Columbia) 1981
Could have had a million Earth, Wind & Fire songs on here, but like Stevie, they really spanned many eras. They had so many sounds but always remained them at the same time. It is my favorite dance EWF record of all time. Jerry Hey actually did the horns on this record. I recruited Verdine White, Phillip Bailey and Larry Dunn to play on my lead single, “Calling All Hearts,” which was the first time that EWF ever played on a song with Nile Rodgers.
Central Line “Walking into Sunshine” (Mercury) 1981
I was also led to this record through hip-hop; it was sampled by LL Cool J for “Jingling Baby.” This would be considered out of all the songs on here more of an underground classic. Really representative of the New York jam of the day. The keyboard line is just so perfect. Every keyboard line is a shot at accomplishing that.
George Benson “Give Me the Night” (Warner Bros.) 1980
This falls into category of another incredible Quincy Jones production. Jerry Hay is on this one again. Quincy perfection. Another example of Quincy making a dance record with an artist who really wasn’t a dance artist.
Rick James “You and I” (Gordy) 1978
My favorite Rick James song of all time—incredible intro. Drums on the whole record by a man named Ollie E. Brown. Interesting story about him. When I was at Ray Parker’s house, he was like you need to call a man named Ollie Brown he used to play in my group, Raydio. You should call on him to play some drums and percussion, he used to be in a group, Ollie and Jerry. So I said to Ray, “Is that Ollie and Jerry of ‘There’s No Stopping Us’ [from] the Breakin’ movie?” I went in to my love affair with Breakin’. He helped me facilitate the session with Ray and Freddy Washington. I spent an hour talking about [the character] Turbo and Breakin’. Ollie also played the drums on “You and I.”
Frankie Beverly and Maze “Before I Let Go” (Capitol) 1981
The summertime barbecue anthem, the line dance anthem. The song is just a classic, it stands in a league of its own really. One thing that separates it are the constant guitar solos. If you listen to the song, the guitar is the second voice. I was really inspired by that. Clearly one of my favorites from the era.
Alicia Myers “I Want to Thank You” (MCA) 1981
A song that has been sung along to countless times in my DJ career.
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