DJ Cassidy Dishes On His New Pass The Mic Series + How He’s Uniting People With Music

DJ CassidyPhoto Credit: DJ Cassidy

While a lot of the things we knew and loved once before have changed over the past few months, one thing has been made certain—music still brings joy to people. DJ Cassidy, who has graced the stage of endless star-studded, history-making events—including President Barack Obama’s 50th birthday party and 2009 Inauguration party, as well as Beyoncé & Jay-Z’s wedding—has found a new way to continue to bring joy and unite people together at home with his newly-formed Pass the Mic Series.

The basis of the series is simple, yet complex in a few ways. The end result is to bring together iconic artists and evoke feelings of nostalgia and happiness through music. However, only a few people are able to accomplish such a feat, and DJ Cassidy has successfully done so with three volumes of Pass the Mic. In Pass the Mic Volume One, he kicked off with his closest friends who also happen to R&B icons—bringing together Philip Bailey and Verdine White of Earth Wind & Fire, Robert “Kool” Bell and Khalis Bayyan of Kool & The Gang, Bobby Brown, Ricky Bell of New Edition, Ray Parker, Jr., Patrice Rushen, Siedah Garrett, Deniece Williams, Jeff Redd, Meli’sa Morgan, Steve Arrington, Marcus Miller, Cheryl Lynn, and Howard Hewett of Shalamar.

DJ CassidyPhoto Credit: DJ Cassidy

Due to overwhelming success from Volume One, Cassidy then set out to bring together his heroes of hip-hop in Volume Two, featuring 35 of the Hip Hop Golden Age’s biggest names. The list included Run DMC, LL Cool J, Chuck D of Public Enemy, Doug E. Fresh and DJ Chill Will, Rakim, MC Shan, Milk Dee of Audio Two, Special Ed, MC Serch of 3rd Bass, MC Lyte, Chip Fu of the Fu-Schnickens, Erick Sermon of EPMD, DoItAll of Lords Of The Under-ground, Grand Puba, Nice & Smooth, DJ Premier of Gang Starr, Dres of Black Sheep, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Monie Love, Young MC, Chubb Rock, Big Daddy Kane, Rob Base, Kid ‘N Play, Salt-N-Pepa, Speech, Eshe, Rasadon of Arrested Development and Treach and Vin Rock of Naughty By Nature.

And most recently, Cassidy debuted Volume Three, where he celebrated his musical heroes of the late 1980s and early 1990s with 41 guests. The lineup included Keith Sweat, K-Ci of Jodeci, SWV, TLC, Shanice, Troop, Chuckii Booker, After 7, Hakim of The Boys, En Vogue, Jade, Portrait, Entouch, Big Bub of Today, Full Force, Father MC, Christopher Williams, Johnny Gill, Bell Biv Devoe, Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant, Teddy Riley and Boyz II Men, spanning 35 minutes.

DJ CassidyPhoto Credit: DJ Cassidy

In honor of the most recent Pass the Mic Volume Three release, we sat down with DJ Cassidy to discuss why PTM has become such a success, how he has continued to connect with his musical icons and his fans through the pandemic and the magic of music uniting others during hard times.

HL: What have been some of the responses you’ve received since starting Pass the Mic? 

DJC: Almost every participant let me know how excited and proud they were to be a part of it. It was such an incredible time and place to bring them back to. All these artists are my musical heroes who I grew up listening to—they were the soundtrack to my early years and helped create my sound as a DJ. I built my style on these songs. 

HL: How do you feel music unites people during difficult times? 

DJC: Music is the most uniting force there is—I see that every time I play in front of a crowd of people—the living proof is on the dance floor. You have people of different ages, races, religions, sexual orientations—they all dance together no matter who they are. Every preexisting belief that someone walks onto a dance floor with is almost let go of through the music.

All of that has been polarized in 2020—our lives changed in March and have continued to change through the pandemic. This country is going through a very pivotal and chaotic time, and a time of necessary healing—music is a source of healing and unity. It makes people forget about their worries and brings people together. It’s an outlet for joy and a source of inspiration and unity.

HL: How have you united people through music with Pass the Mic?

DJC: With Pass the Mic, there are multiple levels of uniting. First, I unite artists of a certain era together. In PTM Two, I united 35 artists of the golden age of hip-hop. It was the greatest hip-hop concert that never happened. Last night in PTM Three, I united 41 people over 23 songs, and all these songs were recorded and released between the years ’87 and ’92—it was a very special time for R&B. PTM represents multiple levels of unity. It unites the artists and then unites people around the world who have a connection to these artists. The intimacy allows people to feel a special connection with their favorite artists.

DJ CassidyPhoto Credit: DJ Cassidy

HL: How did you manage to bring all of these people together?

DJC: With PTM Volume One, I set out from scratch and called iconic artists who happened to be my friends or I had relationships with. Luckily, I had enough to create Volume One and then from there, I had the examples to show people to grow bigger. With Volume Two, I wanted to celebrate my heroes of hip-hop, and those 35 stars were my idols. I started calling those that I had relationships with and they also helped connect me with other artists who they had relationships with to grow even bigger. 

For example, when I was younger, I threw massive birthday parties in NYC from ages 20-30 and these parties were thrown at the grandest locations in New York, at the most iconic places every year. One was at the New York Public Library, another was at the Intrepid. It was a melting pot of people coming together. Every year, I would have a surprise guest performer by a legendary artist who was someone I looked up to as a child. All my heroes of hip-hop performed one year after another. For 12 months, I had a mission and it was to have all six members perform as New Edition on the Intrepid—and somehow I made it happen on my 30th birthday. It shows you how PTM is a descendent of my path of doing these parties and bringing these musical icons together.

HL: By doing these virtual gatherings, have you been able to reach a new audience?

DJC: One hundred percent. I see comments on my Instagram and YouTube saying they never heard of me until they came across PTM. I don’t believe that growing your fanbase is a destination, it’s all about the journey, and the journey never ends. For me to have come up with an idea that I thought would just be just a little passion project to create and uplift others and that to have brought me into so many new people’s lives is a beautiful thing.

DJ CassidyPhoto Credit: DJ Cassidy

HL: How do you hope to inspire others during this time?

DJC: I’ve spent my whole life making people and smile and dance with music. That’s what I have to give and offer to others. My head was in a different space before I began PTM. The moment I began to attempt to bring together my favorite artists to uplift people, my whole mindset changed. I can only encourage people to find that thing that they love and that inspires them and try in some way to share that with other people—it could be with one person, or it could be with a million people. With that, we might all be able to uplift each other in some small way.