The past few years have been a whirlwind for DJ Cassidy. The world-renowned party-rocker has kept his foot on the gas since introducing his Pass The Mic series, which finds him curating a musical experience featuring performances from many of our favorite artists, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than two years after the first volume of Pass The Mic, which initially was streamed via YouTube and drew rave reviews, DJ Cassidy has continued the festivities. Partnering with BET to air editions of Pass The Mic as part of the network’s biggest nights for programming throughout the year, the New York native has turned the series into a staple which has gained popularity within households across America and beyond.
Pass The Mic, which has aired on BET since Volume 4, will unveil its next volume after the broadcast of the 2022 BET Hip Hop Awards on Tuesday, Oct. 4. However, the tenth volume of Pass The Mic will also be the last to air on BET, news DJ Cassidy shared with VIBE while speaking about the upcoming edition of the series. While that news may be disappointing to viewers who have become fond of the segment, according to DJ Cassidy, the show will continue to go on, and Tuesday night will mark less of an ending to the series and more of a new beginning.
The DJ reveals that he plans to transform Pass The Mic as we know it into a live series that will feature performances from legendary acts across Hip-Hop, R&B, and other genres. Having already debuted two live Pass The Mic pop-ups throughout 2022, with a third planned for later this month, DJ Cassidy says his current aim is to make this installment of Pass The Mic the most explosive we’ve seen yet. With a focus on the most pivotal rap songs from the early ’90s through the early aughts, the tenth volume of Pass The Mic is sure to provide an added air of nostalgia and include appearances that will keep viewers glued to the screen.
VIBE spoke with DJ Cassidy about the tenth and final volume of Pass The Mic, the special surprises we can expect, his favorite memories from the series thus far, and his plans to continue building the brand moving forward.
You’ve done multiple editions of Pass The Mic. What are you looking forward to the most about this tenth and final edition?
DJ Cassidy: I first envisioned this grand finale edition of Pass The Mic after premiering Volume 2. Pass the Mic Volume 2 celebrated what many people believe to be the first golden era of Hip-Hop. Now, many people believe that era to span roughly 10 years beginning in the early eighties and ending in the early 90s. That era of Hip-Hop gave birth to the culture’s first superstars. Artists like Run DMC, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Doug E. Fresh, Salt-N-Pepa, all of whom were featured in Volume 2. The night that Volume 2 premiered, LL Cool J went on Instagram Live with no plan to do so and spoke for an hour about his experience taking part and watching that show premiere. He said the most beautiful words about Pass The Mic when it was still in its very early stages. I remember watching that Instagram live with tears in my eyes, in disbelief that LL was saying such amazing things about what he had just witnessed. Doug E. Fresh happened to join the Instagram Live. LL brought him on, and then they spoke together about what they had just watched. LL spoke about how he thought Pass The Mic was not only important for the moment, but would be important for years to come, and I was blown away when he said that.
Doug E. [Fresh] said that watching that episode made him realize that everyone was just a piece of a puzzle, and when Cassidy put that puzzle together, it was a beautiful thing. And then, of course, more tears came down my eyes. Watching my two Hip-Hop heroes talk about Pass The Mic in such a way was such an inspiration to continue the series. And I knew at that moment that I had to produce a sequel to that episode to celebrate the era of Hip-Hop that came after that, which many people widely regard as the second Golden Era of Hip-Hop. Roughly from the early ’90s to the early 2000s. So I conceived this episode, which debuts on Tuesday, in August 2020, and I always held it in my back pocket. I always knew that I wanted it to be the finale because Hip Hop was my first love. Hip-hop is my greatest inspiration, and I knew that if I was ever going to culminate the series, that the only way to do so would be celebrating Hip-Hop.
Are there any hints you can give out to which artists will be participating in this edition of Pass The Mic?
I will be passing the mic to 20 Hip-Hop Heavyweights. Twenty Hip-Hop Superstars, 20 of my Hip-Hop heroes, all whom helped transform Hip-Hop into a global, worldwide culture for music, fashion, film and beyond. I will be passing the mic to Busta Rhymes, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Swizz Beatz, The LOX, Too $hort, Ice Cube, and many more. Each artist will join me for one of their most definitive songs before passing the mic to the next.
BET will also be paying tribute to Loud Records in celebration of the label’s 30th Anniversary. Can you speak on the impact of Loud Records and its legacy within the culture?
I first met Steve Rifkind, founder of Loud Records, when I was just a teenager. I would find my way up to the Loud offices to pick up vinyl of the latest releases; I looked up to Steve ever since then. I brought my artist, O’Neal McKnight, up to SRC in the mid-2000s, and Steve Rifkind gave us our first record deal. When I sent Steve the first edition of Pass The Mic, he called me immediately and said, ‘This is going to change your life. I want to be your partner.’ Steve brought it to the attention of super producer Jesse Collins, Jesse Collins brought it to the attention of Connie Orlando, and the rest is history. Pass The Mic became a series of television specials. Loud Records is one of the most important Hip-Hop record labels of all time. On the same list as Sugar Hill, Def Jam, Bad Boy, and Death Row. The artists that Steve has discovered changed the game, from Wu-Tang Clan and Mobb Deep to Big Pun to Akon on SRC Records. I couldn’t be more thrilled that my dear friend and mentor Steve Rifkind is being honored for the 30th anniversary of Loud Records at the BET Awards. And it’s ever so fitting because so many of the records featured on this edition of Pass The Mic came through Steve’s hands.
In what ways has your approach to creating and curating each Pass The Mic evolved over time?
All of the Pass The Mic episodes are a culmination of the record crates that I used to carry as a young DJ around New York City. Before laptops, before Serato, there were record crates of vinyl. I used to carry eight crates of records to every gig. I would put six in the trunk of a New York City taxi, one in the front and one in the back. Those crates were organized by genre, by era, so on and so forth. All the editions of Pass the Mic are essentially the personification of those record crates. I’ve been preparing these playlists since I was a little kid. Immediately after I premiered Pass The Mic Volume 1, I saw the future. I saw all the episodes come to life in my mind, and it’s a surreal feeling to now look back and see that vision came to life.
What would you say is the best advice that you received in regards to Pass The Mic?
I remember during one phone call with my dear friend and mentor Doug E. Fresh. While I was producing the first BET special on the Pass The Mic: Soul Train Edition, I remember throwing some ideas at Doug. And Doug telling me to make decisions as if I was rocking a party like I always do. He reminded me, ‘Don’t overthink it because it’s a TV show. Treat it like you’ve been treating every party since the day you started DJing. That’s how you put together your playlist, and that’s how you rock the mic.’ And he put everything in perspective for me. I’ve learned so much about how to rock a crowd and how to rock a microphone from Doug E. Fresh.
Who would you have liked to appear on Pass The Mic that you weren’t able to lock down so far?
Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, and Diana Ross.
Those are good picks.
It’s surely a Mount Rushmore of soul music.
What would you say are your favorite memories from Pass The Mic?
I have 220 special moments [laughs]. Yeah, I’ve now passed the mic to 220 legendary music artists. We’ve sung along to 166 legendary hit records. And with every artist I filmed came a conversation I will never forget. Those conversations that took place behind the scenes were as or even more emotional for me than the actual segments. I had the opportunity to ask my musical heroes questions and hear my musical heroes tell stories that I’ve never heard before. And the relationships that I had with some of these artists grew through Pass The Mic, and the relationships that didn’t exist with some of these artists before Pass The Mic took shape.
I remember shooting the Gladys Knight segment. I was nervous because I had never met Gladys, and I honestly had no idea if she ever had heard of me. But somehow, some way, she agreed to take part in the BET Mother’s Day Edition. When I sat down on my chair, and she sat down in her chair, and the cameras turned on, I had incredible nerves in my stomach. I wanted to impress her, and I wanted to gain her trust, and I wanted her to be happy that she had taken part. I wanted her to be proud of being on Pass The Mic. And first, when we started, I thanked her profusely for agreeing to take part. And I told her how much I revered her and how much people around the world revered her and how exciting this moment would be for the millions of viewers who watch this show.
And she said, ‘After I watched an episode of Pass The Mic, I just had to take part because the way you bring the music to the people is different than I’ve ever seen before.’ I have that footage somewhere, and I hope to find it one day when I put together all these incredible behind-the-scenes conversations so that I can hear her exact words. But in essence, that’s what she said, and it made my heart drop. I felt so honored that she saw something special in Pass The Mic and was willing to lend her enormous name, voice, and legacy to the show.
How do you see Pass The Mic growing as an event and brand moving forward?
Despite Tuesday marking the final edition of the Pass The Mic series, it is really just the finale of Chapter One. Chapter Two, Three, Four, and Five are about to commence and 2023 is going to be a very exciting year for Pass The Mic as the celebration continues in new and even more exciting ways. One of those new chapters is of course, Pass The Mic Live. [Where] I’m taking the celebration to the stage. I’ve already begun to produce mini pop-up versions of Pass The Mic Live, the first of which took place on January 29th in Miami at the Pegasus World Cup. I brought out surprise guests Lil Kim, Ja Rule, Ma$e, and Jadakiss. And then I did it again in New York at the opening of the Hard Rock Hotel in Times Square and brought out surprise guests Fat Joe, Busta Rhymes and Nas. The third pop-up Pass The Mic Live will take place on October 21st in Austin, Texas at Austin City Limits for the Grand Prix, Formula One. The show will feature Robin Thicke, Wyclef Jean, and Shaggy. And these are just a little foreshadowing of what’s to come in 2023.
Well, congratulations. That’s definitely a big win, and I’m glad to see it moving forward because it’s definitely a dope concept. With you doing these Pass The Mics on TV, has anybody noticed you on the street? Have you had any interactions like, ‘Yo, that’s the guy from Pass The Mic?’
100%. And one of the most exciting times of the past two years has been meeting the fans of the show. Of course, this show began during the pandemic, so I didn’t get to experience that until the pandemic began to clear and the world began to open back up. And when I started to DJ in person again, and when I started to attend concerts. When I started to go to parties, I was overwhelmed by how many people would call up to me saying they were fans of the show. I knew they existed on paper, but it doesn’t quite hit you until you see them in the flesh.