Exclusive

DJ Cassidy Breaks Down How His Star-Packed "Pass the Mic" Series Comes Together

Amid a pandemic, DJ Cassidy has managed to round up some of the biggest names in music for his "Pass the Mic" digital series. He broke down how it happens in E!'s exclusive interview below.

By Samantha Schnurr, Amanda Williams Oct 15, 2020 4:06 PMTags
Watch: Boyz II Men Sound Off on Legacy of "End of the Road"

In these life-changing times, people have been looking to their heroes to help see them through. So, DJ Cassidy helped bridge the gap. 

With the power to comfort and heal, music has been a constant form of artistic medicine for the masses, particularly in the face of great hardship. With the coronavirus pandemic in full force, people separated from each other and concerts on an indefinite hiatus, the celebrity DJ found a way to not only keep people entertained at home, but also to connect fans with some of their favorite artists during his digital series, "Pass the Mic."

Cassidy launched the series in July and most recently dropped the third volume on Oct. 13. If you're not one of the thousands of viewers who have given one of the installments a watch, the premise of the series involves Cassidy virtually "passing the mic" from one artist to the next as they take turns singing some of their iconic hits. TLC, Salt-N-Pepa, LL Cool J, Boyz II Men and New Edition are just some of the many famous names that have participated so far. 

"I think what's so unique about Pass the Mic, I think the viewer really feels a personal connection with the artist on a uniquely personal level because the process through which I create Pass the Mic is so intimate," he exclusively explained to E! news. "There really are no techs involved, there really are no managers involved, there really aren't no assistants involved. It's really an artist and me sitting at a laptop with headphones...There's no preparation, there's no rehearsal, there's no staff, there's no crew—it's just us."

As for the catalyst behind the beloved idea, something sparked when Cassidy caught up with one of his own musical mentors, Earth, Wind & Fire's Verdine White, in the depths of the pandemic in the Spring.  

photos
'90s Musicians, Then and Now

"We normally go to dinner about once every four to eight weeks or so," he said. "Wile I was FaceTiming with him, the Earth, Wind, & Fire song 'That's The Way of the World' came on my speakers and that song normally gives me a chill down my spine on a regular day. But, being that the world was in flux at that exact time and moment, I felt really just a kind of extra chilling emotion and looking at him and listening to that song, I said to myself, 'How fortunate am I to have relationships with so many of my heroes in music? And wouldn't it be amazing during this crazy time, if I could figure out a way to give people this feeling that I have right now of connecting with their musical heroes on a personal level?'"

"Right at that moment," he continued, "I conceived this idea of 'Pass the Mic.' I came up with a name instantaneously and I saw it in my head and I knew exactly what it was going to look like."

YouTube

The next challenge, naturally, was getting stars to agree to do it—from inside their own homes, no less. "For Volume One, I knew that I needed to call iconic artists who I had relationships with because no one who I had never met would take a leap of faith to do this crazy idea," he explained. "Essentially what I said was, 'Hey, so listen, I have an idea. I'm going to sit in my living room at my coffee table where I've now put my DJ setup...You're going to see the fireplace behind me and it's all going to be very like living room, warm vibes and every record I drop, the legendary artist who sings that song is going to pop up on the screen, singing along to a verse and a chorus. Now, on one hand, that sounds very simple. On the other hand, that sounds extremely complicated. It's hard for people to picture."

Ultimately, 16 of his personal connections helped him bring the premiere episode to life. Following the emotional response the episode received, the DJ realized the project had struck a chord. "I knew that I should go into planning a Volume Two," he said. "And I knew what I wanted to do, even before Volume One. I knew I wanted to celebrate my heroes of hip hop."

Watch: Salt-N-Pepa Will Perform Hit Songs at 2018 Billboard Awards

Fortunately, it wasn't difficult for Cassidy to ultimately round up the names he wanted because, at this point, the fandom was growing. "I made this wish list and literally I ended up getting everyone on my wish list to take part," he said. "I called the people whom I had relationships with first and I would ask them, 'Hey, are you in touch with, you know, so and so? And one person would connect me to another."

As for the music itself, Cassidy confirmed he chooses the songs and then lets the artists bring the magic, especially when it comes to the groups. "I find that groups add a particularly unique surprise element because you see one member at first and you're amped. Then, you wonder if the other members are going to pop out," the DJ explained. "Then, one at a time they pop on and so that would build the excitement."

But, including all of these legendary performers from all over the country in one video is not only a booking feat, but also a logistical one. "I'm obviously not filming with 41 people in one day, so they're spread out," he clarified. "And I schedule everyone appropriately so that I have enough time."

YouTube

But, for Cassidy, it feels far from work. "The truth is, I'm genuinely excited. There's not a moment of this that is work, even when I'm editing with my editor until 4 in the morning and then I have to wake up to start again at 10," he raved. "And then to get on a Zoom call with [these artists] and to see them in their home and to interact with them in this personal way and to ad-lib over their songs and interact with them with one of their classic records is such an honor to me. If you would have told the 10 year old me that I'd be doing any of this, I would have laughed in your face."

Given the joyful reaction to Volume Three, it won't be long before fans will be clamoring for more from DJ Cassidy. Not to fret—he has no plans of stopping. "All I can say is, I have enough ideas, not only to do a number four," he confirmed, "but to do a number 40."

Watch Daily Pop weekdays at 11 a.m., only on E!.