Cassie may have a sweet, vivacious personality, but she is someone who knows what she wants and is willing to take risks to get it. However, it hasnt all been smooth sailing for this young exotic beauty. While promoting her debut album in 2006, Cassie stopped at New Yorks Hot 97, and in one of the show’s more controversial segments, Cassie rated several male recording artists including Ne-Yo, Justin Timberlake and T.I. on a scale of 10 for sexiness. To top it off, Cassie then had some less-than-stellar performances on MTV’s TRL and BET’s 106 & Park. The media had a field day, branding Cassie as talent less and just another pretty face.Now we are approaching a new year and Cassie is back with a new sound. Shes brushed off the criticisms, learned from her mistakes, and has a new and improved outlook on life. From working with Kanye West to Jay-Z, the past 18 months have definitely made Cassie grow and with the future in mind, she discusses whats next. AllHipHop.com Alternatives: I hear youre in Miami in the studio right now working on the album Cassie: I am, like crazy.AHHA: Hows it all going?Cassie: Its good. Im getting there. Im kind of getting excited now. AHHA: So how close are you to finishing it?Cassie: I would say that by the end of the month I should be done, but I want to keep recording right up until the release and keep working. AHHA: Lets go back to your last album first. You garnered a lot of criticism for your live vocal performances. Did you feel those comments were fair?Cassie: [pauses] I think they were fair. People can only base their opinions on what they see of you; people dont know me as a human being or whatever. The only thing they can pass judgment on is from what they saw of me, which were my performances. So I think its fair that people said what they said about me, its what their opinions were. They were just being honest.AHHA: A lot of people just labeled you as a pretty face or eye candy. Do you ever feel your beauty is a curse as well as a gift?Cassie: I think its like that for a lot of women, especially in the music industry and in Hollywood or wherever else. I mean it can get in the way; I was actually speaking to somebody at Atlantic [Records] who Im working with on this album he actually came up to Miami to listen to some stuff a while back. He was telling me that when he first met me, he thought I was such a b**ch because I was just sitting there, hat down low, not saying anything, and he was thinking that I was some diva who thought I was all that. But actually I was just really nervous, and at that point I was also still really nervous about the new music and what people would think. What people dont know about me is that when I first meet someone Im really shy and quiet; I hardly talk until I get to know you and feel comfortable around you. So for me, between that and being attractive or whatever it is, people dont get to see past it or connect to my personality and it does get a little hard sometimes. AHHA: Do you wish you had done things differently the first time around and taken time to get used to performing live and so on?Cassie: Yeah thats for sure, but Ive said before that it was definitely a learning experience. It was a point in my career where I actually didnt know that I could say, No. Im not ready you know what I mean? I definitely wouldve if I had known that I had that chance. I just thought it was all-label-forward and that I had to do it, in order to not blow my deal. So I put myself in that place by not even having the knowledge that you can always say no to any situation that you dont feel comfortable in; whether it is live performances, interviews or whatever.AHHA: Do you feel more confident now? Or are you scared about the upcoming release/performing again?Cassie: Yeah, I mean definitely. My situation before messed up my head for a while, messed up my psyche because for a time I was just like, I dont even want to sing. It made me so sad because it made me think this is what made people write bad things about me or whatever. Then I got to the point where I went, You know what I love singing and I love performing and Im not going to let anyone get in my way.Im really working on it and I am in a way more comfortable place right now. I found the sound that I was after, which is the hardest thing especially when youre moving onto a project that is so much more important and you have so much to prove. I cant mess up this opportunity, you know what I mean? I really just got to step up. Its really, really important but I am very comfortable, Im getting to work with some brilliant people and Im having fun.AHHA: You have been in the limelight recently for modeling the new Sean John range, being in Kanye Wests Stronger video and singing back up vocals on Jay-Zs American Gangster album. Now they are all great opportunities, but do you worry by doing back-up vocals or videos youre putting yourself out there as just eye candy or back-up vocalist and not a lead vocal artist in your own right?Cassie: Umm. I actually really dont. With the Kanye video, I thought it was a real cool experience and he is a friend of mine and so I was like, Of course I will do that for you, of course Ill fly out to Tokyo. [laughs] How bad could that be, right? I dont really look at it like that, I think I need exposure and I havent put myself out negatively at all. I havent connected myself to anything negative; say Kanye or the Jay-Z thing or Sean John I think its all very positive. Its not like its me and a sex tape, right? [laughs] They were all opportunities that people asked of me, its not like I was trying to get myself attached to these projects or get out there, but I think its kept me visual, and its made people not forget about me. AHHA: Have you spoken to Kanye since his unfortunate loss?Cassie: I actually havent spoken to him personally because you know hes still dealing with things, but I contacted his people and I sent something over saying that Im very sorry for his loss and hes in my prayers. Its just a very, very sad situation. Everyone knows how close he was to his mother, it affected everyone in a way as it wasnt just somebodys mom that no one knew about. We all kind of knew about [Donda West] through Kanyes music and other stuff. I pray for him, his family and everyone that is around him. Hes a very, very strong guy so I think he will be ok. AHHA: Ok lets move onto happier times. You looked beautiful in the new Roc Boys video Cassie: [laughs] Thank you. It was so much fun. It was honestly just a good time. Puff produced a lot of the album and I was recording my stuff in the studio next door and Puff would be like, Cassie, could you come in here real quick and put some vocals on this and thats how I ended up being on [American Gangster]. When Puffy would have to go Jays Roc the Mic studio during the whole recording process, I would go with him and Jay would be there and Beyonce would be there and it was just really cool to be around that because I look up to all of them. The video was like a real party; there wasnt really any acting going on. [laughs]AHHA: I have to ask about Diddy. The rumors are not going away about you two dating and to be fair he does spend a lot more time out with you than he does with any of the other Bad Boy artists Cassie: They never will go away. [laughs] No I havent ever dated Diddy. Im his artist, and we are actually friends. We really are friends. I am fortunate to have that connection with him, we just happened to have really hit it off as friends, but thats it. It doesnt bother me people think that or say that we are dating as people are going to say it regardless if I am bothered or not right? [laughs] These are my friends. Im not going to stop hanging around someone or stop being friends with someone because people are making up things you know? It used to bother me a lot more but now I am like whatever. AHHA: What about the Ryan Leslie rumors? Do the rumors affect your relationships, make things awkward?Cassie: I think people definitely perceive me as being with these men because they dont understand how I could ever get to where I am without sleeping with them; do you know what I mean? I have never put myself out there in any situation that would make me seem slutty [laughs] but I guess thats what people think of me. AHHA: I wouldnt take it personally, its just the way the industry, blogs, internet is Cassie: Yeah exactly. Like, you know Lauren London? The girl I modeled Sean Jean with there were rumors that we were lesbians. [laughs] We are really good friends, and we talk all the time and we hang out but were not lesbians. [laughs] AHHA: That rumor sounds like another thing a man probably started, as it was his fantasy or something Cassie: [laughs] Yeah they are trying to talk it into reality. Me and Lauren London had made a pact that we would stop reading blogs because they only ever really write negative things; especially about us and [Lauren] called me and was like, Oh my god, I know we said we wouldnt read anymore blogs but I broke our rule and I just had to tell you that they are saying we are lesbians. [laughs] We just dust it off and ignore it most of the time. AHHA: So you dont like reading blogs?Cassie: I mean I used too and occasionally I will look at something like Perez Hilton or something like that. It is entertaining, but too many people take them too seriously and thats why they are taking over. AHHA: So are you single?Cassie: Im single. Ive been single for a really long time and in a way it helped me kind of find myself. I was in a three-year relationship in High School. Until I moved to New York, I was with him. I definitely want to get into a relationship again at some point. Its just hard with scheduling and things like that. AHHA: Lets get into the new album. What do you want people to feel once they have heard it?Cassie: Puffy and I have had countless conversations about where Im going, what the look is and how its going to pan out Ive grown up so much within a year, I mean if you had talked to me a year ago I sounded so different, totally clueless, [laughs] no clue at all on what I was talking about. Before it was just about, Lets have fun and travel and whatever. Now its about becoming a woman, and Im not quite there yet, but Im going through the experiences that make be get there. Its a more vulnerable album; its a little bit stripped down as far as vocally and the content in the songs. Like I did a song last night called Thats Not What Love Is and its about a very, very real situation that a lot of people can relate to. It has a lot of emotion behind it. I really hope people get it and they see me in a different light without the makeup, the hair and the clothes just me, by myself. My album artwork is going to be really intimate. I want people to see me, how my boyfriend would, if I had a boyfriend that is. [laughs] The way the music is coming together; I sound like I feel it. AHHA: Who have you been working with on this album, as far as producers or guest appearances?Cassie: I have no guest appearances so far; Im sure that will come once we finish up and finalize the track listing and things like that. As far as producers, Ive got to work with Puffy which hasnt happened before, which is really, really cool. Hes really been hands-on with this project. I worked with Ryan Leslie of course again, I worked with Kanye, I worked with Eric Hudson, Brian Cox. Lterally I worked with a whole roster of talent. Last night I got the opportunity to work with a writer by the name of Jim Beanz, we had met before but had never really been familiarized properly. Im working with Danja and I was telling him, You know that song Perfect Lover on Britneys album, I love it. He was just like, Oh cool, and then I was telling Puffy that on his album I love After Love with Keri Hilson and I just found out yesterday that Jim Beanz wrote both of them. Those are two songs that I absolutely, completely love so Im really excited to work with [Jim]. AHHA: Do you know what youre going to call the new album?Cassie: No, Im still fiddling around with a few ideas, I just want the album title to be as intimate as the sound of the album. It may not be til the very, very last moment that we figure out the name of it. It also will depend on what the final songs we end up picking as well. AHHA: Do you feel it is better than your first album?Cassie: I wouldnt say it is better, but it is different. The first album was really just about the time and place I was in and I wasnt really involved in the process like I should have been. I actually have an emotional connection to the current album. I wouldnt say one is better than the other, but this album is going to be a more grown and personal experience between me and whoever is listening to it which people may appreciate more. I just hope people like it.