The idea of someone packing up their life and fleeing to the Big Apple to pursue their love of the biz sounds ambitiously poetic. Many many late-teenagers do just that, and they often greet us at bars, restaurants, and just about every other place that has absolutely nothing to do with their passion. While the concept of making it always delivers overwhelming doubt, there are isolated moments in time where someone actually has that intangible something. One such instance is the story of Bad Boy/Next Selection recording artist, Cassie.
Before Me & U became a club and radio anthem, Cassie was a high school graduate bidding adieu to her life in Connecticut. She relocated to New York City and had a brief stint in modeling. After a chance encounter with production prodigy Ryan Leslie, Cassie inked a production deal with Leslies Next Selection, signed to Bad Boy, and the rest as they say is history.
She is currently settling into this whirlwind now known as her life, and preparing for phase two: the release of her debut album. Cassie took a moment out of her hectic new life to recall her first few months in New York City. She tells us about her already established fanbase, the power of the Internet, and the fairy tale story of how she made her dreams come true.
AllHipHop.Com Alternatives: Youre being referred to as the next Aaliyah. How does that feel?
Cassie: Amazing! It couldnt be any better than that, ya know? When I was on MTV for the first time, they told me that, and I didnt even know what to say. That was like the best compliment Ive ever had. She is definitely one of my idols.
AHHA: You relocated from Connecticut to New York. What were your first couple of months like living in the city?
Cassie: It was a little bit of a struggle, little bit of homesick, a little bit of ,What am I gonna do? What if I dont book any jobs? I was worried because I signed a year lease on an apartment downtown. It was exciting it was just a lot at once. I took it all in, and then I realized basically in six months what wasnt for me and I eliminated it. If people went out a lot, it was like I couldnt handle all that.
I still go out with my friends and stuff, but it was like we were going out every night, and just doing way too much like staying up and dancing when we had work the next day. When youre 18 years old, it takes you a little while to realize all that. But, the first few months were like a whirlwind. I barely remember it.
AHHA: Wow. You know, there are so many girls and guys alike, who pack up and move to New York to pursue their dreams and most dont even make it. What do you think it was about you that separated you from the rest of these people?
Cassie: Im really competitive [laughs]. I have a lot of drive. I dont know if that separates me, but it definitely plays a big part in why I have gotten as far as I have, and have accomplished so much. You cant give up at any point, you cant ride on anyones coattails; at the end of the day youve gotta do it yourself. People say its who you know, but its also what your personalitys like, because if you dont come off the right way to certain people theyre not gonna accept you. So, there were just a lot of things, and at the end of the day, I really cannot pinpoint what did it for me. I dont know what I did, but Ive just remained myself and in the hopes that Im just gonna keep it real and people stay listening and keep wanting to hear my music and see who I am.
AHHA: What was it like modeling when you were first in New York?
Cassie: It was a lot of fun. I took it for granted to a certain point, because I wanted to do something else. Then the whole music thing started and I got so into that I didnt even want to model ever again [laughs]. I was looking at pictures last night, and I really miss it. It was a good time. I still have all of my same friends from it, so Im not too far from it. I spent a lot of time on my own and learned a lot about myself while I was by myself.
AHHA: On Ryan Leslies blog, he bigged you up as being the only artist hes worked with who got on TRL and actually shouted him out. How did you end up hooking up with him and Next Selection?
Cassie: I actually met Ryan when I first got to New York, but we didnt really talk too much. Then my friends and I went out to Miami for New Years 2005 and he was out there performing for one of our friends parties. We were helping him do the casting call for a dancer for his performance on top of this pool. I already knew the dance because I had seen the performance so many times, and when it came down to it, everyone was like, You do it! You know it. And I ended up doing it.
From that moment on, Ryan and I were like best friends. I could tell him anything. He is so much fun. When we started working – it was probably in January – because my mom wanted us to record a song, I got super frustrated with the song. So he recorded the second verse, and it actually turned out to be a cute duet. That was Kiss Me. Hes just one of the funnest guys I know to hang out with.
AHHA: Youve signed to Bad Boy and Diddy has this track record of crazy hits like Biggie and Faith, but also has a lot of misses. Did you have any reservations before signing with Bad Boy?
Cassie: I actually never have been asked this question in an interview, and thats really cool that you did, because its usually asked by kids. Kids notice. There were a lot of factors as to why I signed [to Bad Boy] because I did have other deals on the table. I got to hang out with Puff and see what he was all about when I was in Miami. He actually really talked to me about what he wanted to do. I didnt hear that from anyone else. It wasnt like, Oh, were gonna make you a star! It was all planned out, kind of, in his head. Then it came to be, because the single got so big.
Im really happy that I [signed to Bad Boy]. At this point, I have great management, Im signed to Next Selection too, Ryans production company, so I have a great production company as well. Its just a great group. I dont know how it is for everyone else at the label. I think the Making The Band girls [Danity Kane] are so talented. I got to watch them record with different producers when they were in Miami. They are so focused. Cheri Dennis is so amazing. There are artists on Bad Boy that are really gonna do it this year for sure. [Yung] Joc! First week album sales 150 [thousand]. Its gonna turn around, definitely.
AHHA: What can we expect from your debut?
Cassie: Im super excited about my album! It comes out August 8th. What I found hearing through the Internet with MySpace and my blog was that even people who dont listen to R&B or Pop liked my music. They mixed Me & U with techno for them. There are so many remixes of Me & U that there could be a Me & U album! Its seriously like I did everything. I have a down south joint, I rap, I do the R&B thing, I do the funk thing. I have the rockn roll one with some friends of mine that have a band. Its a lot of fun, and I put everything I had into it.
I didnt know how to make an album and what the elements were, because Im a brand new artist. They kind of told Ryan and I, Ok do it. I am just so excited for it to come out and people to hear it and pick their favorite songs. I know which ones the girls are gonna like and which ones the guys are gonna like. Its exciting to see whats gonna happen.
AHHA: Which song do you hold the closest to your heart?
Cassie: There is a song called Not With You. I told Ryan what I wanted to write about. At that point I was traveling a lot for promo and rehearsals. I was feeling super bad that I couldnt be there to do the hook. They actually came up with the hook, and its about a girl who is totally in love with her boyfriend, but has trouble trusting him. And that [situation] happens everyday. So they did the hook, and when I got in the studio with Ryan, we went back and forth and recorded it so quickly. That was one of the quickest songs I ever recorded because it came from me, and I know what that feeling is like. Theres another track called Ditto that I hold close to my heart as well, and its about falling in love for the first time. Its nothing like Me & U at all, but its fun. Falling in love for the first time, that feeling you cant replace. Ever.
AHHA: What is your thought process with songwriting?
Cassie: Well I havent written a complete song yet. Ive written everything with Ryan, so hell give me my credit, but its mostly the ideas and concepts Ive come up with so far. Im learning to write as I go along. The first few songs we recorded, [Ryan Leslie} wrote, and then after that it was ideas I came up with, and so it built up to, No I wanna say this or No Id never say that. Now Im actually learning how to write complete songs. Right now with the management, the label, its about making a hit. Its gotta be something that the people can relate to, so thats what Im trying to grasp right now, but its definitely a thought process with what Im going through. The album is about the emotions of a 19-year old girl [laughs], but it covers a whole age group, both male and female.
AHHA: You mentioned before the whole MySpace and blogging thing. Sometimes when an artist becomes so personable with fans, the fans get the wrong impression like a friendship is solidified. Have you experienced any downside to leaving yourself so open to the Internet like that?
Cassie: When I do blog, its often, and then I wont for a while because I get busy. Ill blog on my personal page and my MySpace page. I think the way I write I dont know if people just dont know sometimes that its just a bulletin, like it goes out to all of my friends or just to them- but when I explain something, I really have to explain it. Some people just dont get it and they get offended like, Why are you saying this to me. Im just like, Look dont advertise on my page if thats all youre doing there [laughs].
The down side is that when people meet me they think they really know me. Its good, but its kind of scary at times. I was in rehearsal before I shot the video, and some guy walked in my rehearsal and was like, Hi Cassie! Im like, Yeah. Hi? Then hes like, Oh, were friends on MySpace, so Its kind of weird in public when I see people and theyre like, Heyyy and Im like Im sorry! I dont know every one of my friends on my page. I wish I did, but I cant.
AHHA: Oh hell no! He just walked in?
Cassie: He walked right in. My choreographer was like, What is going on? I dont know. I cant control these people!
AHHA: I was reading in your blog about an original video for Me & U that leaked.
Cassie: Well what happened was before I got a deal, the song was kind of building on MySpace, but what I personally felt was, Where is this gonna go? I just didnt expect it to go anywhere. At the same time, I was at a point where I felt like I needed to be so different. For me to different, I felt like I needed to be grown. That wasnt the ticket. I didnt wanna do it anyway, but I tried to make it work and it didnt. Little X was like, Look, come to Toronto. Well shoot a low budget video. I went with Ryan, so I wasnt there by myself. I saw it [the video] and was like, No. This isnt me. [Little X] was like, Ok lets edit it and do it again. He edited it, and it didnt change anything. I was like, Look, I cant do this. Im sorry. Its not me. About a week later it was leaked on the internet uncut. Everything was just raw. I was so embarrassed. I didnt expect this.
A lot of fans just asked questions like, Why would you do it anyway? Im thinking, Look, I didnt really expect my career to go anywhere to be completely honest with you. Thats what I did. Its over. Thats the worst thing you can find on me. It was definitely a mistake on my part, and I wish Id never done it. I thought I redeemed myself with the other video, but a lot of people like the raw version more than the new one. I dont really know why [laughs].
AHHA: Well you know its a good sign, and youre destined for fame when you already have people walking on your set and scandals coming out about you!
Cassie: I know right! [laughs] Whatever!
AHHA: What would you say is your main objective in making music?
Cassie: What is comes down to is making music that hits on points that people are really dealing with in their lives so that they want to listen to your music and they feel like theyre in touch with you because youre feeling the same thing. Thats really important to me. I have a lot of young young fans. I really want them to hear me out and also get up and dance. I recorded a song called Miss Your Touch and its really funky and fun to dance to, and one of the first songs I had. My little cousins love it. They have no idea what it means, but they dance to it like nobodys business. I just want to touch people, so they love the music and can dance and sing along.