Last week, XXL got up with Cassie to discuss details on her forthcoming mixtape, RockaByeBaby, due out tomorrow. After revealing the tracklist that includes guest features from French Montana to Meek Mill, she expanded on the theme behind her tape, her stack of mixtapes that makes up to 66 unofficial tracks, and how she has grown more comfortable on stage. Plus, we learn which Kendrick Lamar song gets re-interpreted from the ground up. —Eric Diep (@E_Diep)
XXL: Do you like working out of L.A. or New York?
Cassie: I lived in the City for eight years and in July, I moved to LA. Basically since I moved here I’ve been working on the mixtape and it’s been a growth period, transition for me. Just not being close to my family and New York has such a vibe and a culture to it—LA is just different. It moves different. It’s been an adjustment. I really do prefer living in New York but I’m making it work. I get a lot of work done out here.
“Paradise” was shot in LA. Is that one of the key tracks that your fans should look out for?
Yes, it’s definitely one of the key tracks. Also, there’s another record I did with my labelmate French, my brother. He’s so funny but when he finally got me the verse it was just like—it was exciting for me because I’d been wanting to work with him for a long time and then on the particular song that he did, my friend Rob Holladay produced it and the changes in the record are insane. The chord changes and the whole vibe switches mid-song. We just really got creative with it and the whole mode of the mixtape itself is “Press Play.” You can hang out with your friends, turn it down or turn it up and turn up. The records flow into each other.
Why did you name your mixtape RockaByeBaby?
The initial concept started with RockaByeBaby from New Jack City. Keisha from New Jack City who was like the girl they called in to do the dirty work. She would just go and straight up, for a lack of a better explanation, go and blow people’s heads off in the middle of the street. She had to go handle the business that the boys couldn’t handle because the guys had to keep their hands clean. It’s not really literal at all; just concept-wise it’s a stronger side of my personality. Just music I wanted to make for so long. As an artist you get put in a box where you have to make music to please other people and not just necessarily yourself and get your “creative” on. It’s loosely based on New Jack City, but not completely. It was just an inspiration.
You’ve said New Jack City was an inspiration but, music-wise, what have you been listening to?
You know what? I get into maybe one vibe a week and listen to something over and over. Like this week, I’ve been in—and that’s not my car so I’m driving a Jeep now—but I feel a little New Jack City with my Jeep. But then I’m in Cali and I feel like it was such an oxymoron for certain parts of my life that I’m here and that I’ve been listening to Biggie like “Going Back To Cali.” I am just all over the place, but there is a new artist out that I heard a couple songs from that I really like, James Blake. He’s super dope and then his video is crazy but I don’t think I like a lot of different stuff. It really depends on the day.
I remember when you were recording your first album at 18 or 19 that you were going through a process of sounds. What can you tell me about the direction of this tape?
It’s completely different than the beginning. I think that honestly. It’s been seven years later and going through making all of these different records and trying all of these different things that got me to this point. I am experimenting with sounds was experimenting with my voice and how far I wanted to take things and how minimal I wanna keep it. That’s kind of the quality of my work is in the simplicity of it. I don’t think I overdo anything. I leave it so DJs can remix it and it not be complicated. It’s creative. It’s made for the DJ. It’s made for people who wanna listen to music and vibe out, but it’s just a new sound.
It’s fun on it too because I experimented with sampling records that I personally really like. So I did a remix to “M.A.A.d City.” Kendrick Lamar’s “M.A.A.d City.” I’m actually singing on it, but its dope. I did a record with Too $hort and it’s a sample from the Tyga record “Do My Dance.” It’s all over the place and it’s really cool that we got people from all genres and walks of life, like Too $hort being from out here, Jeremih is from Chicago, everybody else is from New York, we got little pieces of everything on the tape.
You got another single “Numb” that’s making its way around the blogs. Do you ever feel like you could live up to “Me & U”? That song had a life of its own.
I think mentally with really considering I was 18, 19 years old. I’ve put out several records and singles on both my labels since. I really have tried a lot of different things. I feel like it was time to complete something that was for my supporters and for myself, for once, and not really have to worry about living up to “Me & U” because “Me & U” is such a staple record.
I didn’t like “Me & U” when I first cut it. That’s the funniest thing to me in the world. Like after I heard it, I was like, “I sound so monotone. What is this?” You know what I mean? Everyone fell in love with it. I don’t set myself up to feel like I have to hit an expectation of some sort. That’s why I wanted to make it vibe-y and it be a mixtape and not be an album and just give it to people.
This is supposedly your first mixtape, but a couple months ago some unofficial Cassie mixtapes leaked online. Do you know what those are?
It was with The Weeknd artwork. A fan or somebody put it together. I actually thanked them. I was able to find who they were and reached out to them because the way that they compiled the music was kind of incredible. One was like vibe-y, one was uptempo. I was like, ‘whoa.’ I didn’t realize over time how much music I’ve put out.
That’s why I wanted to do this for that exact purpose. I have people that really, really love the way I make music and that feels good to me. So I wanna give back. I wanna give something back. I don’t think anybody was expecting it to come out of nowhere like this. It’s really for them and I love that. That really made me happy.
What can you tell me about your fanbase?
We have “Cassie Army” and all the kids that came out when I was working on “King of Hearts” and stuff like that, promoing it, my other records. But they’re just cool kids. Honestly, I performed “Kings of Hearts” on 106 & Park, that was the last time I did 106 and they all came out. I performed the song twice. First time I came out, it was so loud and they were screaming so hard that I was like, ‘Oh, this is crazy.’ Bugged out. It felt like I was performing with them, like they were on stage with me. It was dope.
They’re just really, really cool kids. I’m actually in touch and text with a couple of ‘em. It is what it is. They enjoy good music. They enjoy somebody that they can relate to. That understands what they’re going through. I don’t care who it is, I’m 26 years old and I’m still trying to figure it out. I think there’s a respect in that when you can be relatable in that way. But they’re great. I love my fan base. They’re absolutely the best.
Are you comfortable on stage now? A long time ago, you said that you were afraid of the microphone.
It’s crazy because I wasn’t one of those artists where after it went bad, I didn’t jump right back on stage because everybody was just like, ‘Oh shit. What do we do now? She has stage fright and we didn’t really address that with her before she started performing.’ No, I’ve gone out. I’ve been overseas. I have done TV since then and performed and everything. So it’s fine and I’m better. I think its gonna be more exciting to perform this stuff since it is more personal and I know it backwards. So it’s great but it’s much better now!
You are one of the few females on Bad Boy. How do you feel about your position there?
You know what? It just feels like a family in a loose way. We see each other. We hang out. I probably see French the most, definitely the most. I spoke to Red [Café] yesterday and he’s in Dubai. He’s like, ‘Yo, I got a record.’ You know what I mean? We all stay in touch. We are close and are proud of each other because it is really awesome that this year Bad Boy has turned around. Especially with the male artists, they’re really dope. I’m not the only female. There’s another artist on the label and she’s younger, Megan [Nicole], and she’s awesome. Her voice is so beautiful. It’s just a different league. I’m 26 years old. She’s like 10 years younger than me. It’s a different thing but we’re all a happy family.
Other labels have made their own compilation albums. Do you see Bad Boy doing that soon?
I think it would be really cool, too. I know we always talk about it. Puff always talks about how he wants to make more music but then he’s got all his other things going on. He’s got Revolt, Ciroc and AQUAhydrate and everything else. I think that would be really dope. I’ve done records with, I think, all of the artists on the label so far and even that record I did with MGK “Warning Shots.” It never came to be anything but it was what it was. I think that would be a dope compilation.
What’s the working relationship like with Puff right now?
Yeah, we’re working together. He’s helped me a lot with this project in trying to find where I fit in the world. I don’t know a better way to put that. [Laughs.] But, definitely. We work together.
It’s interesting that you’ve said “fit this world.” With artists like Rihanna and Katy Perry, how have you managed to stay in the running?
I don’t consider myself in the running. I consider myself such an underdog. Rihanna is seven albums in. She is non-stop working. I have been too, but on a totally different plane and level. Just not out, all over the world like that. I really started focusing on something. I would go away from it and come back. I’m just really a perfectionist with everything. So I don’t consider myself in the running with them. Hopefully soon! I’m working towards that. I think they’re all really awesome.
I actually recently saw Katy Perry’s tour movie [Katy Perry: Part of Me] and I thought that was really, really dope. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but I saw it on the plane and I didn’t know what to think of it before I watched it. It was really inspiring. She really put herself through a lot on her tour. Getting married and living life as a young female in the industry is not is easiest thing. So that is dope.