What do FaceTime, silk pajamas and an R&B legend have in common? It was the spark for DJ Cassidy’s Pass the Mic, the celebrity at home sing-a-long where artists and musicians perform a verse of your favorite jam before “passing the mic” to the next artist.
The first special (they are categorized by “volume” on YouTube) begins with legendary Earth, Wind and Fire’s singer Philip Bailey and bassist Verdine White gifting fans with “That’s the Way of the World” from their respective homes. As the first chorus of the classic fades, Cassidy calls up Patrice Rushen, who rifts her 1982 hit “You Remind Me.” Longtime Michael Jackson collaborator Siedah Garrett is up next, singing “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” Deniece Williams joins in performing “Cause You Love Me Baby”—and Pass the Mic is born.
On May 9, Cassidy takes audiences on another musical journey with a Mother’s Day special on BET, his official platform for a six part series. But unlike the surprise element that’s been a big component of the events, Cassidy tells ESSENCE exclusively why he decided to share his featured guests—Patti Labelle and Johnny Gill—ahead of the special.
“I’ve always wanted Patti to take part from day one, but I knew early on that I needed to save the call for Mother’s Day,” Cassidy said. “And I’m so happy I did.”
As the godmother of soul, Labelle’s inclusion is a match made in music heaven. But if Pass the Mic fans are curious how Johnny Gill fits into a Mother’s Day theme, Cassidy’s reason is simple: “It’s about love.”
“This special is unique in several ways,” he said. “First, I usually focus on a specific era within an episode. This time I chose not to focus on a particular time or period, but a particular emotion, and that emotion is love. So much of soul music is about love. This special is also unique because it’s the first and only ballad centric show. The songs in this episode are simply the greatest soul ballads of all time. These songs are the records we know every word to, belting out each lyric at the top of our lungs. And for both of those reasons, I truly believe this special will be special, pun intended.”
It was the New York native’s love of music that originally sparked the series in April 2020. As music elite’s go-to deejay since the aughts (he spun at Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s 2008 nuptials), the idea started with him vibing with a legend.
“I was FaceTiming with my friend and mentor, Verdine White of the legendary group, Earth, Wind & Fire. We had been friends for years; he’s a mentor and a hero of mine. We usually go to dinner once a month at Mr. Chow’s in Beverly Hills. Since it was the start of the pandemic, I hadn’t seen him in a while and I called to check on him. While we were FaceTiming, the classic record, “That’s the Way of the World,” comes on my speaker. And Verdine, in red silk pajamas, lying on his couch, starts singing casually along, “Hearts of fire, create love desire…” I got a chill down my spine. I thought, how fortunate am I to have relationships with so many of my musical heroes and how fortunate am I to experience their music like this.”
Cassidy continues: “With the world influx, with everyone going through a tough time, I asked myself, ‘Is there a way that I could give people around the world the feeling I have right now, of connecting with their musical heroes in a personal and intimate way like never before?’ And I immediately thought of the phrase, Pass the Mic, and I immediately envisioned what it would become.”
Before Cassidy (née Cassidy Podell) created a partnership with BET to produce six “DJ Cassidy’s Pass The Mic” specials, he showcased his virtual tributes, which are categorized by volume, on YouTube. As his volumes went viral, the network featured Cassidy curating an after party edition for the Soul Train Awards last November. Shortly after, he was tapped by the Biden Harris inauguration to deejay the Virtual Parade Across America and he invited legends Kathy Sledge of Sister Sledge and Chic’s Niles Rodgers.
In March 2021, Cassidy and BET created a partnership to produce six “DJ Cassidy’s Pass The Mic” specials throughout the year. The first installment, “DJ Cassidy’s Pass The Mic: The BET After Party” premiered after the NAACP Image Awards and featured Ginuwine, Montell Jordan, Next, Donell Jones, Soul For Real, Carl Thomas, Brownstone, Adina Howard, Dru Hill, Jermaine Dupri, Da Brat, Gina Thompson, Missy Elliot, 112, Mase, SWV and Wyclef Jean.
“We are thrilled to premiere a new edition of “DJ Cassidy’s Pass The Mic” on Mother’s Day,” said BET EVP, Specials, Music Programming and Music Strategy, Connie Orlando. “It’s important for BET to spotlight and celebrate women around the globe who continue to foster environments that uplift and encourage those around them. With the one and only Patti Labelle, Johnny Gill, and many more making appearances, this is sure to be a night of iconic musical moments the entire family will enjoy.”
When pressed for more artist reveals in his next special, Cassidy becomes a vault. “Look, I’ve already revealed two surprises, which is something that I never ever, ever do,” he laughs. “I have broken my tradition in celebration of mothers. I wanted mothers around the world to have something extra to look forward to…. But all I can say is that there are about a dozen more where that came from.”
DJ Cassidy’s Pass The Mic: BET Mother’s Day Edition premieres Sunday, May 9, at 9 pm ET/PT.