It's been six years since we've heard solo material from Cassie, and she's finally back. Bad Boy's bad girl just dropped her new mixtape RockaByeBaby, and it's stacked with features from Rick Ross, French Montana, Too $hort, Meek Mill, and others. Leading up to its release, she released videos for "Numb" and "Paradise" featuring Wiz Khalifa.
Cassie's moved to LA, found her voice, and inevitably, found new confidence with her latest batch of music. This shows that she's about so much more than her looks, her love interests, and that shaved hairstyle she's been rocking for years. It looks like that second album will actually arrive soon.
Cassie sat down with Complex to talk about the creative process behind RockaByeBaby, what she's been up to in since her debut album, and everything else you've been dying to know.
Interview by Lauren Nostro (@LAURENcynthia)
RockaByeBaby been getting some amazing feedback since it dropped. What were you doing between projects, essentially in the last six years. Where were you creatively?
Even though I wasn’t really out there with the music, I was in a creative place always. I was always making music and trying records and trying new sounds, I don’t think anything really stuck the way the project has now, because I just kind of developed a different sound. I was always really creating, it just wasn’t on the scale that I’m creating now.
To think that I’ve been really working on trying to find a sound that I wanted for the past six years, for five years. I still have been simultaneously working on a second album.
Definitely. You tested out a lot of music, and we hear that progression, from “Me & U” to “King of Hearts” to now. How did you find a balance?
It really started about nine months ago when I started the tape. I did the first track, “Numb,” the one that we added Rick Ross to, and I think that’s kind of where I felt the sound needed to be. It was just the first sound that felt like it made sense. That wasn’t even a year ago. To think that I’ve been really working on trying to find a sound that I wanted for the past six years, for five years. I still have been simultaneously working on a second album. I got in with will.i.am and a lot of other great people, too, for that project.
Before I get to talking about the album, your big comeback this year was “The Boys” with Nicki Minaj.
It was really cool. It’s one of my favorite records, “The Boys.” I’m happy that Nicki wanted to work on it with me, and we made it happen, and the video came out great. I was really proud of it. I don’t know what else to say. It was dope, though. I think that was the first time where I really jumped into my creative control, styling myself and everything.
I just love when females work together and show there’s no jealousy and there’s nothing behind it, there’s no ulterior motives or anything, they’re just good people.
Then came “All Gold All Girls” thing, too.
I am definitely, at the end of the day, even though I’m surrounded by guys most of the time, I’m definitely a girl’s girl. I became close with Lola [Monroe] since I moved to L.A. last year. I met Trina several times and we finally got to hang out this past year. It kind of just came naturally. I just love when females work together and show there’s no jealousy and there’s nothing behind it, there’s no ulterior motives or anything, they’re just good people. That’s why I wanted to do the record with those girls.
At Bad Boy, you're essentially working at a boys club, being one of the few females on the roster. What's that dynamic like for you?
It’s so funny that you say that. The other day, I think I was getting dressed for 106 & Park or something and everybody was like, ‘You should do this, you should do that.’ I looked up and I said, “There are no females in this room. I don’t want to hear from any of you. I’m going to wear exactly what I want.” I boss everybody around pretty well. [Laughs.] I get my way.
Creatively, did Diddy have a big hand in the mixtape? Or did the rest of the team?
No, it’s been such a team effort. When you see the credits for the mixtape, there’s a core group; my engineer Matt, Rob Holladay, who is an executive producer, and then just the whole group of us. It’s been like a little family. We’ve been making this whole thing for the past 10 months and we’ve been so focused. I don’t know if I’ve been as focused on anything in my entire life, and really been involved. From designing what I wore in the “Paradise” video to making my own artwork for the cover of “Paradise,” amongst other records. I’ve been fully, creatively involved, which I really like and really enjoy.
In terms of the RockaByeBaby cover and the name itself, what was the inspiration behind that? From the gold gun tothe "Paradise" video, we're really seeing a different side to you.
Because I haven't made a second album and I came out with all these singles, people didn't really catch any different sides of my personality. So you see that anytime an artist comes out, that they have a theme to their album, or they have something that it’s about, and maybe it doesn't necessarily mean that’s who they are. It’s like acting, you are somebody that you want to portray, or just a character of sorts. It's a tougher side of my personality that people don’t know about, but it’s also an attitude. Sometimes I have to put up that front to get through stuff because Cassie isn’t that person.
Essentially, it's an image depending on who you’re around and what you’re trying to get.
You have to protect yourself. It’s a protection mechanism.The “RockaByeBaby” itself is really more a take on Keisha from New Jack City who delivers that particular line. She was one of the first black females in movies to be having a boss job. She kills people for them. It’s a very strong statement, but I think that it makes sense.
It's a big change from the days of "Me & U," that's for sure. Speaking of, I read that you weren't a fan of that song originally?
I didn’t hate the record, I just didn’t really know why people liked it at the time. [Laughs.] I had this record called “Miss Your Touch” that I loved and I was like 'I want this girlie song. What is this record?' It just sounded so different, but that’s what set it apart. I think that’s what made it what it was at the time. But I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t understand why people picked that song.
It worked out well! On the new mixtape, what's your go-to track?
I really love the attitude of “Bad Bitches” and the actual “RockaByeBaby” track.
And you rap on “RockaByeBaby,” too.
And I rap on “RockaByeBaby.”
And where did that come from?
[Laughs.] Exactly, like where did that come from? I have no idea. I worked on that with my labelmate Los and he just really coached me through it, and I was like ‘Los I can not believe you have me rapping this fast, I never thought I could move my mouth this fast.'
Everybody’s letting it marinate, but even when I played that record and “Bad Bitches” for one of my friends who’s known me since I first started in the music industry was like, 'Wait, this is Esther Dean.' Everyone has been like, ‘What the Hell? Where did you come up sounding like that? I don’t ever remember you being loud and boisterous.’ I’m like, ‘I know, I’m so laid back in real life.’
It seems like that's what you wanted, not something like "Me & U."
Yeah, exactly, that other side of things.
Moving to L.A. had me re-evaluate myself as a young woman.
The “Paradise” video with Wiz was cool. You moved there recently. How is L.A. for you, being an East Coast girl?
It’s good. I’m just really getting used to it, even though it’s been almost a year now. You’d think I’d be used to it by now. Moving here had me re-evaluate myself as a young woman. I spent a lot more time alone because all of my friends are in New York. I now have friends here, obviously, but I spent a lot more time by myself, more time to reflect, I really got a lot of work done.
L.A. has actually been a really positive experience for me. “Paradise” is definitely inspired by me living here. We recorded “Paradise” and then Wiz got on it, it was just like, ‘This needs to be shot under a palm tree. I don’t know where. It can’t be on the beach, it has to be somewhere else.’
How was working with Wiz? He seems really happy in the video, as usual.
It was just so natural. Him and I have known each other for some time because we shot his “Roll Up” video together, and I knew him before that, when he first came out with “Black and Yellow.”
Wiz is just such a happy person, you can’t help but laugh and have a good time and that’s kind of what we did. We were all on the stoop—it was me, Jeremih, Problem, all my producers, everybody was there. We were just having a good time. That’s what we wanted to come off, so I think it did.
RockaByeBaby exceeded my expectations as far as the verses. The quality of the verses, they are album worthy.
Karrueche was in there, too.
Yeah! Karrueche was there. I was actually just hanging with her the other night. I met her a little over a year ago, and we just stayed in touch. We became friends since I moved to L.A.
At first, I thought you were all drinking beers but of course, peach Ciroc.
[Laughs.] Everybody was like, ‘Oh god, there are the 40’s.’
Exactly. Back to the mixtape, you have a bunch of stacked features on it, too.
Everything kind of came organically, in that we would make a record, finish it and go, “Who would sound really dope on this?” Maybe I wouldn't finish a bridge so I could leave it open for a rap verse, and be like ‘Damn, let me call French. French where you at?’ ‘I’m next door.’ ‘French, I’m sending you something right now.’ It was like that. It exceeded my expectations as far as the verses. The quality of the verses, they are album worthy.