DJ Cassidy has had plenty of firsts. The New York native was the first DJ to perform at an Inaugural Ball, the first to play at the White House and this summer he’ll release Paradise Royale—his first solo album. And what an album it is: the soul-infused record doesn’t feature any samples or covers but manages to evoke the feel of 1970s and ’80s dance music thanks to collaborations with artists like Robin Thicke, Mary J. Blige, Passion Pit, John Legend, Estelle and Usher. To get a preview of the sort of music that the album will feature, check out Cassidy’s newly-released single “Make The World Go Round,” featuring R. Kelly.
“The story of this album starts when I was 9 years-old: I was a hip-hop kid, listening to Run DMC and watching movies like Breakin’,” Cassidy explains. “At that age, my friends thought that to embrace hip-hop you had to hate everything else, but I had a saving grace—I looked up to the forefathers of hip-hop. In order to be like my heroes, I had to play like them, and they were creating hip-hop by playing all kinds of music, including soul, reggae and rock and roll. I was fascinated by that and made it my mission to be an encyclopedia of musical influences.”
As a teenager, Cassidy began DJing carnivals, sweet 16 parties and homecoming dances. By the time he was in high school, he was working at some of Manhattan’s most popular nightclubs, including Lotus. It was there that he was discovered by Sean Combs who later hired him to DJ a party, giving Cassidy his first big break.
These days Cassidy travels the globe playing high-profile events and entertaining some very famous fans. But what does he do in his down time? Here, he shares his favorite hometown hangouts.
House of Oldies
This is a tiny record store on Carmine Street in the West Village, but the basement is the size of an entire city block. The owner, Bob, is like my vinyl father and has been since I was a teenager. I’ve been shopping for vinyl here since I was 13 years-old. He’ll ask me to watch the store while he goes back to the basement to look for the albums on my shopping list. About 30 to 45 minutes later, he’ll come back upstairs with every piece. I don’t think he’s ever not had something I wanted.
35 Carmine Street, 212-243-0500, houseofoldies.com.
I’ve been DJing downtown since I was in my teens, and going to the Carlyle Hotel— whether it’s for dinner, drinks or just to hang out and hear some jazz—is my musical getaway from my usual spots. I always order the lobster, crab and shrimp salad and a virgin Bloody Mary. The best thing here is the wallpaper by Ludwig Bemelman, who created the Madeline children’s books.
35 East 76th St., 212-744-1600, rosewoodhotels.com.
This is my tailor, where I’ve been going for 10 years. They custom-create all my suits, my shirts and the leather pants I’m known for wearing. They essentially make my entire wardrobe. It’s a father-son team—Sal and Carl—and they’re the best of the best.
138 E 61st St., 212-752-1638, lstailors.com.
“I go here to buy my fabric. Most people go to a tailor and look through the books they have there. I go shopping for fabric myself and I buy it all here: linen, silk, wool, tweed—everything. Pink and green are my signature colors.”
1008 Avenue of the Americas, 800-965-8746, mjtrim.com.
I consider myself a sushi connoisseur. New York City has many great sushi restaurants, and I go to all of them, but this is the one I call home. I’ve been going here for years. Chef Jack has become a real friend. I go alone the majority of time after a gig and sit at the sushi bar, leaving it all up to Chef Jack.
85 Avenue A, 212-505-6524, takahachi.net.
This is a Cuban-Chinese hybrid that my father has been taking me to since I was a kid. I get black beans, yellow rice, fried fish filet, sweet plantains and a guava juice. And it’s all under $20; it’s the best cheap, fast meal in the city. I only wish they delivered to the east side.
2199 Broadway, 212-874-2780, lacaridad78.com.
JJ Hat Center
People always ask where I get my signature boater hats, and I don’t try to keep it secret: I get them here. I started wearing fedoras 10 years ago. About seven years ago, I picked up a boater. One day I went in and tried it on. It had this classic, distinguished quality to it. I like to wear things other people don’t wear, so when I took this hat that looked like it was from another era and put it on my head, it took on a whole new life—I loved it.
310 Fifth Ave., 212-239-4368, porkpiehatters.com.
The Central Park Dance Skaters Association Skate Circle
This is right near my house. If you walk through the park on Sunday when the weather’s warm, you see these skaters in the park. They have a DJ who’s playing a lot of the same music that inspired my album—soul records, house music from the mid-’80s and some tracks from today. It’s the most feel-good energy in New York City. It’s a party that I wish I could go to every night in the middle of the afternoon in Central Park.
The Skate Circle, Central Park, cpdsa.org.
The Alice in Wonderland Statue in Central Park
I come here in the dead of summer and the middle of winter. Believe it or not, it’s the one place I like to go and sit. I’ll put on my iPod and listen to some Sergio Mendez or Rod Stewart’s Great American Songbook and just relax. This is a place where my creative juices flow.
Central Park, 212-310-6600, centralpark.com.
Sarah Mills Salon
This is where I’m headed as soon as we’re done talking! Sarah cuts my hair; she’s based out of her home in Tribeca and she’s truly an artist. I have a very distinctive way my hair needs to be cut because of the hats I wear when I perform, and she’s the one person who knows how to deal with that. Also, there’s not a salon in New York where you’re going to see more beautiful women sitting in the waiting room. And she has the greatest soul music playing at all times, so I find myself hanging out for an hour or two after my haircuts.
11 Worth St. #2B, 212-941-8552, sarahmillshair.com.