As the temperature rises, artists are locking themselves in the studio with high hopes of dropping a summer anthem. For DJ Cassidy, he lives for these months.
Known for his infectious singles -- including his 2014 track "Make the World Go Round" featuring R. Kelly and his 2015 song "Future is Mine" with Chromeo and Wale, Cassidy was eager to recruit two of music's budding stars for his new single "Honor." He first reeled in Aussie sensation Grace.
"When I heard Grace's cover of the classic 'You Don't Own Me,' I immediately became a fan," Cassidy tells Billboard. "What can you say? She has an incredibly soulful voice, an incredibly powerful voice, an incredible unique voice. She's only 20 years old and I wanted to work with her immediately once I heard that cover. After the writer of the song, Whitney Phillips wrote ['Honor'], I was racking my brain on who can deliver it, because Whitney is an incredible singer herself. I could have put out the demo. It was so good. I had to think who can sing this and who could keep this at the level that it's at and even take it to another level. Grace was on that list."
Once Cassidy sealed the deal with the 20-year-old songbird, he shifted his focus on finding a rapper capable of delivering an equally intoxicating verse. Enter Lil Yachty.
"I felt that a hip hop element was what I needed," says Cassidy. "I needed a male perspective, especially since Grace is talking to a guy. I wanted someone that no one expected me to work with. I was right in thinking that people were surprised that I was working with Yachty, because everyone who first heard the record was surprised that Lil Yachty was on a DJ Cassidy record."
While it may have seemed like an unusual collaboration, Lil Yachty insists that DJ Cassidy was clearly enthusiastic about working with him. "Cassidy came to a show of mine in Philly. We had never even met," recalls Lil Boat. "He wasn't playing around. He booked a studio right next door to the venue and played me all of his music. I loved seeing all the legends he's worked with. I wrote my verse right then. I'm proud to be a part of what he's doing."
Despite their contrasting styles, Yachty's flavorful verse combined with Grace's powerful vocals proved to be the perfect match. For Grace, working with the "One Night" MC wasn't a first. Not only did they link up for "Honor" but the pair also teamed up for Yachty's forthcoming debut album Teenage Emotions.
"I loved the perspective of ['Honor']. The song is kind of a cheeky, fun statement," says Grace. "Boys like you should know it's an honor. Every girl wants to hear that. Every girl wants to sing that, especially when you're young and you're 20. This is the time when you're cheeky and young. I think that's what attracted me to [the record]. It's lighthearted but you still kind of feel empowered in a way." She adds, "I think Yachty's verse is dope. I think his fan base is going to be drawn to that."
After crafting his high-powered hit, Cassidy had grand plans for a striking visual to match. "I wanted to create a video that was mysterious, dark, seductive, sexy, stripped, but, at the same time, I wanted to make something that was bright and colorful like Yachty and myself," he explains. "That was the challenge. How do you create something that looks bright and feels dark? How do you create something that looks fun, but feels seductive?"
Cassidy found the answer when he tapped famed fashion photographer/director Sasha Samsonova to direct the video. Samsonova, who has worked with Kylie Jenner, is known for her provocative visuals and steamy photo shoots. Shot in a 1969 Palm Springs home, the "Honor" video features a colorful wonderland packed with scantily clad women. The outfits of each artist were analogous to the colors of the room.
"Cassidy had all of our clothes custom made for the video to match the rooms of the house," says Yachty. "My red suit, my blue outfit, my silk shirt. Everything is one of one. We definitely share a similar appreciation of fashion."
Grace relished the sexy elements of the video as they allowed her to step out of her tomboyish ways. "The whole day was pretty memorable. I think working with Sasha was incredible," says the singer. "She's super talented and has these crazy visions, like with Yachty eating the sushi off the girl. She's definitely a visionary. It was amazing to work with her. It was the first time I've ever done anything grown-up like that. I was kind of freaking out the day before because I'm usually in ripped up denim jeans and sneakers. I'm such a tomboy and I was in this beautiful long red dress. It was glamorous. It was different from anything I've ever done before. I had so much fun on the set."
Earlier this month on Twitter, Diddy voiced his opinion on Cassidy's "Honor" record and declared it a summer anthem. The co-sign elevated the song's stock and reassured Cassidy that he deftly crafted the right line-up for his new jam.
"As usual, Puffy couldn't have said it any better," gushes Cassidy. "As an artist, you almost pray that you can release a single in April because that's the perfect setup into summer. I'll tell you something, I've been DJing since I was 10 years old. As a kid, all I ever dreamed about was DJing dope summer parties. I just love everything about the fun weather. It's really fun to just release a record in the spring time because you get to go to summer with that. As always, Puff put it perfectly."
Check out the behind-the-scenes video for DJ Cassidy's "Honor" below.