Much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ segments, readers of That Grape Juice know what avid music lovers we are – especially of hits past. So in a quest to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday we introduced a new retrospective segment – ‘TGJ Replay’.
Unlike its ‘Rewind’ and ‘Vault’ predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase albums (and eras) from a library of pop music hits. Finally, we go back to Next Selection/Bad Boy beauty Cassie‘s eponymous debut…
Connecticut born beauty Cassie Ventura first burst onto the scene as a fresh faced teen model, listing the likes of Seventeen magazine as one of many hosts of her striking image by the time she was 16. Barely breaking in the modelling industry, a minor appearance in the 2002 ‘Just A Friend’ music video by R&B crooner Mario would see Ventura venture to fulfill another calling – music.
Under the urging of hitmaking producer Rockwilder, the budding performer took singing and dancing classes to help hone her musical skills. After linking with then up-and-coming producer Ryan Leslie, the duo would produce a number of demos that landed right on the desk of music mogul Tommy Mottola. That listening session would see the mogul so impressed with the model-with-a-mic that he signed her to Leslie’s ‘Next Selection’ imprint.
And, then came ‘Me & U’…
Before the song was accompanied by visual, word has it Diddy was so impressed with the tune after hearing it in a club that he agreed to partner with Next Selection for the full album. The result of that collaboration would see the three cook up a fun, flirty mix of R&B-fused pop tunes that accented Ventura’s light vocal offerings. While in the “baking” process, so to speak, the album’s lead single was apparently already packing heat.
Skyrocketing to the top of R&B charts, the song peaked at#3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and top twenty in a host of other countries. Providing what initially looked like the perfect launching pad for the beauty until that fateful ‘106 & Park’ performance…
Though embarrassing, that promo push wasn’t completely damning. The album still managed to land a top 5 debut on the strength of 100k sold in its first week. Similarly interesting was the fact that despite being slammed by a host of critics for the absence of her vocals, the monotone mistress saw her album greeted by warm critical reception.
In the hey day of acts like Fergie and Gwen Stefani who offered a similar rap/sung packaging to their numbers, critics deemed Cassie’s offerings legit as she – unlike Stefani and Fergie – was actually of the age where she could get a pass for the fluff.
Following up the massively successful ‘Me & U’ with the
biographical aptly titled tune ‘Long Way 2 Go’…
The single offered a reworked version of the tune – featuring new ad libs and the like. Unfortunately, like its name, the repackaging was not enough to save the tune from ultimate failure as it had a long way to go to meet the heights of its predecessor. By year’s end, the tune barely cracked the Hot 100.
To date, the album has shifted over 300k copies. And, despite a host a promises, its follow-up (rebranded and retitled countless times), has yet to hit record shelves. Left in the shadows by the likes of Ashanti, Ciara, and, of course, Beyonce and Rihanna, Cassie has failed to find footing in a saturated market of people who offer each of her differentiating qualities…and much better (see: soft vocals, girl next door appeal, electro-fluff).
Be that as it may, 2006 was the year Diddy’s darling was introduced to music buyers. Unknown to many, but suspected by most, her time in the music spotlight was shortlived and ultimately replaced by the spotlight that came from just being associated to people who are actually famous for a reason (see: talent).
Here’s hoping Cass’s next offering, assuming it ever sees the light of day, will see the model-with-a-mic reconsider Rockwilder’s advice and sculpt a product that showcases her actual vocals more than her assets or autotune-assisted whispering.
Who knows? She may deliver another ‘Me & U’ on us…