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Somewhere in the cosmos, there’s a world where Cassie has won multiple Grammys for her unique brand of experimental R&B and has now become one of the biggest stars on the planet. Unfortunately, this is not the world we live in. Despite proving time and time again that her music has always been ahead of the curve, Cassie’s seductive sound has remained mysteriously absent from the airwaves for most of the past decade. While it’s somewhat fitting that the dream-like quality of Cassie’s voice is matched only by her own ethereal presence in the industry, the truth is that the sultry R&B starlet deserves to be far more successful than she is.

It wasn’t always like this though. Following the release of her self-titled debut, Cassie seemed poised for stardom, carving her own minimalist niche among the heavy-hitters of R&B. However, as the years rolled by, Cassie’s sophomore effort struggled to take off, suffering an alarming number of delays and false starts that derailed her music career… until now.

With talk of a new album release finally underway and a triumphant return in January with “Don’t Play It Safe”, R&B’s “Official Girl” is more than aware of the fact that she still remains a mystery to the public at large, telling Billboard that “I just feel like even though I’ve been around for a minute, people still don’t really know me.” Let’s change that. Join us as we take a look back at the highs and lows of Cassie’s time in the spotlight so far, charting the milestones of a career that will (hopefully) finally take off in 2018 and receive the attention that it deserves.

Me & U & Leslie

Written and produced by Ryan Leslie, “Me & U” was released as Cassie’s first official single in 2006 and became a huge smash, hitting the charts not with a bang, but with a seductive whisper that promised huge things for the young star. Peaking at number three on the Billboard Hot 100, “Me & U” stood out from the pack thanks to Cassie’s hypnotic delivery, which slinked sensually out of speakers in every club that summer.

Released just a few months later, Cassie’s self-titled album sold an impressive 321,000 copies in the United States, debuting at number four on the Billboard 200. However, rocky live performances on MTV’s TRL and BET’s 106 & Park somewhat hurt Cassie’s reputation while promoting the album. Diddy was quick to defend the 19 year old girl’s lack of experience on stage, but Cassie herself owned up to the mistakes she made on MySpace, commendably addressing people’s negative perceptions of her head-on.

Around this same time, second single “Long Way 2 Go” was well received by critics, showing off a whole new side to the R&B princess. Scolding and playful at once, lines like “I love it when they try to get intimate / Even though they know I really ain’t into it” came across as even more brutal thanks to Cassie’s casual dismissal of the guy in question. Unfortunately, “Long Way 2 Go” was also rather prescient in some ways, failing to sustain the momentum of Cassie’s debut on the charts, and it soon became evident that this would be the final single released from the album.

Connecticut Fever Pitch

A year later, Diddy was forced to allay fears that Cassie has been dropped from Bad Boy Records, claiming that she was working with Kanye West and Pharrell Williams on new material for her sophomore album, Connecticut Fever, which was due to be released in September 2007. Unfortunately, September came and went without a release from Cassie. In fact, the only collaboration that fans saw take place between Cassie and West was for the “Stronger” promo.

While fans waited for Connecticut Fever, a number of unreleased tracks appeared online, the majority of which were better than anything heard on the R&B charts that year. They included “Turn The Lights Off” – which plunges Cassie into the dark with a minimal refrain that seductively gives into her every impulse, “Thirsty” – the ultimate kiss-off building on the playful tone of “Long Way 2 Go” with nimble wordplay over a skittering beat, and “My House” – positioning Cassie as an almost spectral figure who haunts a track light years ahead of the futuristic R&B popularized in the late ‘90s.

Not content with just singing, Cassie also began an acting career in 2008 with the role of Sophie Donovan in Step Up 2: The Streets. While the part was relatively small, Cassie’s contribution to the soundtrack, “Is It You”, remains a highlight of the project. Swapping out her usual ice-cold beats for handclaps and a guitar, Cassie tentatively sang a song of yearning and desire imbued with what had already become her signature delicate touch.

Later that year, “Official Girl” was intended to become the first official single released from Cassie’s second album. This made perfect sense, as the song’s juxtaposition between candy-floss sweetness and empowering authority summed up the appeal of Cassie perfectly. Oh, and Lil Wayne popped up briefly to compare Cassie’s sexual organs to a pearl, as he’s often inclined to do.

Must Be Electro Love

Sophomore album Connecticut Fever was renamed Electro Love in 2009, and two more singles were released to promote it, but both “Must Be Love” ft. Diddy and “Let’s Get Crazy” ft. Akon unfortunately failed to chart. On the plus side, Cassie shaved her hair and rocked it, setting a new trend that she pointed out white girls picking up on a year or so later.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but in 2012, Cassie released a new single called “King of Hearts” to promote her upcoming album, which was now scheduled to drop almost five years after its original release date. Beyoncé revealed that she was a big fan of the up-tempo club track, but not even that level of exposure helped Cassie perform well on the charts, despite reigning over the hearts of critics yet again with her innovative sound and style.

In that same year, Cassie’s solo project called “Money on Love” evolved into “The Boys”, a radio-friendly duet that perfectly combined Nicki Minaj’s rapid-fire rhymes with sugary smooth vocals from Cassie. The same old pattern marched on though, and the song ended up being included on Minaj’s Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded re-release instead of on any official Cassie production. Don’t blame the boys for this one though; blame Interscope Records for dropping the ball on promotion.

‘RockaByeBaby’, Hello New Mixtape

While it may not be an official album, the release of mixtape RockaByeBaby in 2013 is the closest we’ve come yet to a sophomore effort from Cassie, and it didn’t disappoint. Based on Vanessa A. Williams’ character from the movie New Jack City, the concept of the mixtape and songs such as “Numb” continued to position Cassie as a true innovator in R&B. Luckily, a number of critics recognized this, and Dazed & Confused even named RockaByeBaby as the best mixtape of 2013.

After collaborating with Cassie for years on material that’s never seen the light of day, Diddy finally unveiled a collaboration of a different sort in 2014, proposing to her publicly on Instagram. While that’s a lovely sentiment, a new album would have been nice too.

In July 2015, Cassie’s album was finally… re-released. That’s right. Nine years after her debut hit the stands, Cassie’s first album received a vinyl reissue, reminding fans everywhere that even her nine year old debut is still more ahead of the game than most artists working today – casual.

Eight years after Cassie stepped up her acting career, she was cast as the lead role in a romantic comedy called The Perfect Match and also starred in Honey 3: Dare To Dance. Meanwhile, fans dared to dream that a new Cassie album would miraculously appear in their Spotify playlists.

Cassie Never Plays It Safe

After signing a joint deal with Epic Records and Bad Boy Entertainment in August 2017, it looks like Cassie may finally be free of her musical limbo. But for real though. To celebrate, the Bad Boy songstress released “Love a Loser,” which also features G-Eazy on the track. Soon after, Cassie was interviewed by Billboard about the new album, and it turns out that PARTYNEXTDOOR, Jeremih and Khalid are all reportedly involved in this latest endeavor. Which means that it’s actually happening (maybe).

Considering the lengthy wait that fans have endured, it’s somewhat ironic that Cassie’s latest single is titled “Don’t Play It Safe”, but clearly the wait has been worth it if this track is anything to go by. Cassie’s vocals have never sounded smoother or more seductive, and the accompanying video proves that she’s never looked better too. 12 years may have passed since her debut single first took off, but both of these new releases remind fans that there’s still no one else out there like Cassie, even now.

Although it’s easy to see why Cassie’s sporadic output could have spelt the end of her career, the reality is that this time away from the spotlight has created a rare mystique around her music. After all, there’s nothing more fascinating than an elusive popstar in a time when social media has become more invasive than ever. As underground music producers and diehard R&B fans alike continue yearning for new material, perhaps now is the time for Cassie to break the spell and make this the world where she finally becomes one of the biggest stars on the planet. As Cassie herself once said, it’s always been just “about the timing.”

For more like this, read why this year is going to be the year that Janelle Monáe officially kills it here.

Words by David Opie
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