“Numb,” featuring Rick Ross is a gem (no thanks to the Boss, who just phones in a boring and essentially pointless verse), and a reminder that Cassie was dominating icy deadpan well before Rihanna. “I make music to numb your brain (numb…numb…numb),” she sings over dark, rumbly synths made by Toronto producer Ncadastre. Cassie’s crystal-clear monotone is detached but sweet, the perfect counter to the nightmarish, hazy production.
6. Cassie made a video for “Paradise” – featuring Wiz Khalifa – in which she chills in an Impala, and drinks Ciroc with her friends on a stoop.
“Paradise” is another standout track, produced by Da Internz (who produced RiRi’s “Birthday Cake” and Big Sean’s “Dance A$$”) and Rob Holladay (Drake, “Do It All”). Cassie’s swagger carries lines like “Kissing you is very nice,” and the video reasserts her as a fashion icon, equally comfortable in sweats and Jordans as she is in a glamorous evening gown. Her style isn’t forced, and neither are her vocals – and they don’t have to be.
Cassie hits her stride when her vocals are trance-like, and when she picks beats that are unexpected, twisted and strange (the more haunted, fun-house-like, the better) – it’s what made “Me & U” such an inescapable hit in 2006. On the album-titled “RockaByeBaby,” she raps competently over a menacing, loopy beat before slowing down into a catchy, mellow chorus. Cassie doesn’t need to have Beyoncé’s singing chops in order to make interesting choices, and she pulls that off better than ever here.
There’s a tension between Cassie’s vocals and her production; her songs aren’t melodically accessible like “Super Bass;” you’d probably have a hard time singing along to it in your car. That feeling of distance and unease from the music is part of what makes the record so intriguing – it’s arresting, musically complex.
But although her second album has been delayed, leaked, and tossed out many times, girl hasn’t been completely out of the game.
12. She hopped on a track with Nicki Minaj last year, called “The Boys.”
The song was on the rapper’s Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded – The Re-Up. In addition to being the most colorful video Cassie’s been in, it showed her having fun with different personalities (well, as much fun as we see the characteristically stoic Cassie having in her videos usually).
There was also a song with Akon (“Let’s Get Crazy”) later that year, but the efforts were a more a brand of syrupy-pop that just didn’t feel quite right.
RockaByeBaby finds Cassie returning to her more minimal roots, this time without producer Ryan Leslie, who crafted the majority of her first album and helped create her initial sound. The 13-track record is short and sweet, showing off both Cassie’s taste (picking inventive, exciting producers), and awareness of her strengths: creating hypnotic, pared-back, chilly R&B you can dance to. It’s a solid, welcome comeback from the voice we forgot we were missing.
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