Kitty Cash often tells a joke about the DJ and production work she’s done as the music industry’s “female DJ Khaled” according to a Fader profile from 2014, by working with artists from SZA to Rihanna.
“I’m like, ‘I’m in the service industry!,’” Kitty, whose real name is Cachee Livingston, cackles over Zoom on a recent afternoon. “I am here to make sure people on the dance floor are forgetting their problems. It’s not about me in that moment.”
Now, the lens is being turned onto Kitty, a Brooklyn native who has spent her entire career making art and music for others. She’s DJ’ed for brands and celebrities, created three curated mixtapes, each called Love the Free, and made a name for herself within fashion circles. Today, September 15, Kitty debuts the first single from her upcoming album, her first body of original music. She also sings, raps, and delivers spoken word poetry on the album, all of which she wrote in collaboration with musicians like Shelley, (the artist formerly known as Dram) and Kiana Ledé, who is featured on the new single, titled “Just Fine.” It’s a moment she describes as “vulnerable,” one in which she's opening up to her audiences, revealing the layers to her personality she’s previously kept hidden.
“As a young Black woman who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, I naturally had an extremely hard exterior,” she says. “But with my therapist, and post-Covid, I realized it’s okay to celebrate and honor all the work I’ve put in, especially since I've been doing it for myself.”
The yet-to-be-named album doesn’t have an official release date, but Kitty says it’s almost done (“When it’s really, 100 percent done, it’ll be this artifact,” she says with palpable excitement). She’s been working on the album since the pandemic began—a time when she would usually be on the road, traveling from city to city DJ’ing shows. “Some DJs went crazy not having live performances,” she says. “So they did live streams, they did Twitch. I decided to work on an album.”
During lockdown, Kitty was also working on a personal project that ended up being key to creating the upcoming album. She put together a new IGTV series called Kitty’s World, a show based upon the classic BET talk show Cita’s World. For the series, Kitty created an avatar of herself that would reflect upon a Black woman’s experience in each episode. She touched on the Black Lives Matter protests, the death of George Floyd, and her everyday life—revealing a different side of herself to thousands of viewers.
“Kitty’s World was the prelude to my album,” she says, adding playfully that she loves “foreshadowing.” (“I’m that nerdy girl, who, when I read a book, I’m like, ‘Bitch! Is this what’s going to happen?!’”) “It was a way for me to start to open up. I don’t talk that much, but I was talking my ass off on that. It was so much fun because people were like, wait, I didn’t know you felt that way. I didn’t know you were a fan of Dr. Cornell West or loved this, or was into that. It was an interesting way to approach culture and what was going on in real time—and a way for people to start getting to know me, even though it was through an animated, caricature of Kitty Cash.”
Getting to know Kitty Cash starts in Ditmas Park, the suburban-like neighborhood in central Brooklyn where Cachee Livingston was raised. Following graduation from high school, she moved upstate to attend community college—but returned to New York City to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology shortly thereafter. She met the singer and rapper Kilo Kish, with whom she became close—soon, she started DJ’ing Kish’s shows, and almost instantaneously blew up. She began opening for Skrillex and doing tours all over Europe while working in public relations for the clothing brand G-Star. But since 2015, Kitty has been fully focused on production work, making music with the likes of Kelela and Willow Smith.
Although she speaks at a rapid-fire pace, using genial terms of endearment with near-strangers, she insists she was raised as “a very private person.” “Some people on social media are so open with all facets of their life,” she says in amazement. “They’re going to show you when they wake up with a head-tie, when they make dinner, when they’re with their family, every portion of their life. I’ve never been the best person at that. I do post, but I’m one of those people who, when I’m with my family, I’m giving them 200 percent of my time and energy. I put my phone down.” But Kitty's World was a way to start letting people into different parts of her life, showing them glimpses of how she internalizes information and her perspective on the world around her.
While Kitty’s World was gaining traction, the musician was still hard at work on the album—or at least, one version of it. Right in the middle of creating the work, she took a trip to the Dominican Republic with Shelley and folks from her label, Love Renaissance. They listened to tons of house music, Amapiano, Afro beats, and tribal house tunes. By the end of her stay in DR, Kitty returned to New York City reinvigorated—and ready to make a whole new album from scratch. “I was like, ‘We gotta revisit our song, because I want it to feel like this!,’” she recalls. “I want it to feel like when we woke up in the morning, when Shelley would come into our room and sing ‘Gooood morning!’ in falsetto. We didn't need an alarm!”
Kitty sees the process as unfolding exactly as it was meant to, even if it took so many years. Having been in the industry for nearly a decade, I mention that she’s not technically a “New Face,” to which she responds: “I’m definitely warranted to be a ‘New Face,’ because this is a new chapter. Anyone who’s made that hat transition from a DJ to a DJ producer—from the Questloves to the DJ Premieres and DJ Dramas of the world—that comes because it shows a dedication to your craftsmanship, a dedication to the love of music.”
“As a DJ, you’re able to make people feel good and bring people on a journey through music,” Kitty adds. “But it’s different when you’re actually able to write about your thoughts and feelings, vocalize them, and let them all out.”