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DJ Rap Interview
by Steven Ratz, Jr.

November 2003

(Article Exclusive to Disc Jockey 101)

With her chameleonic nature, the ever adapting DJ Rap stays one step ahead by continually reinventing herself, while dragging the whole drum 'n' bass movement into a new age with her. During these difficult times in the music industry, the now legendary DJ Rap (otherwise known as Charissa Saverio) displays the leadership acquired from her years of hard won knowledge as a skilled DJ, remixer, producer, label owner, and perhaps most importantly inspiration to her legions of fans, by recognizing the realities of the current state of dance music, and doing whatever it takes to adjust to new tastes and technology.

DJ Rap's latest audio offering is entitled Touching Bass, released domestically on the Surge imprint in June 2003. A double CD set, it consists of mixes that should pleasantly surprise her fans, showcasing her versatility. "This one again was a chance to do something a little different because it's breaks as well as drum 'n' bass. So it was fun to do that, and it kind of represents my show on XM. And just doing something a little eclectic," she explained. "I like to do things that are a little different. It's not totally what you expect but it's different, and the cool thing is that the people that have grown up listening to my music know that I do all kinds of different things. It's not just about drum 'n' bass, so that was my main reason for doing it. I'm not a huge mix CD person, I don't really believe in churning them out, putting them out. I think the market's really weird right now. So it was just nice to do something a little different in between the artist record coming out, and it gives you a good excuse to tour and do stuff! So it was good to do for those reasons."

The idea for Touching Bass came from DJ Rap's hugely popular underground club night in L.A., appropriately called Hush Hush. DJ Rap elaborated, "I do a club night, whenever I feel like it I throw it. Generally when a good DJ's in town I'll throw a party, and it's called Hush Hush because we don't do any press, we don't do any promotion, and it's sold out every time. It's a really good night, and I start it off playing breaks there. I don't do drum 'n' bass there."

Word of the Hush Hush events eventually spread to the XM Radio people, who approached DJ Rap about the possibility of doing a three hour mixshow, featuring house, drum 'n' bass, and breaks. Incorporating varied genres into the satellite radio show, DJ Rap is especially happy to add another element as well. "I do the old school house from 1988 to 1990 which is my best part of the show. My favorite part, playing records which got me into the scene," she raves, adding, "and then probably I'll have a guest DJ on which I've found, or up and coming, or it'll be someone like DJ Dan or, you know a big DJ. It depends. So again it's a very eclectic show, so that's why I was like, well if I do a CD, I want to do something like what I'm already doing. Something that's a little different."

Reminiscing a bit more on where she came from, the "queen of the jungle" DJ Rap shared more about her pioneering days in dance music, about what is now affectionately referred to as old school house. "In fact every DJ really who's been in the game as long as I have probably started off spinning house, and that's how it was," she insists. "My first record, which was on Perfecto, Oakenfold signed it, was actually a house tune. So it makes me laugh when all these drum 'n' bass guys are like 'I hate house,' I'm like 'duh hate your roots then, I guess.' In fact my first PA was with Fast Eddie and Tyree Cooper, 'Dancing.' I have a collection you wouldn't believe right now. I have a prized collection in my house that is like, you could not pay me millions for those records, because each one holds a memory of a rave or something. It's like 5000 records that are just precious cargo."

Not wanting to be pigeonholed as a strictly drum 'n' bass artist, and building on her varied interests in dance music, has led DJ Rap to secure a coveted spot on XM Radio, which has in turn created even more opportunities. "The show on XM then led to the Playstation Tour with Ferry Corsten which is all breaks, and doing Spundae. So the breaks thing seems to have really taken off now, which is really cool, it's refreshing to do something a little different." In addition to the XM show and world tours, DJ Rap is included in Bad Boy Bill's current Billboard charting CD/DVD Behind The Decks, has been selected to host Spike TV's new DJ themed show Remix, and secured a mixshow in her current city of residence, Chicago, on Q101 FM.

Featured in a national ad campaign for Twix candy bar all Summer, DJ Rap explained why she really agreed to appear in television commercials for the global confectioner. "The reason for doing the Twix commercial, apart from getting a lifetime supply of chocolate, which every girl wants, is I'm actually filming a documentary in Africa and London about big corporations like Nestle," she revealed. "80 percent of your chocolate probably comes from the Ivory Coast in Africa, places like that, and there's a lot of child slave labor being used. And so you have these ten year olds who are walking every day with massive sacks of cocoa beans on their backs, getting kind of whipped and kicked, and treated in a really bad way. So I'm off to Africa to expose this, and it's my good deed for the year, and it's a good thing to do. So I thought it would be a cool thing to do, especially after I've received letters from kids who are going through a really hard time. I used to live in West Africa, so I'm kind of all about those different things, and I think it would be a life changing experience to go and actually do something that isn't really affiliated with DJing, but nevertheless would be a life changing experience. So that's really what's underneath the whole Twix thing. It's a big project, but it's something that's kind of close to my heart."

Making a move to the States from the UK was a complete leap of faith for the adventurous DJ Rap, where she's in a unique position to compare the distinct differences between the two dance music cultures, especially in the area of working with others in the scene. "Actually I'm into collaborating with everybody. I'm really into working with other people and collaborating because you come up with such great stuff. I'm friends with all the DJs. What's not to like? They're so cool. They're a lot more friendly than the drum 'n' bass DJs were initially. It's kind of like a very close club where people don't step out of their drum 'n' bass box. But we're all tight and it's like a huge family and I fell in lust with those guys, you know what I mean? There's a lot of history," she said of the UK scene. "But coming to America, I'll be here two years in February, I didn't have to go through this like blood, sweat and tears. Except it's like a fraternity with drum 'n' bass. You're like, you go through enough crap, you're in. Whereas with the American guys, they're just so nice straight off. They don't care what scene you come from. It's just like, 'yeah let's do a tune together it'll be great!' Like I'm doing the tour with Ferry Corsten, and next year it's myself and DJ Irene doing Chicks With Decks, then it's Dieselboy for a whole month doing the drum 'n' bass tour with MC Armanis, then I'm going on the road with DJ Dan, myself and DJ Irene doing a DVD tour for three weeks in a bus, which is fun. And it's just like cool, no one cares what scene, let's just pop in and out, and you know doing videos with BT, and hopping in and out. I love that. I think that's why jungle is probably this big, and other music is a lot bigger, and hip hop is huge because people integrate, collaborate, and I would like to see that happen a lot more with drum 'n' bass. I don't think they're quite ready for that, but I think they will be eventually. Because you can't keep the same flavor forever. You've got to keep moving and doing stuff."

Staying interactive is important for the forward looking DJ Rap, as evidenced by her website, where she shares thoughts and solicits feedback with her fans. "I think in this day and age where music is free and downloadable, I think the thing that isn't downloadable is your personality. And I don't think DJs can afford to be the superstar DJs that are so far removed from their fans. I just think that's a thing from the past now," she reasons. "I think it's much better to be up front, close and personal. Let's give you and example. Wouldn't it be cool if you could go to a website and speak to Brad Pitt? (laughs with a devilish grin) It's not going to happen, but wouldn't it be cool if you could be a little closer to the person that maybe you're interested in their craft or something? That's my whole thing, it's like with actors, their DVDs will be downloadable soon so they're going to go through the same thing we're all going through. And we're completely internalizing, cannibalizing ourselves right now. So it's interesting where it's going."
With the advent of file sharing programs and CD burning so prevalent, DJ Rap recognizes the reality, and endorses a shift in the way an artist maintains a relationship with their fans, and a slight change in the way of doing business, for discovering the key to success in this new environment in which everyone in the music industry finds themselves. "I think you have to have a little vision and see that the music is now going to be the small portion of everything. I'm all about have the music, take it, and here's what you can't download. So I'd rather you support me at my shows, and come and check all that side of things out," muses DJ Rap. "I think for me it's very important to be interactive, on the interact page, and it's just cool talking to people. It's nice. You're not so far away from it all. I think that's probably the reason my website gets so many hits, they know that when I'm a little trashed I'll get on there and talk to people, and when I'm not trashed and on tour it's nice to talk to people. It gets lonely touring, so it's nice being able to hook up to people at the end of the night and say 'what did you think of the show,' and blah, blah, blah. I actually get very respectful fans, so I get people who give me really good feedback. So it's cool. And the website is fully interactive, and there's a lot of stuff on there. I'm excited about it."

Busy in the production studio, DJ Rap is working fervently on her new original artist album, where she hopes to build on the success of her previous offering, Learning Curve. "The last record was out on Sony. I've since then left Sony and have five record labels that are interested right now in signing. So we're in a good place, and I've had the luxury of taking three years to make this new album, and I'm super anal about it. I've always had the privilege of working with some of the best song writers in the world, like Matrix and people like that who are super hot. And I feel that my craft is really much better now. This time around it's all about the songs. The songs are super strong and they're amazing, they're really good, and now we're working with producers which is exciting. We've got all different people, from Uberzone, to rock producers, like five or six different producers right now as we speak, working on stuff. So it's exciting because I'm starting to see it take shape, and we're about to go and decide which label we want to be with," she enthused.

Like an expectant mother waiting for her newborn child to finally see the light of day, DJ Rap promises to continue her trend of varied influences, world-class production, and keeping her fanbase in mind as she puts the finishing touches on her new album. "It'll be ready for next year. It has to come out next year!" she predicts. "It's exciting, it's a lot of electronic, it's a lot of guitar, it's really big sounding, it's very epic, and the songs are just dope songs. I'm super excited. It's my whole three years of work. It's like the longest labor, and I'm like ready to pop right now. Do you know what I mean? That's how it feels. With no Epidural!"

For more information please visit: www.propertalent.co.uk

US/North American Bookings - Joel Zimmerman @ The Collective Agency

Industry News

* Due to increased security at airports, many DJ's are being asked to open their record cases for security personnel. This is because the compressed stack of vinyl scans as a large black bulky object. To remedy this situation, many international DJ's (such as Paul van Dyk) are turning to Stanton's Final Scratch (digital vinyl via a laptop computer loaded with digital audio files).

* What's the hook gonna be? Speaking to Club DJ class at Scottsdale Community College, DJ Fashen (who recently won West Coast DJ of the Year 2003) stated that the typical hip hop hit is comprised of three hooks (the chorus of a song) and two verses. As results from a recent study by the University of Cincinnati College of Business show, some songs get stuck in our head because they create a "brain itch" that can only be scratched by repeating a tune over and over. Is a hook the cognitive itch described in the study? Perhaps this also explains the popularity of loop (repetitive) based electronic hits.i


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