DJ Rap on pirate radio, money-grabbing whores, and "French Kiss"

By Ken Taylor

DJ Rap is the kind of artist who has done it all. With a career that spans back to the early ’90s, Rap (aka Charissa Saverio) has collaborated with top-tier producers, founded and run two of her own record labels, released 1999′s platinum-selling Learning Curve LP, and just basically ruled in the fields of drum & bass, breaks, and beyond—and that’s to say nothing of her modelling and acting stints. Along with having her contribute a chart to our Icons and Their Inspirations series, we tapped the Singapore-born, LA-based DJ Rap to share with us some of the songs and events that shaped her early musical path. Read on to check it all out, and grab her corresponding chart here.

What was the first record that turned you on to electronic music?

The first three were Inner City‘s “Good Life,” Soul II Soul‘s “Keep on Movin’,” and Honesty 69‘s “French Kiss”!


Do you remember what sort of system you played them on?

Yes, a pub in Hackney, East London, called the Hackney Arms. Then, before that, on pirate radio stations like Rave FM and Fantasy FM.

Tell us about the scene in London at the time. Were there radio DJs that you admired? What were their shows like?

No, us pirate DJs ruled the airwaves. DJ Hype was my favorite, along with Jumping Jack Frost and Fabio.

Who were your first favorite electronic artists?

My producer heroes were Todd Terry, Dave Angel, Lil’ Louis, Ozone Breakdown, Roni Size, and too many more to mention. “French Kiss” is my all time favorite track and “Can You Feel It” by Fingers Inc. is a close second.


What was it about those artists that particularly appealed to you?

They made really memorable music. I think these days it is hard to find memorable music that sounds timeless, and they did that without computers—amazing!

How do you feel their legacy has impacted music—including yours—over the years?

I am always trying to create and attain that vibe when I produce. I strive to make something that sticks; not a trend or flavor of the month.

Have you at any point met these artists in real life?

Yes, all of them and more. I had to—this was my religion and they were my gods.

What were your first pieces of electronic-music-making gear?

Oh, wow! A Citronic turntable (only one), a four-track, a tape deck, and an Ensoniq keyboard.

Did you have any mentors when you were starting out?

Yeah, Foxy who ran Fantasy FM. He believed in me and gave me a start. There were a lot of good people back then. We were in it for the right reasons, not money-grabbing whores—know what I mean? All we wanted was to dance. There was very little politics in the beginning; it was a pure thing.

Tell us about your first big break, musically.

Paul Oakenfold signing my first record in 1988 was certainly a start. Then teaming up with Aston from Freestylers and making more and more classics, like “Spiritual Aura.” I am sure producing 10 major hits helped when I opened my own Propa Talent label, but my first big break actually came from Mick Clarke, who signed me to Sony after hearing my self-produced album Intelligence, which had both songs as well as dance blended together. No one had ever done that in our scene before. I was the first, and that made him sit up and notice and ask for more.

Have there been artists that you’ve mentored over the years there, and can you tell us a bit about them if so?

I am kind of a lone wolf in the studio, though I have loved my collaborative experiences with BT, Erick Morillo, and Crystal Method, to name a few. But all the artists on both of my labels (Propa and Impropa Talent) are amazing. All you have to do is listen to the releases I have on the Beatport page to know I speak the truth.

Tell us about your Icons chart—any specific approach you took to assembling it? Can you tell us about why you chose, say, three of the tracks on the list?

I did this in order of the time the tracks first impacted me, so, of course, Fingers Inc. and “French Kiss” had to be first. Each track really changed me and has a special place in my heart that connects me to a wonderful memory I have in my brain. The first time I really understood bass was when I heard Dillinja. I could go on and on and on. It is hard to find music that impacts me this way now, or maybe I am just too picky about what I play. It’s out there, you just have to look harder than the 100 chart.

Who are your favorite new artists these days?

Nero is my hero. Most of the new artists I like are not in the electronic scene, like Mutemath. Static Revenger also has some interesting remixes. There are a lot of fantastic producers out there who are so clever. I am blown away by the skills of the few that deliver. Most of them are not the usual suspects that anyone would know, like System 22. I love him!

Any tracks of theirs you’d like to share?

No, you should only buy my music! [laughs]

Check out DJ Rap’s Icons chart here.