The DJ Rap story | Features | MN2S

Recent MN2S signing DJ Rap has been there, done that and modelled the T-shirt. From her early days helping to shape the sound of hardcore, jungle and drum & bass through to her years as major label artist with Sony and modelling for Armani and Calvin Klein, through to her recent film work and her current multi-faceted musical incarnations, she has been a true pioneer and one of the most enduring names in dance music. We called her up at her home in Los Angeles to find out how she got started, to talk about key moments in her career and to hear about what she’s got coming up.

How where and when did you first start DJing?

I left home at 14 and I moved in with a bunch of crazy models. They were like ‘you’ve gotta try raving, it’s really cool’. And I believe the first rave I went to, I saw Dave Angel playing – who I’m still in contact with! He was playing at Wallis Road in Hackney Wick, and I remember walking in and there was this gorgeous guy DJing – he was stunning – and he was all dressed in white, and I remember that probably because I was slightly ‘enhanced’ at the time, he just looked like an angel! And that was it – I was hooked. It was just this amazing music. This was before drum and bass. Then I was just a real raver. I raved at every opportunity. I loved it. I went through that whole spectrum of what was going on then. It was just incredible – the whole acid house sound – listening to Paul Oakenfold, Boy George, Mr. C… all those cats. It was my religion.

DJ Rap model

I was at the Ibiza Rave in Hackney, and Dem 2 were on and they played the Suzanne Vega ‘Tom’s Diner’ sampling track, Shut Up & Dance’s ‘Ten Pounds To Get In’ – and NO-ONE had that. It just stopped everyone dead in their tracks and they were like – what the fuck is this tune? And I remember looking at them and thinking – look what they’re doing to everyone! Look what he’s doing to me! This is incredible! And it was just like this… not god-like power, but almost like a giant hug that he was getting back from everybody. And I just turned round to my friends and went – that’s it, this is what I want to do. And they were all like – yay we don’t have to pay to get into raves anymore! So the next day I got my tape deck and Syntronic turntable and I was trying to mix into the tape deck and it was shit. That was my a-ha moment of how I was going start.

Then I met DJ Hype and he was like, “oh, you’re interested in DJing? You should meet Foxy – he owns a pirate radio station.” Before that actually I went on Rave FM – which was called Centreforce back then – and did a little stint with Cool Hand Flex, but I wanted my own show. So Hype introduced me to Foxy and he had Fantasy FM – which was kind of the biggest station then along with Centreforce. It didn’t take long for me to get my own show there, and it was an amazing experience. I started off doing the graveyard shift with another girl called Stacey Tuff, and there was porn all over the walls so I fought with everyone about that! It was hilarious. A lot of spirit. And then eventually Foxy gave me my own show because it became really popular.

It didn’t take long before Fantasy started doing gigs, and you’re talking about 80-100,000 people listening to you every day, so if I released a record it just went straight away. We weren’t in that introvert state of – let’s all hold on to our dubplates and try and be as cool as we can possibly fucking be. Everybody was sharing music, which is why the music was so popular, which is why we were all very successful. It’s a philosophy I happen to believe in!

Do you think it was easier or harder to break into DJing back then?

From my point of view, it was very easy for me to break into it, because once people realised I wasn’t just a good DJ but that I was also a good producer… being a woman… although it was difficult, it definitely helped a lot because that novelty aspect was like – there wasn’t anyone doing that. When I look at what it’s like now, especially for female DJs, I think it’s incredibly difficult for anybody – let alone the women. It seems to be now that the flavour is that there’s so many producers and so many people that everybody has their five minutes, but there isn’t really anyone huge breaking through for a really long time. So I think it’s easy to get noticed because there’s SoundCloud and all these things, but I think there’s such a flood of music and there’s so much accessibility because of the internet that it’s really hard to stand out.

DJ Rap model

The era that I came from was that if you were really good, you broke out in a really big way, and you got a massive record deal and it was just a huge thing. And I still have a career 30 years later – so when I look at it like, who’s had a career that’s lasted that long and is consistent and putting out the material… even the biggest DJs today are pretty much just big for five or six years, then they’re done. Having said that, they earn more money than we ever did in that time! The Vegas deals, the whole thing with those DJs… although I was the first DJ along with Moby to break America, do billboards, TV commercials, that sort of stuff. I’m not one of those haters. I feel like if opportunity comes your way… you should take it. Damn right if someone offered me a commercial or offered me a billboard to do Caterpillar or Calvin Klein or Armani. Of course I’m gonna say yes! I’ve already earned my dues.

How did you find the experience of being signed to a major label?

I had a positive, wonderful experience. Sony were amazing to me. The only negative experience I ever had was from the drum and bass scene – because I dared to go commercial. They put every resource they had into making that record work. They worked really hard and I worked really hard, and I even moved here [to LA] to continue working really hard on it.

Your label Propa Talent is still going strong after over 20 years. How different is running a label now compared to when you started?

I know what I’m doing now ha ha! It’s all smoothly done, it’s a lot easier to do now. It was a giant pain in the ass. It always worked though. I think people just trust the brand, and that I’m gonna put something good out. The thing I do with my label that is different from everybody else is that I scour the internet for new talent, and all my remixes are up and coming producers. So I shine a light on new talent. I’m all about that. Also it helps that I teach music constantly, so I’m completely plugged into the raw new talent that’s out here in LA. And you have to understand – I’ve had these relationships in place with the label for 15 years. I’m a person who if they have a good relationship, it lasts a long time. All the deals I got in place when I had ‘Learning Curve’ are still in place.

So now you’re playing both drum and bass and more housey stuff right? Do you feel it’s easier for you to reconcile these different sides of your musical personality now?

Yeah, I’ve got a doppelgänger thing going on called Darkwav for darker house, and I’m going to start producing under that name very soon. It’s almost tech house, bordering on techno – which is what I’m interested in for that, with a little progressive splash in there. A big kick drum with all the elements. I guess it’s that Ibiza sound that I love so much – that massive big room sound. I’ve always been brought up with that and have played Ibiza for many years at Pacha.

The drum and bass stuff – if I’m doing a two-hour set, it’s probably a good hour-and-a-half of all the modern stuff with all the new stuff that I’m making, and then the last half-hour will be the classics. Because people love to hear that. And I love to play it, still. And not everybody has those records, so it’s new for a lot of people when they’re listening to it.

I’ve been doing ‘schizophrenic’ music since I started. If you listen to my first album ‘Intelligence’, there’s songs on there – they’re awful – but there’s different stuff, and it got me a record deal! You have to be smart about it. I’m not going to go to a drum ‘n’ bass gig and play house. It depends on the kind of gig.

What’s coming up for you this year then?

I’m going to be focusing very much on my music this year and not so much on other artists. I’m working on a song-based, different vibe project as well. I’m not sure when that’s going to happen and I’m starting this month to work on that. Outside the box, I’ve got six movies coming out that I’m in – one that just got released this month called ‘The Principle’, which is kind of like ‘The Theory Of Everything’. It’s a documentary and I’m a hologram in it. It’s pretty cool. The acting thing is just something I do for fun though. I’m getting into production and all of that. It’s just nice to do different things. I’m just a person who is happiest when they’re creating.

And teaching at Dubspot and teaching Ableton… your standard in your production just changes completely. I love teaching. It’s an awesome way to give back to a career that’s given so much to me. And then doing some tours too!

Click here to enquire about DJ Rap via the MN2S booking agency.

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