DJ RAP (DRUM & BASS LEGEND/DJ/PRODUCER/LABEL CEO)
KILLA KELA: You have a career that spans decades and you have so much stuff going on currently, with streaming, your record label and of course the DJing, this is all pure tenacity, where does that come from?
DJ RAP: I don’t know but, I do know that this is what I was born to do. I’m meant to bring people together through music and I’ve always known that.
When I was younger I wanted to be famous but after a while that diminishes. I’ve had all the fame I could possibly want, I sold three million records, I was living in America, I signed to Sony, I was going to the Grammys and I realized it’s not actually that fun. I guess my desire and tenacity came when I realized that what I actually want is to create for others and it’s not really about myself. It took a long time to get there because I had to put my ego in check and I had to lose everything to start again. I like entrepreneurship. I’m happy in front of the cameras but I’m also happy with the back end of the business and I find that all more intriguing and mentally challenging.
KILLA KELA: What’s a day in the life of DJ rap like?
DJ RAP: Well I have a pretty strict schedule that I adhere to and that helps me stay organized and mentally balanced. I get up at 8:30 and I’ll spend half an hour in bed listening to podcasts. At 9 am I feed my dog, eat breakfast. From 10 till 1 I work on emails, I then go to work out for two hours. At 3 I’ll walk the dog. From 4 till 10pm I’m working in an office doing admin stuff like designing merchandise, handling vinyl, uploading label releases, doing album artwork, editing videos, and content scheduling for my social media. After I eat dinner, I usually hit the studio and then I go to bed at 2am and end up watching tik tok till 3. On the weekends I’m doing gigs.
KILLA KELA: How did it feel being an up-and-coming DJ in London in the late 80s and 90s? What were the obstacles?
DJ RAP : I think I was lucky I was there at the right time and I seized the moment and it was a good moment and I don’t think we’ll ever have anything like that again. Before the jungle was even a thing really. It was such a wonderful time. It’s funny when I look at interviews from back in the day, I had this mental cockney accent and I just looked at that girl I was and thought, God she was so confident. I almost didn’t recognize myself, I felt bulletproof and I really believed that I didn’t have any obstacles and I saw everything as a positive, so even though there were challenges like girls weren’t allowed to play in the main room, I didnt let it stop me.
KILLA KELA: Wow, so that was really a thing? No girl DJs in the main room?
DJ RAP: Absolutely, we were all put in the secondary room and you got the main boys in the main room. I would just be scowling. I remember that very first gig was in Astoria and I was playing with the girls in the Keith Moon bar. This guy came up to me and he asked, “How are you doing, Rap? and I was like “it’s all right but look at these decks they are fisher price they are built from lego and needles are crap.” He goes “what’s your problem?” and I said “my problem is I’m good enough to be in there and I want to be in there!”. He just patted me on the head, laughed and told me he was the promoter that booked me. A few weeks later, Fabio didn’t turn up for a set and the promoter said you better be as good as you say you are and that night we made history because it was the first time a female was ever allowed to play the main room. I got fired four weeks later because I asked for the same pay as the boys.
I remember at the time my agent said “who do you think you are? Fabio?” And I said “ if I’m good enough to play, I’m good enough to get the same money!” My mouth got me into so much trouble. I was gutted because I lost that booking but then what happened was that every promoter wanted to have the first girl to ever play the main stage and it became my gimmick. And whilst the door was open because of my gender, I also have to be able to walk through that door and deliver. I had to be great.
KILLA KELA: You’re the CEO of your own record label, what is it that you look for in a new artist?
DJ RAP: Well first, you can’t just be a dj you do have to produce and secondly the bar it’s really ridiculously high in the industry and drum and bass music is the hardest music to make, so you have to be really good. Always be learning and improving your skills.
I’m trying to work with people that aren’t going to demand so much of my time so I can give the time to the music that they’ve given me. They’ve got to be able to promote themselves on social media and have a presence online. Unfortunately music doesn’t really even make you that much money, the money it’s all the other things that are tied within the tree of music, so artists really are brands now and I need them to come prepared to put the work in.
KILLA KELA: What’s the future?
DJ RAP: I’m still as hungry as ever before, I feel like I haven’t had a chance to make
the music I really want to make. I haven’t even started to scratch the surface of what I feel I’m capable of . I’ve got six unreleased albums from back in the day that I’m waiting to produce them in the way I hear them in my head.
Besides the music and the label, I have the tribe which is in my own community and subscriber group that is now in its third year and growing . I’m developing a youtube show right now which is called Playing with the Boys. I’m combining my love of travel, adventure and music. The concept is we go away for four to five days and just experience music and various activities. We go to the festival that I’m playing at and I invite somebody from my VIPS and Superfan levels of my tribe group, all expenses paid. They come out and experience those four days with me. The reason it’s called playing with the Boys is because I am playing with the male djs but we are also doing activities like car racing, driving tanks, shooting rifles. It’s gonna be an amazing time.
Watch the Killa Kela Podcast DJ RAP episode on the Kelavison App, Youtube and all good podcast platforms.