Queen of the jungle

Crushing critics, DJ Rap beats Madonna at her own game.

MY EDITOR SAID I couldn't write an article about DJ Rap if I mentioned her breasts or how hot she is. So this article will talk neither about DJ Rap's bodacious tatas nor the fact that she's incredibly easy on the eye. Instead, the next 600 words will be dedicated to one of the most famous women in electronic music, who just made the album Madonna wished she could have recorded.

Dj Rap

ARO.space, Thursday, September 9

Madonna's got nothing on DJ Rap, whose first major label foray, Learning Curve, is a slick confection of pop songs, embellished with touches of trance and techno, topped by breakbeats. Certainly it's not groundbreaking material, and at times it's not even that interesting since the sheen is so shiny it wipes away any edge that might once have existed. But Rap, who wrote, produced, sang, and engineered the record (with Aidan Love), didn't really need a William Orbit figure to help her out in the studio. She can twiddle her own knobs, thank you.

Rap's technical prowess isn't a recent development. Before she was DJ Rap, pop star and media darling, Rap (a.k.a. Charissa Saverio) broke ground in the burgeoning UK dance scene as one of the first prominent female DJs. Her big break came when she was asked to play the main room at the Astoria, where jungle's godfathers, Grooverider and Fabio, held court. "Basically Fabio didn't turn up for the main floor," Rap says on the phone from New York. "I'd been harassing the promoters, 'Why am I in this little room? This is where the girls play. I don't want to be in this room. I want to be in the main floor.' And he's like, 'No women ever play the main floor.' So I bugged him and bugged him and bugged him. Fabio didn't turn up and he (the promoter) came up to me and said, 'You know what—you're going to be the first one to do it. Go.' I was playing the main floor, and from that night on I refused to play the little room. I was like, 'You know what? You can't put me in here and expect me to go back there. I'm not doing it."

It's this hard-headed, take-no-bullshit attitude that's earned her a spot in the top ranks of other drum and bass DJs. Though this is Rap's first time in the mainstream spotlight, her name recognition is equal to that of Roni Size, Goldie, or Ed Rush and Optical on the underground jungle circuit. Thanks to two early singles, "Spiritual Aura" and "Ambience/The Adored," now considered classics, and the two prominent jungle labels that she runs, Proper Talent and Low Key, Saverio's earned her place in jungle's history books.

It's easy to see, then, why Rap's recent rise to pop stardom has some diehards grumbling. Snickers of "sell out" and "she wasn't very good, anyway" linger in the background, but Rap rolls these rips off her well-rounded shoulders. "I've had a few people who I've heard say 'Oh, she's selling out.' I'm like, 'Oh, please. You must have a small dick.' Of course, I'm selling out," she says sarcastically. "Yeah, that's right. That's why I'm still up and down the country every week DJing, why I'm putting out a jungle album, why I'm still putting out releases on my label. Oh, yeah, that's right. Grow up. Get a personality."

Before she was a pop star, and before she was Queen of the Jungle, Rap studied classical piano—a remnant of a childhood spent in and out of convents and boarding schools around the world. It wasn't until 1987 that she was exposed to rave music—and after a single dose (literally and figuratively), she was hooked. Never one to stagnate, Saverio, in addition to touring with a live four-piece band that includes drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards, is gearing up to release a full-length record on Proper Talent. Featuring acts like Mickey Finn, DJ Hype, Kenny Ken and G-Squad, a few from herself, and promotion for Learning Curve in full swing, Rap's got a busy year ahead of her.

"I'm just as passionate about drum and bass as I am [about Learning Curve]," she explains. "I just need to do more than one thing. I think it does [get boring]. I kind of got to a point in my life where years ago, I needed to be challenged. It was just too easy. I have to change myself every so often anyway, just change everything, 'cause change is good. It keeps you fresh."

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