DJ Rap: Talking Life, Love, and Holiday Fun
By Britney Hardweare
One question women find them constantly asking themselves is: can I have it all? But despite what what we all imagine, even fame and fortune can’t distance women from experiencing workplace sexism and work-life balance struggle. Just ask three of the top female DJs in the industry: DJ Rap, DJ Princess Cut, and DJ Mami Chula. DJ Rap gives meaning to the word triple threat. She is not only a world-renowned DJ, but she is also an emerging actress and the founder of a DJ music school, Music Tech Collective. Along with being Neiman Marcus Atlanta’s official DJ and working on the launch of her own festival-themed clothing line in Spring 2016, DJ Princess Cut shares the same passion for teaching at her all-vinyl DJ school, Scratch Out Loud. After her work at Hot 107.9 and 95.5 The Beat in Atlanta, DJ Mami Chula has moved on in her success as a DJ at Fit Radio. These women have worked tirelessly to climb the ladder of success, all in the name of following their dreams. Each of them sat down to talk with Hers about lessons from their journeys, their favorite holiday traditions, and what they’d like to hear around the Christmas tree this holiday season!
BH: Alrighty. Well, first off, I wanted to thank you for taking out the time to interview with me. This is huge, like you’re the top DJ in the world right now, it’s crazy. It’s a little surreal.
DR: *laughs* Top female. I’d like to say top, but the boys have that one *chuckle*
BH: I mean, if you’re the top female DJ, I’m pretty sure you’re not far from being the top DJ.
DR: Yeah, but I try not to put them together, you know what I mean, it’s kind of…yeah. We all bleed the same way, I think.
BH: True. Very true. So how’s the day going today. I know you’re three hours behind so…
DR: Good, I’m teaching a lot of students at the moment so I just finished a course—
BH: You’re teaching?!
DR: Yeah! I started my own music school, so we can start there I guess. So it’s Music Tech Collective. It’s a new music school we’ve launched for two weeks where I teach students, so feel free to check it out at musictechcollective.com and see what we do. I’m teaching Ableton and some workshops, and paying it forward because, you know, that’s what it’s about.
BH: Alright. So I see you have a lot of causes. I saw your website; I saw you had a lot of causes under your belt that you support like Save the Children and I know you had some other ones but that’s really cool that you’re really hands on in your activism.
DR: Yeah and I’m active about multiple things like saving the whales, I feel strongly and passionate about education and so, you know, it’s just great to pass on years of experience. It’s huge, you know? It’s a beautiful thing to do. Yeah, I think, additionally, when you start your career, you’re making it all about you. And then, as you grow and have a blessed terrific career and many good things, you realize that you want to be able to be thankful about that and do something good with it. Rather than just doing the Jesus Christ pose, I want to do more than that. So yeah. *chuckles*
BH: Well, pay it forward any way you can. [So] you talked about how you started out thinking about yourself, but how did you get your start in the DJ circuit?
DR: Well, I started out in 1988 and basically had my first record out by— you know it was so long ago, I was raving then— I had my first record out by, I think it was 1990, but I was making music that early on. I’m just a freak of nature; I look like I’m, you know, early 30s, but I’m a lot older than I look. So I’m a freak of nature; I have my mom’s good genes, which is great. I started out very, very early and I was going to raves in 1986. You know, because they’re right at the conception of the whole Acid House era and everything like that. So I basically had my first record out on a label called Raw Bass Records and I continued to be fascinated by the studio and wires, and learning how to produce and lived in studios. started out making coffee and then just really learning how to wire and unwire every single element of that and becoming proficient in the world of production. I wasn’t interested in boys; I was interested in wires.
And in those days, there were plenty of wires. It was machines, tape sheet cutting reel to reel and it was completely different experience to what it is now. And you really did have to know your stuff; you couldn’t just rely on—you don’t have the programs that they have now where there are sync buttons and you don’t even have to think about anything. True artistry, I feel, is lost a lot now with technology as well as the advancement of technology enhancing artistry. So it’s a love-hate relationship, but in those days you had to really know what you were doing, you know? That was my life. I was just in love with all of that and then I decided to produce—being a classically trained pianist—and I decided to go on pirate radio stations to promote those records. And [I] became very successful, very quickly, doing that—being the first female DJ to really get the attention. I wasn’t the first female DJ, but I was the first one to get the same money as the boys, play in the main room as the boys and it just became my thing. I just refused to, you know—I never forget a promoter coming up to me and saying, “oh honey, girls can’t play in the main room.” And can’t lives on won’t street as far as I’m concerned; that was just like a red flag to a bull, so I made it my mission to just, you know? I was just like, what the fuck is he talking about? Idiot. And so you know, I was just like, what are you talking about? Why not? And that was my thing: why not? Why? You know, I don’t get that; it doesn’t make sense to me. It does not compute, therefore, it is not possible. So I was just like, Alright. Let’s see about that, shall we? That’s basically what happened there. That’s how I got my start and then the record became—the first record I put out became—Single of the Week. Honestly, it was very, very lucky; [it was] very easy in those days to be successful if you had the talent because, you know, you had to look at it from that point of view. There wasn’t any female DJs; I was the first one kicking ass on the main floor, getting paid. So it’s a lot harder now. Sexism now, I feel, is well more alive and kicking than it ever was before. I feel like it’s harder to break into anything than it was then. And then I was lucky. I met a wonderful man called B Clark and I had a label called Hologram on Sony. And he noticed that I put an album out on my label; I was the first person to put an album out on their own label and it was a song. He said, “oh, you’re interested in songs,” and I was like, “yeah I not just interested in dance music. I’m interested in music period.” And then I got a record deal with Columbia/Sony and sold millions of records and that’s basically–it just kept growing from there. And I toured all over the world and it was my thing. Then about 4 years ago, I felt that it would be a good time to start teaching, and I started teaching privately and getting into it. I love touring, but it was becoming—there was no balance in my life. I just was on a plane Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and I just felt that it would be good to start getting some balance, maybe see what it would be like to have a relationship or two, *laughs* have dogs, and have a normal life. But now I have a nice balance, which is good…
READ the interview in its entirety in HERS latest issue!