Charissa Saverio (aka DJ Rap) is a one-woman show to be admired: three million records sold; voted world’s best female DJ; toured the world, played the best parties. Aside from her accomplishments, she has also taken on the roles of representation and management, acting as her own agent, creating her own sound, and running her own record labels. As the tune goes, the sister is doing it for herself.
Taking the reins on her own has paid off. She’s had four Top-10 hits this past six months, along with her “Spiritual Aura” remixes, which hit #1 for over a month.
“Working on ‘Spiritual’ was exciting because there’s a lot of English remixes with people like Blade Runner, Saxon and Silent Code,” she explains. “We have some hardstep remixes with people like TI, Outsource and Killing Time coming up, just to mention a few. I also did a SoundCloud competition to search for new producers.”
The drum & bass world has embraced her as an artist since 1988, and it shows. Her empire consists of two record labels—Propa Talent, which features drum & bass, jungle and dubstep, and Impropa Talent, which features house music. Her tunes can be heard not only on dancefloors, but also in numerous films, video games and on England’s Sony and America’s Columbia labels from 2000 to 2005.
But the one element that has finally brought her true fulfillment has been the opportunity to teach Ableton and a full DJ course at Dubspot in Los Angeles. Giving back has been a good influence.
“That’s why I’m on fire now and producing a lot, including the new album,” she explains with excitement. “For the first time in over four years, I feel 100 percent back in love with music. Dubspot is special, because all of the teachers are actively touring producers who are certified Ableton teachers. We all inspire each other and are a big family.”
Her current path follows a four-year break from the biz—a breath of fresh air and what she calls “enrichment for the soul.” After extensive output but a significant lack of input, a life change was calling. This urge to adjust arrived with a few eye-opening experiences. She took inventory of all aspects of her life—the physical, emotional, spiritual and financial. Hard touring for 25 years and paying management most of her earnings was draining.
“It’s my fucking music,” she says sternly. “I had to take control. I dropped everything and learned it all by myself, including how to run a label. I felt like I could do a better job managing and taking care of myself. I felt lackluster in my life about many things.
“Life is all about adjusting, adapting and rolling with it. With the problems that were occurring, I looked to the universe for what it was telling me. I looked for the meaning in it and decided to make positive changes.”
Like all career-driven success stories, Saverio’s has had ups and downs. She compares her situation then to a novelist experiencing writer’s block. In order to move forward, she took a step back, cleared her space, and put music on hold. She explored other avenues of interest and found herself immersed into the world of acting.
“I literally had to walk away from music for a while,” she says. “I went into acting because I felt like I needed something new creatively to bring me back to life. I started to become happy again and realized I was good at doing other things.”
Saverio’s “silence from music,” as she refers to it, did wonders for her spirit. Feeling alive again, she thrived creatively and tested the boundaries of her newfound skills. The production company Electric Run—responsible for music on The Amazing Race—asked Saverio to be their musical director.
“That was amazing,” she says of the position. “I got to program all these different stages of the race. I was then asked to do the music production for more shows. I realized then that it wasn’t the production I disliked, but the heavy touring. So I slowed down.
“That’s the beauty of music,” she says, offering advice to new artists. “Some people say, ‘Oh, you’re just a DJ,’ but I don’t know anyone who’s just a DJ. We all do so many things. My advice is to not pigeonhole yourself. Do whatever you can. Expand your weaponry and your arsenal. Surround yourself with people who can help you overcome your weaknesses.”
DJ Rap plays Zanzibar in Santa Monica, CA, on October 19.
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by Lori Denman-Underhill