The UK’s “1st Lady of Hip Hop” and “One Woman Wrecking Machine”, DJ Sarah Love has a genetic talent for music, over the last half-dozen years Sarah’s skills on the wheels of steel have been honed and recognized in live performances throughout five continents, and on urban music radio in the UK, USA, Australasia and Africa. Sarah has emerged as an international club DJ in an essentially male-dominated game, an elegant strong young woman.
What are your earliest memories of music and who were you listening to growing up?
Wow! Probably my parents band rehearsals and house parties. Being snuck into shows like Subterania to see Hugh Masekela. Going to my Mum’s South African musical theatre rehearsals. And rapping along to Slick Rick with my sister’s in their bedroom.
You were originally a drummer what got you into the art of DJing?
I thought vinyl and Hip Hop DJ’s were cool and I was always envisaging myself as one. Finally I obtained a pair or turntables and started teaching myself to DJ, then I started working at Deal Real Records store, which stepped it up a gear.
You studied a degree in Popular Music and Recording at University do you think that has helped you in your career?
Definitely! No doubt. You know, I’m a music nerd so I love to learn about music in all kinds of capacities. Knowledge is power right?
Who did you look up to when you started to DJ?
DJ’s Shortee Blitz, Tony Monson, Cash Money and Harry Love. I admired them all and wanted to be like them. They’re like idols to me.
What was your first big break?
I dunno if I had a ‘big break’ as such. Being a resident DJ at Kung Fu in London was where I first built my reputation and earned peoples respect. And working at Deal Real Records too, I guess that was a pivotal point for me as well.
Kung Fu was a legendary Hip Hop night held monthly in London where you were a resident DJ. What are some of your most memorable moments from then?
Wow, so many classic, special moments! The first ever Kung Fu I DJ’ed was the first time I ever played out and the first time we had Hip Hop at the party. Harry Love Birthday Bash with Taskforce & Guru was bananas. One of the last parties we did with Raekwon, Klashnekof & Ramson Badbones with 2000 people was incredible.
You also worked behind the counter of the original Deal Real Records which was the place to buy Hip Hop records. How important was it having a store like this at the time?
Paramount! Deal Real was like the centre of the Hip Hop community, so many people met there and went on to work together so you know it played a significant part in launching a lot of careers, including my own. And Pete Real and me are putting together a reunion party this april, cant wait.
How would you describe the differences of the UK Hip Hop scene to how it was when you first started out to what it is now?
It was straight up and down Hip Hop then. Now, there’s a lot of other doo-doo that ignorantly gets bunched in under the same umbrella that aint nothing to do with Hip Hop frankly.
Up until recently you held a weekly radio show on BBC Radio 1Xtra as well as contributing to New York’s Squeeze Radio. How did you find being on the airwaves and are you keen to get a show again?
It was great fun and hard work, and in my own time, when I stop being selfish, I’ll throw myself back into it. But I have no interest whatsoever in working for a corporate/commercial organisation again. For me it’s like being in the belly of the beast and I’m all about the people and the art. I’m just too used to being my own boss. I have no corporate aspirations or interests in life.
How have you found it being a prominent female DJ in an essentially male dominated scene?
Totally fine. I wasn’t raised to be prejudice to gender or limit myself based on my gender so really it’s a non-issue for me. I’ve always been a bit of a tom-boy with boy friends anyway so it’s a natural extension from that really.
You are the only female DJ to be nominated for a prestigious MOBO Award. What did it mean to you to be recognised in this way?
An honour and a privilege! Unreal. Truly humbling to be considered next to some names I deeply respect.
Recently you were asked to be the official DJ for Aloe Blacc’s UK tour how was that experience was it much different to when you play in clubs?
Playing in a concert hall to 3000 plus people is a very different kind of DJ discipline to club DJing. It was so much fun, again an honour to be asked out of all the DJs that could have been there instead of me. It was a grueling schedule, performing night after night and clocking up a lot of mileage.
Having toured and lived across the globe where do you most like playing and where do you most like staying?
Anywhere in the world where people have love for true Hip Hop is wonderful to me! What I’ve found is that people make any and every experience in life, whether that’s the most boujie of venues or the most grimey.
A lot of DJ’s at some stage step into production is this something you have done or will be doing?
I was making music before I was DJing and its something I’ve neglected since my DJ career took over my life. It’s calling me back, I need to express that side of myself again.
Who or what inspires you?
Crap inspires me as well as dopeness. My loved ones, like my nieces and nephews, keep me feeling driven — I want to smash it for them, make them proud and be inspired themselves.
What advice would you give to an aspiring female wanting to be part of the Hip Hop scene?
As far as I can tell, gender has nothing to do with music so don’t put gender in the forefront of your mind. The advice is the same as it would be for a dude: Work hard at your skills and be you.
What are the future plans for Sarah Love?
What’s your definition of Grindin’?
Setting targets and meeting them.