Producer's Corner: DJ Green Lantern
DJ Green Lantern doesnt rhyme, but hes got all the other areas of this rap shit covered. Primarily known for his skills behind the turntables, he initially established himself with Shady Records Benzino-blasting Invasion mixtape series. Since then, everyone from D-Block to Ghostface Killah has enlisted the Rochester, New York native for his energetic hosting and deft mixing. But Green Lantern is just as talented on the MPC as he is on the Technics, and heaters like Ludacris Austin Powers-sampling Number One Spot, and others. Hes also played a behind-the-scenes role in the career of Uncle Murda, the hard-nosed Brooklynite who impressed Jay-Z enough to earn a deal with Def Jam.
These days, Green Lantern is staying busy by incorporating all of his talents at once. He has a radio show on the hit video game Grand Theft Auto IV that sees him spinning and hosting self-produced songs featuring the likes of Jim Jones and Juelz Santana, Busta Rhymes and Fabolous and Fat Joe. After laying the soundbeds to several new Nas songs and hosting his latest The Nigger Tape, he served as his deejay on the Jones Experience Tour. His mixtape/album with Immortal Technique, The 3rd World, has gotten rave reviews as one of the years best releases. Now, hes putting the final touches on the much-buzzed Barack Obama Mixtape, and in this interview with HipHopDX, he reveals upcoming projects with dead prez and Jay Electronica. Read below to see the "Evil Genius" chop it up about working with Nas, going corporate with the GTA project, and being Hip Hop for Obama without damaging his campaign.
HipHopDX: We know you as a DJ first, and a producer second. Which were you doing first?
DJ Green Lantern: I wanted to be a producer first, I was making beats for a few years. I fell into deejaying and started doing the mixtapes, and that sort of propelled my name to where I could shop beats differently than most producers. Everything goes hand in hand, but I was definitely producing first.
DX: How does a deejayspecifically you, but in generaltranscend from doing free beats for cats on mixtapes, to being taken seriously by major labels?
DJ Green Lantern: Youve just got to have peeps, but youve got to have a hustle, too. You look at somebody like Don Cannon [click to read]. Hes getting a lot of production credits, hes on his hustle. Hes a deejay, and he makes beats too. Youve got to be ready to be in the studio, playing beats for people just like producers are. You always have to understand what your competition is. Youre in competition with professional beatmakers, and professional producers. You can never just say, Im such and such, or Heres this beat. You better like it, and you better use it, because its me. Youre in competition with people who do nothing but produce, so youve got to be able to compete on that playing field, or dont even try.
DX: What would you say are your favorite five beats that youve made?
DJ Green Lantern: The 2 Gunz Up joint for D-Block, thatd probably be number one. Then Ive got to go with Ludacris [click to read] Number One Spot. Number three would be Jadakiss' The Champ Is Here, Busta Rhymes [click to read] and Rick James' [In The Ghetto] is number four. And [Uncle Murdas] [click to read] Bullet Bullet is number five.
DX I thought some of your best beats were with Nas. What do you think contributes to you guys chemistry?
DJ Green Lantern: I dont know man. We just started rocking, too. Its kind of ill, man, because the chemistry on stage is like that too. Shows were going real ill from a deejay format; we go on the road, and theres an ill chemistry. I dont know what it is, man. Its somethingI dont know if its some elements used in a laboratory that we didnt know about, but its really there. I think hes an ill dude. Some of those joints that you hear are me taking his vocals and reworking an acapella into a song. Thats what happened with the Cops Keep Firing. He gave me the acapella of the first verse, and I built the whole song around it. Then he went in and did a second verse. So I think it goes hand in hand.
DX: Youve performed with a live band and Rock The Bells in New York. What was it like for you, as a deejay, performing with other performers in a live situation?
DJ Green Lantern: Youre pretty much the quarterback in that situation. I know the show, and sometimes, youve just got to be ready to give queues. Like, All right, were going to stop right now based on the queues that hes giving me. Its one thing with two turntables and a mic. And then when you add guitars, keyboards, trumpet, all kinds of stuff, theyve got to take their queue from somebody. So theres the band leader, whos the bass player, hes watching me, and Im watching Nas, because sometimes hell call different queues on the show to switch up the show. Youve just got to be ready to be on your toes, because the shows going to switch sometimes during the show. Its a challenge, but its a fuller sound, and I always like to think its fun.
DX: Youve also performed with Eminem. How is working with Eminem different from working with Nas?
DJ Green Lantern: Really similar! [Laughs] Very similar, dog. Theyre both real cool and down to earth dudes. Sit on the bus and crack jokes and watch DVDs. Theyre just regular people. Theyre very similar.
DX: You have your own radio show on the new Grand Theft Auto game. What was that whole experience like for you?
DJ Green Lantern: It was kind of crazy. It was definitely some responsibility put into it, because I had to produce the whole radio show. I had to make all the music that I play. Every other radio show on the video gameif youre familiar with the video game, you know that you get in the car and listen to the radio, and theres x amount of radio stations with x amount of radio shows. The whole radio show that I was on, I had to go get the artists, make the songs, produce the songs, mix all the songs, and then be the deejay and play it and make it all exciting and hype for radio. Which is a little bit of work, but thats what I do anyway. But now this is on a corporate level. So theres a definite responsibility to make sure all Ts are crossed and Is are dotted as far as legalities and things like that. But Im glad I did it, because its getting views based on what it is, which is a very aggressive set of songs on a very aggressive video game. So I think I did my job.
DX: Is this your first project where youve produced everything at once like that?
DJ Green Lantern: You know what? I think it is. I know definitely as far as in the video game and in a corporate sense as well, definitely. Other stuff is mixtapes, but nothing on that scale.
DX: Along with the obvious perks of more exposure, what about the royalties for cats like MC Lyte and Brand Nubian who are on Primos show? Where do royalties for these other cats play in with the games sales being so high?
DJ Green Lantern: I mean, honestly, I would rather not go into details on stuff like that. But what somebody may be getting might not be what somebody else may be getting. So I dont talk numbers like that. Cause I can tell Ima start getting some phone calls. You leave those numbers alone, man!
DX: Youve also been working with Uncle Murda. How did Jay-Z leaving Def Jam affect Murdas situation?
DJ Green Lantern: Not too much, man. [Jay-Z] [click to read] has been involved with the project. He keeps up on the work on a regular basis, and has been checking in. Hes definitely still on board with everything.
DX: Is there a tentative release date for his album yet?
DJ Green Lantern: There are a few dates being thrown around, but theyre not solid yet, so I cant throw it out there yet.
DX: So what else are you working on? Youve got the Nas tour, the Nas mixtape, Uncle Murda. Anything else youve got going?
DJ Green Lantern: Yeah. Im actually working on the Barack Obama Mixtape; I got caught up doing the Nas [The Nigger Tape] [click to listen] and the tour a little bit, so that should be wrapping up pretty soon. Theres a bunch of songs on that I made exclusive: like the Black President remix is on there, a crazy joint with Styles P [click to read] and Cassidy [click to read] is on there, a bunch of crazy records that I made. Im also working on this mixtape/album with dead prez right now. Thatll probably be released commercially, like the Immortal Technique [click to read] project was, The 3rd World [click to read]. That was released in the stores, cause technically its a mixtape, but theres still a barcode on it. So thats what thats looking like. Also, a project with Jay Electronica, that project is called The Wrath of the Staff. The project with dead prez is called Post to the People. Those both will be commercial releases. So you can really look forward to Green Lantern. The next step is, as I do these mixtapes, people say, Damn son, that should be released in the store! The more and more artists are independent, the easier it is for us to put forth a project we can sell with a barcode on it. If theres no major label constraint on them, we can put it in the store. Weve got to stay away from samples, and rocking over other peoples beats, but that doesnt take away from the music at all. Im still going to put my all into it.
DX: Where did the idea of the Barack Obama Mixtape come from, and what can we expect from it?
DJ Green Lantern: I know Russell [Simmons] e-mailed me one day and said he was throwing his hat in the ring for Obama. Im like, Alright, well what can I do? How about make a mixtape? I started calling people; I got some responses, and I got some non-responses. Some of the non-responses were a little surprising, but Im rocking with the responses. So I made a bunch of records, and Im still sort of fine-tuning it, because its a big deal. I think its a statement that needs to be made for our generation.
DX: Barack Obama has said that he likes Hip Hop, but that he has an issue with the messages in Hip Hop. There was also a lot of controversy surrounding Ludacris song Politics As Usual, and how it affected Obamas campaign. Have you gotten to speak to Obama about the mixtape? Does hearing what hes said about Hip Hop give you an idea of how to approach it?
DJ Green Lantern: Of course, that tells me what I need to stay away from. I want him to be able to not have to distance himself from it. Youve got Republicans and people who dont want him to win, they want to put him with messageslike the Ludacris record. Ludacris said some things, and its his opinion, right? But the people who dont want Barack to win want to make it seem like its [Baracks] opinion. What Ive done is, on this joint, I made sure nobody said anything was inflammatory that he couldnt stand behind. I dont want to do him a disservice at all. I dont want to make it to where he has to denounce it, because thats what it is. He may personally be saying, Thats Ludacris opinion, but now that hes in a race, he has to publicly denounce it, or itll look like hes embracing it. I dont want to have to go through that.
DX: One of my friends listens to your freestyle show. He brought up that you tolerate non-freestyles, and he used the Beanie Sigel and Freeway show as an example. Are you in a tough position to say something to them to people like that?
DJ Green Lantern: To be honest, man, these days, youve got to be thankful that people are rapping. Theres so many non-rapping-ass-rappers thats out here, Im just glad youre spitting something. Theres so many people that come on the show, and Im like, Aww, you wont even rap? Dog, aint that what you do for a profession? Youre coming on the show, have something. But that comes with all of these hustlers. Im not a rapper, Im a hustler. That really comes with a lot of them, they really get into that mindstate. But as far as freestyle vs. written? Id rather hear a well put-together written joint that no ones heard before than a sloppy, off-the-top freestyle just for the sake cause its a freestyle. We never say, This is the part where you have to freestyle; we say, On the spot. Se need bars. You feel like going off the top? Cool, but were nationwide, so I dont want your off-the-top to sound like, Cat, fat, hat, bat. Id rather have a hot written than versus a wack off-the-top, any day.