DJ Green Lantern, Ghost in the Machine
Everybody in hip-hop claims to be doing the damn thing, but very few actually live up to the hype. DJ Green Lantern is the exception.
As a DJ, he's toured with some of the game’s greats—Nas and Eminem. On the mixtape scene, he's been at the center of landmark events like the beef between Shady and Benzino/Murder Inc, and on a more positive note, he teamed up with Russell Simmons for the Barack Obama: Yes We Can Mixtape.
In recent years, the Evil Genius went from producing a few records at a time to putting out an entire album with dead prez, Pulse of the People. In 2010, he continues to focus on production by working with Styles P for their first collaborative disc, The Green Ghost Project, which dropped yesterday. Green took a minute to talk to XXLMag.com about the LP, his origin as a producer and why certain rappers should avoid freestyling on his radio show.
XXLMag.com: How’d The Green Ghost Project come about?
DJ Green Lantern: Styles P is the Ghost and I'm Green Lantern, so we just put together The Green Ghost Project. As you can tell by the cover art, it’s two guys in the laboratory making a monster, which is the music. With that being said, we kind of went in the lab and made a gang of crazy ass records.
XXLMag.com: Did you produce all the tracks?
DJ Green Lantern: I produced half of it and then put my executive producer hat on for the rest of it. Called up the homies and they came through with the beats. There's scratches on certain cuts, this, that and the third. So it’s me on the production side for half of it and on the other half its Buckwild, Scram Jones, Alchemist… These are guys that work very well with Styles P.
XXLMag.com: Why didn't you just do the whole album?
DJ Green Lantern: Well, you know I did it with dead prez and it was a great outcome. It was dope but for SP, I didn't want to make the same record. I made a gang of records and then I was just in the studio with Buckwild and I'm listening to shit and I'm just like, “Ahhh, I need that.” I'm not a selfish guy; I'm not really trippin’ off that. These are guys that Styles and I know personally, so it’s not even a monetary issue or nothing like that. So for the greater good, I said, “Let's make this shit crazy.”
XXLMag.com: When you first started this project, did you expect to do a whole album?
DJ Green Lantern: We were just talking about doing something at first. Then it was like, “If you're independent and I'm independent, we gotta do it the right way. We've gotta put a barcode on this thing and come with some dope packaging.” We got a comic book that comes with it, limited edition. Just doing it right, we want to present it the right way.
XXLMag.com: There’s been a good reaction to the project so far; do you feel like people are started to give you the recognition for being a dope producer now?
DJ Green Lantern: I've had recognition my whole career but as a producer, I've never really had a run. That kind of eluded me. I've had a couple of hit records like Luda “Number One Spot” and some street anthems like “Champ is Here” and "2 Gunz Up." So I think I'm recognized but I think the guys that have the run with the big hit records kind of pick up the recognition. I learned to just kinda deal with it and just make good music. I rock out in my lane and if something hits, it hits.
XXLMag.com: It might be good to have less pressure to make a hit and just concentrate on making good music.
DJ Green Lantern: Yeah, a lot of people try to concoct a hit record and that's definitely not the move. At least on my part, I can definitely see it. I turn the radio on and someone has a formula where you can tell this is definitely for the radio. Then you get an "Exhibit C" from Jay Electronica that comes out of nowhere and is getting played on the radio and received very well. So I just make good music and if it sticks on the wall, then it sticks.
XXLMag.com: When did you start producing?
DJ Green Lantern: Actually, I started as a producer. I went the backwards route. I started as a beatmaker that thought he was a producer, because they're totally different. So I started as a beatmaker back in '91 as a teenager. But I had a lot of DJ friends and kinda fell into that. Somebody offered me some money to DJ a party and I was already carrying records for people. I was going out Fridays and Saturdays as my friends were going out to DJ all those college parties. So I was studying the art of being a DJ, selection wise, without even realizing it. I did my first party without being technically nice on the turntables, just putting records on and I murdered it. I was upstate in Rochester, Baltimore, Syracuse and all of the Black frats and sororities started giving me business. I don't want to sound arrogant, but I became the go-to guy because I was rockin’.
XXLMag.com: Let's talk about your show on Sirius Radio, The Invasion. What were some of your favorite On the Spot freestyles from last year?
DJ Green Lantern: We did the year-end awards and Slaughterhouse took it. They went for like 18-minutes straight. Joell's shit was disgusting. But for me, what really stuck around were the surprises. We had Melanie Fiona singing over "Who Shot Ya." Crazy! The Dream came in, also over some Biggie beats, and he went off the top. It's another level of special to me when you can come up with words and melody at the same time. It's a gift. The rappers all pretty much killed it. But this is what I will say; don't try to freestyle and go off the top if that's not your forté. Tell me, “Nah, I'm good” and I'll respect it or spit some hot written shit. I've had some lyrical monsters in there that just felt like freestyling and it just came out like, “Hat, bat, that” and that's never cool.
XXLMag.com: So you're not mad at Drake and Nicki Minaj for spitting writtens?
DJ Green Lantern: Not at all. To me, I don't care. As long as what you're saying is hot; why would I care if what you're saying is written or not? Unless it's a segment purely designated for that like Supernatural or one of these guys that do observational freestyles, I don't care if you look at your Blackberry or write something down. That infamous Eminem freestyle on Tim Westwood's show, where he did that freestyle over the Mobb Deep "Got it Twisted" beat. He had it in his mind but he took a minute to write it down because it was so complex. I wouldn't trip if anybody was to write something down.
XXLMag.com: What are your thoughts on where the music industry is headed?
DJ Green Lantern: I feel like, especially where the music industry is going, basically independent, the producer/DJ is now more valuable now to the artist. He's not only going to provide the direction sonically for the project but is also going to be able to promote it as a DJ. —David Lee