What up, people. For today’s version of Behind The Boards, we have the legendary Evil Genius in the house, DJ Green Lantern. Green Lantern has been slicing and dicing, and cutting and chopping for what appears to be an eternity, and is still on top of the game. He has worked with some of the best hip hop artists of all time, including Eminem, JAY-Z, Ludacris, Nas, Immortal Technique, Royce Da 5’9″, Ghostface Killah, Beanie Segal, Jadakiss, Busta Rhymes, Dead Prez…I’m getting exhausted just trying to list everyone, which it turns out, is actually impossible.
Green Lantern even made an album with former US president Barak Obama, the Yes We Can mixtape. His music has also been featured in video games, such as Grand Theft Auto. You can watch DJ Green Lantern working his magic live on his Twitch.tv channel, where he regularly pulls rabbits out of hats. The man can even make a beat out of the sounds of a tennis match. Read below to find out more.
This interview has been edited for publication. Photo of DJ Green Lantern is courtesy of DJ Green Lantern.
Backseat Mafia: What inspired you to create music? What inspires you everyday?
Green Lantern: Just doing some new shit I haven’t done yet .. if you’re still making the same shit you made 10 years ago, you’re not evolving.
BSM: If someone asked you to describe the Green Lantern sound, how would you answer, in one sentence?
GL: I don’t have a sound. I make all different types of beats, with differing sounds, vibes and patterns.
BSM: Are you a crate digger? If you are, where is your favorite place to dig? What was your greatest find? If you’re not a crate digger, has crate digging become unnecessary? Is there a good substitute for digging into crates of old records and finding a treasure? Some of the younger guys seem to have given this up.
GL: I used to dig ALOT and still do when I go overseas, but it feels like the internet may have gotten me fully into digital digging, especially since Covid hit. In that respect, thank God for the net. YouTube has great finds. [There are] some sound quality issues but for the most part, it’s not a problem.
BSM: What is your preferred music production software?
GL: These days it’s Ableton. Been about 8 years on Ableton.
BSM: What is your favorite audio gear or instrument?
GL: The QWERTY keyboard. I have a gang of controllers, like Ableton Push 2, midi keyboards, but I always end up just using the laptop keys to chop, play drum sounds, keys, even chords. The only thing the QWERTY can’t do is bend notes. I call it the “Dirty QWERTY.”
BSM: What is the one non-musical item that you must have with you when you are working?
BSM: What track or album are you most proud of and why?
GL: Ludacris’ “Number One Spot.” It’s a bunch of chops from a Quincy Jones song, “Soul Bossa Nova,” and I got to meet him at the video. That’s one of my heroes, real producer shit.
BSM: Favorite music to listen to when driving, relaxing, or chilling?
GL: Classic 70’s and 80’s R&B.
BSM: How did you get the nickname “The Evil Genius?”
GL: That came from putting things together on the mixtapes like a mad scientist, taking acappellas, beats, and making my own hooks from existing material. Some people call it a Frankenstein type of technique, hence “The Evil Genius.”
BSM: Can you pick one track from your storied career and described how you put it together?
GL: One time I sampled a tennis match off of tv and made a beat with the sounds of the match, [the] ball hitting the ground, feet screeching on the court, etc., for a JAY-Z commercial for his S. Carter tennis shoe. He ended up loving the beat and rapped on it, when it was originally just for a radio commercial. (Editor’s note: That song is “The Game Is Mine.”) That was pre Ableton days. I used an Akai MPC4000 for that.
BSM: Has the music industry’s attitude about mixtapes changed in the years since the year that DJ Drama was arrested (2007)? Are mixtapes still an important part of the culture of hip hop?
GL: Unfortunately, like a lot of other things, the mixtape has become a casualty of the music business and also technology. Between artists / labels calling full albums “mixtapes” and the streaming infrastructure we live with now, [it makes] it hard to use pre-existing beats, etc. (algorithm /content i.d.) aka what we used to use on tapes. It’s difficult. If it’s all original beats, it’s an album, right? But in 2020, an artist will make 15 new songs over original production and put it out as his “mixtape.” So they don’t have the pressure of calling it an album. The term/ format has been co-opted to the point it means something entirely different now.
BSM: When you are remixing a track, is your creative approach different than it is when you are producing a fresh track or album with another artist? Can you explain how you typically approach a remix project?
GL: I almost like remixing more than producing from scratch, because I have total control of the song. I can move vocals around and put other elements in, etc. As far as approaches to remix projects, every situation is different. Sometimes it calls for different beats, sometimes it’s guest features, but it always comes down to just trying to make some next level shit.
BSM: Upcoming projects? Shout-outs? Plugs for new projects?
GL: Got new Live Fom the Mothership mix with Snoop Dogg as DJ Snoopadelic, coming soon. Got a few rap EPs coming out where I produce it all with one artist (OT the Real, Eric Jaye ), plus a various artist DJ Green Lantern EP coming.
Connect with DJ Green Lantern on Bandcamp:
DJ Green Lantern & Benny The Butcher: