The recipe for a successful artist is inimitable originality combined with progression in ingenuity over time. Those two aforementioned qualities are what set apart the temporary junk food artists versus that of a timeless legend. DJ Green Lantern’s longevity, versatility and acclaim from hip hop heavies such as JAY Z, Eminem and Nas serve as an example of a successful artist that has truly left a mark in the hip hop world. In addition to Green’s involvement in hip hop, he is now entering the EDM realm, specifically trap music. He recently released the trap-drenched mix, “Altitude,” and even created a trap remix of JAY Z’s “Feelin’ It” as part of JAY Z and Coldplay’s New Year’s Eve show at the Barclays Center. Green states, “I’ve always appreciated electronic music in general and [I] actually have been making it for a few years, just experimenting, not releasing anything though.” In this exclusive interview, Green gives us a look into his personal transition from vinyls to the current DJ tools and defines the difference between hip hop trap and EDM trap. Yes, there is a difference.
Life + Times: From the days when you first started as a DJ on up until now, what is the most significant change you have noticed in the hip-hop DJ world?
Green Lantern: I would have to say the introduction of computer programs to the DJ world [such as] Serato, Traktor…I went from carrying seven to ten record cases weighing eighty pounds each all around the world to a laptop with all that music and way more in it. It was great for established DJs, but it also ended up flooding the scene with overnight and celebrity DJs that didn’t have the skill or commitment to the craft that previously was needed when it was a closed society so to speak. It changed the entire playing field for better or worse. At this point as a hip-hop DJ, you just have to embrace new technology, get creative with it and do you!
L+T: What helps you to maintain your signature production style despite the need to be progressive with the times?
GL: With me it’s just an approach to making music because I never set out to have a sound or style as far as production. I say “approach” because it’s more of a way I think about making it (a track) before it’s actually made. It comes down to: “What am I going for? What am I saying vibe wise with this piece of music, beat or whatever song I’m working on at the moment?” In all of it, I always strive to be progressive though, regardless of the times, just within myself. Keep progressing and never make the same music I made before, that’s a must. Some people will tell you they want an older style they heard you use before; I just tell them to buy my old mixtapes. See “On To The Next One.”
L+T From your series of Invasion mixtapes to your current Altitude mix, what are the deciding factors as to what tracks you determine to remix and include on the mixes?
GL: It all comes down to the mood, vibe and the energy I want to capture or create with a mix. Altitude, for example, is heavy on the “turn up” side of things; high energy, you might feel high or elevated while listening to this, hence the name. Tracks that fit that vibe are either created or used and almost always modified in some way for the final product. There’s mostly always a theme to my mixes.
L+T: Altitude features numerous up-and-coming producers such as RL Grime, UZ, Ookay and other artists in the trap music scene. How did you hear about these new producers? Do you have plans to collaborate with any of them on upcoming projects?
GL: I’m a fan of music, period. So, I’m always looking around for new sounds, whatever the genre. Those guys you named and plenty more in that field, such as Heroes x Villains, Mayhem and Baauer, were on my radar for a minute due to making some dope-ass joints. Collaborations are in the works with a few trap producers right now. [I’m] not naming anything until it’s done and ready to release though.
L+T: Though trap has been around for years and got its start in the Southern hip-hop scene, there is a sudden influx of artists that are combining EDM with trap. With such a saturation of cross genre collaborations taking place, do you think the true essence of hip hop will be lost?
GL: To me, the true essence of hip-hop is creativity, taking elements and making new creations with it. With that as a foundation, the combining of EDM and rap-based trap is nothing but the natural course of things in the hip-hop world, as hip-hop producers are always looking to expand on sounds and take things to the next level. When you really think about the early history of hip-hop, it revolved around the guy bringing the people sounds. The DJ…was often times wearing a producer hat as well, just not credited as such. It feels like with EDM, it’s back to the guy who’s providing the people sounds and that’s very hip-hop!
L+T: Do you consider the current trap music as hip-hop or EDM and why?
GL: Trap is very hip-hop and obviously comes from hip-hop…Gucci, Jeezy, T.I. [This is] also known as drug dealing trap music. I think where it differs technically is the need for verses. In hip hop, or the rap game to be specific, for the most part, for your song to be complete and heard by the masses, you need some type of verse or chorus structure to it. In EDM trap, there are plenty of vocal samples, hooks and some verses, but the need for a verse is clearly not there for it to be considered a complete song. That’s just my theory and is actually one of the reasons I’m drawn to it. I’ve always been creative with vocal samples and beats throughout my career and would much rather chop up some existing vocals and make some music around it and have that be appreciated for the new creation that it is. If that’s EDM, then so be it, but I am hip-hop, so don’t test!
L+T: Tell me about your plans for 2013.
GL: In 2013, I just want to make some good-ass music and continue to help bring it to the masses as a DJ and producer all the while pushing boundaries sonically. You never know what will happen when you do something different and put it out to the people. This past New Year’s Eve, I created an EDM trap section of “Feelin’ It” as part of JAY Z’s show at Barclays with Coldplay. That came from releasing the Altitude mix, which incorporated trap and hip hop. With the assistance from Young Guru, JAY ended up using it in his live show. That’s a moment for trap when Hov performs to it or when Kanye comes out during a TNGHT show. Moments like that move music forward…I want to be a part of [it]. That’s exciting to me.
L+T: I end all of my interviews with DJs and producers with the following question: Do you think a DJ is a musician?
GL: DJs definitely can be viewed as musicians, as our controllers and turntables are used in bringing music to the people in a creative manner. Some DJs even mix in key (harmonic mixing) these days. You can argue the particulars of notes and music theory, but it’s certain that DJs in 2013 are a musical force out here in these venues entertaining the masses with music like never before.