You just dropped Nas’ mixtape to his upcoming album Untitled. Are you happy with how fans are receiving it?
Yeah. It’s been crazy. I’m taken aback by some of the comments. Some of them are over the top. I definitely love the tape, I just didn’t expect people to say that this mixtape is better than someone else’s retail album in the store. I keep hearing that and I don’t even get that. I don’t even see the correlation. It’s like two totally different artists. These are above the regular “great mixtape” comments. Anyway, whatever.
How did you help Nas put the tape together?
Basically he came to me with the idea that he wanted to do a mixtape before his album comes out. He wanted that movie, a motion picture. I said I could do that but I need some exclusives. And Nas isn’t really the type of guy that has a million songs laying around but he had a couple. I told him to give me a couple of songs, give me a few songs and give me some accapellas, because I tried to do my thing with the accapellas. That’s what that was. I also told him to give me his recent features like his verse from Ice Cube’s “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It” and Rich Boy’s “Ghetto” and I made songs out of those verses.
So they gave me some accapellas and they gave me some exclusives. I made new records and I put the whole shit together and the name of the album has changed so we gotta call the mixtape that. All right, if that’s the case, then I’m going to go in that direction and just find everything that just applies to that title. I, personally, don’t have any personal interest in that. That’s his vision as far as that. I’m just here to, I guess, put that together physically.
Do you think Nas is at the top of his game right now?
Oh, hell yeah. Yeah. Shit, he’s got everybody talking about him right now. And they’re saying words like “he’s back” and “this is the Nas we wanted,” “fire” and “flames.” Yeah, I could definitely say he’s on top of his game right now.
You’re also working on a Barack Obama mixtape with Russell Simmons. How’s the project coming?
It’s coming well. I’m trying to get this finished right now. I got sidetracked by a few things and there are a few songs floating around that I gotta finish for this thing. It’s just been taking longer than I thought it would just because I got all this other stuff going on. I’m focused on it now and it’s going to be finished in the next two weeks. And verses that are supposed to be in, if they’re not done, they’re not done. It should be out hopefully in the next two weeks and you’ll see it.
Do you hope Obama cosigns or recognizes the project in some way?
Well, I hope so, but that’s kind of, like, I didn’t really make it for that. I’m trying to make it to where it’s something that he can stand behind but if that’s not the case then I still want it to be good music and if he has to stay hands-off with it or if he can’t support it, that’s not the end of the world. The message in it is that we support you and if he can’t openly say something, that’s not going to be the end of my world. I don’t need a drop from him or anything.
What did it mean to you when you heard Obama won the Presidential nominee for the Democratic Party?
It just meant that the old days...American politics are the only place where the glass ceiling is so low to the ground where you can only have old white men running everything. You see what I mean. It just means, hopefully, that there’s a change about to be made. You know, it’s just hope, man, I guess. That’s really what it is. I still can’t believe it. I’m still in shock.
You’ve been doing a lot of work with Charles Hamilton recently. What do you see in him that makes you want to work with him?
(laughs) Charles Hamilton, oh, man! Charles Hamilton is like an alien. He has this whole thing about pink and I just call him a pink alien. You gotta know his music to understand that. But nah, he’s like a breath of fresh air. Anything that I’ve ever heard before, I’ve never heard anything like that before. He’s got a whole backstory to it and he’s crazy. He raps, sometimes he sings on his hooks. He plays, like, eight instruments. I sat and listened to his music. The kid is incredible. He plays his own music and makes his own beats. I know a lot of people do that nowadays, but the kid is just incredibly talented.
You have to see it. If you see him on Power 106 with DJ Skee where he’s effortlessly freestyling off the top and he’s actually rapping, very rarely do you see people that can rap well and freestyle at the same time. It’s either a wack freestyle off the top or it’s some written shit. He can actually rap well when he’s freestyling.
You’re one of the DJs in Grand Theft Auto IV. That’s got to be kind of cool to hear yourself when you’re playing the game.
Yeah. Very cool. It’s the “coolest game ever.” (laughs) There’s a million people playing that game and I’m just honored to be one of the people that they chose to be DJs on that and for them to put the responsibility in my hands to craft all of the music that I play, because I produced every song that I play in my radio show on there. Most of the people don’t realize that. I own all of that music and I licensed that to them.
How important is it to you to have various avenues to shop your beats to besides the traditional route of trying to sell beats to artists?
Sometimes it’s just a little tiring shopping your beats in a regular, traditional fashion as a producer and you’re going through the regular role of either sending or emailing beats for a project or you go and sit with an artist and they are absolutely going crazy for your beats and they take them and then nothing happens. That shit is so damn frustrating.
And then something like this comes along and you’re like, ‘Hell yeah.’ I want to get my sound out there. It’s just a welcome breath of fresh air of non-traditional avenues for getting your production out there. If I’m doing a mixtape with an A-list artist, yes, I’m going to make some beats on there. If I have the opportunity to make some beats on a video game, yes, I’m going to do that. Waiting around for an ego-driven A-list artist to call you back over some beats, I’m not holding my breath for that.
Do you even have time to play Grand Theft Auto?
Yes. (laughs) How do you not make time to play Grand Theft Auto? Honestly, man, here and there. I do have a crazy-ass schedule.
It seems like you’ve been focusing more on production recently than the mixtape game.
Yeah. I wanted to establish myself as a DJ first even though I started making beats first. And I think I did that. It’s easier to listen if they know I did that because they respect me for this other shit that I did. So yeah, definitely as of late, that’s just been my passion to get shit done rather than doing a whole bunch of mixtapes. I’ve kind of been getting back into the mixtape mode where for the last couple of years I’ve kind of been like, ‘ehh.’ My interest either way on a bunch of shit will just wane and be up or down from time to time. So sometimes you’ll hear me do a bunch of mixtapes or just concentrate on a bunch of beats. It’s all about the mood I’m in.
As a producer, how closely do you work with the artists on tracks?
A lot of times from far, far away. Really, a lot of times it’s like that because most of the time I’m really not in the studio with them. It’s some email shit. This is what I say – my closeness to the artist when I’m producing a song is when they give me some records that have never been out before and they just say hey, do you with it. That’s me working with them. I’m not going to tell Nas, “Don’t say this. Rap like this.” Nah. But what I will do is I’ll take that vocal that he gave me and make something around it and maybe write the hook and have somebody come in and sing that hook. That’s my contribution to producing the song.
Would you rather be more hands-on with artists in the studio or do you like working the way you are now?
A lot of times, mostly in this business, as far as producers and artists, I really gotta say, man, 85% of the time, producers are not in the studio with artists right now. This whole “don’t you wanna be in the studio with the artists?” thing, yeah, but a lot of times, they’re not even used to that so they might not even work like that.
From what I hear, Nas wants to be in the room with the lights off when he’s writing. I’ve sat there and watched Jay write, but what are you going to say, “Jay-Z, don’t say it like that?” This might sound weird, but I want to give you a beat, you send it back to me and let me fiddle around with the song musically and do some different music or make changes to the music as per what you said in the verse or the hook and the verses. Let me make little changes. I would rather do that and then send it back to you.
How closely have you been working with Uncle Murder on hiss upcoming debut album?
Murder’s in, man. Murder’s going hard. Murder’s got a whole lot of records. Murder’s very well-rounded as an artist but people will never see that because of the records he releases. I was just having this talk with him the other day. I was telling him that he had to show people something else because people put him in the box of some drugged-up gangster shit. He has records where he’s having God and the devil talking and he’s talking about his mother. I’m like, ‘Yo, man, you gotta release this shit because you want the people thinking you’re a 3-dimensional person.’ People think he’s one thing but he’s got a million records.
You can’t blame the people for thinking that when we haven’t seen anything else.
Yeah. And with his other records, he’s like, ‘Nah, I gotta save that for the album.’ He also says the streets want to hear the hard gangster shit. He’s right, but let’s round it out. That’s all that is. But we’re in the process of doing all of that right now.
When I interviewed Kay Slay a year ago, he didn’t have very favorable things to say about you or Uncle Murder. Will you guys ever bury the hatchet?
Yeah. We’re doing that right now.
What motivated you guys to do that?
We’re all out here and all of those issues are really bullshit. The core of all of those issues is really baseless. There’s really nothing to none of that shit anyway. Time goes on and somebody ends up sitting down with somebody else and it’s like, ‘Man, fuck all that beef and bullshit. Let’s sweep it under the rug and keep it moving.’ I actually played his single with Papoose on the radio the other night and I was listening to his show and he played the Nas joint I produced and shouted me out. Peace is a great thing.
You did some great work with Papoose in the past. Will you work with him again?
We’ll see. It’s gotta be right. We’ll see about that. It’s still super-early as far as us reconciling and all that shit. We’ll see what’s up.
Now that Jadakiss has an album coming out, is there any chance that you two will you get together and do another mixtape?
Here comes the obligatory questions about people think I have issues with. I would rather talk about positive shit. But nah, we’re not doing a mixtape.
Are you working with Eminem on his album?
Not right now but you never know what the future holds.
Was you and 50 getting back together after your falling out blown out of proportion?
I think people make too much of a big deal out of everything these days. They do that with everything. But I can’t front. That was a big deal. You know what? That could be classified as a big deal. But, you know, years later, me and 50 are cool. G-Unit was just on my radio show. 50 was shooting a movie so he couldn’t come. Me and him have kicked it a few times after patching things up. He’s a real cool individual.
Do you attribute squashing your issues with some artists to maturity?
I think it’s some of that. I think it’s attributed to people sitting down and actually speaking to each other what’s on their mind. That always helps people resolve differences. When years go by and you never talk to that person and you never tell them what’s on your mind, you know, a lot of times you’re still going to harbor those feelings. But if the people come to you and they say, “You know what? I know both of these people. Let me just say something and get them together or get them to talk on the phone or whatever,” then a lot of times you’ll see the issues get resolved.
How did you feel when you heard Lil’ Wayne’s “Fuck the mixtape DJs” statement?
I think he was mad at the people he said he was mad at, but for whatever reason he didn’t specify that and he made a sweeping statement of all DJs which got everybody tight and mad. “Fuck mixtape DJs!” What? If he was mad at somebody in particular, he should have said that. But it is what it is, man. I can’t speak for no artist. That’s their issue. I’m just out here doing my thing.
Here’s my stance – I really don’t like what he said but I’m not going to hold up a sign and boycott him.
Were DJ’s wrong to email links to download his album?
I understand it. I guess Chuck T, who I met a few times, I understand it. He’s taking credit for it and he blasted it. I understand it because those comments were fucking offensive. But to each his own. You gotta do what you gotta do with that. Everybody is going to get it anyway. But he felt like that’s what he wanted to do at the moment. I can’t not not play you. I might not play you so I’m going to blast your shit out. I don’t know, man. Talk to Chuck T.
Your project with Immortal Technique, The 3rd World, is coming out this week. What is it about yourself that allows you to work with artists from Jay-Z to Immortal Technique, who are both very extreme in what they represent?
I think it shows my versatility. I come from an era when hip-hop was actually diverse. You had A Tribe Called Quest all the way on this end and then you had N.W.A. all the way on that end and they coexisted and everything in between was rocking at the same time too. So I just think that people get so used to you being stuck in one box and that you only make East Coast boom-bap or this guy only makes Down South handclap 808 synthesizer beats. I do all of that. I do the whole spectrum. And I won’t just work with an artist to show the diversity. I’m genuinely drawn to working with them on that project. I’ve worked with Jay-Z to Uncle Murder to Immortal Technique.
If you notice something, most of those artists that you’ve named, they’re extreme artists. I think I’m drawn to the extremes. Immortal Technique is quite extreme in what he says in his rhetoric and so is Uncle Murder. And so is Eminem. And Jay-Z is extremely rich! (laughs) And he is an extremely talented artist. I don’t know what it is. I think I’m drawn to people with projects who have a whole lot to say.
Look, as a DJ, there’s nothing wrong with getting paid by a label because you feed your family, but the proof is in the pudding.
Look at Immortal Technique. Every time you hear Green Lantern beats, if a really small label puts it out, they probably didn’t pay for those beats. We probably just worked it out because I have a passion for that project. And I’m friends with him and I really respect how he takes his music so seriously and his message so seriously.
When you made “The 3rd World” for Tech, did you make that with him in mind or did he pick that beat out of a batch you sent him and is that how you work with the majority of artists?
It’s a little bit of both. I think the beats that ended up on The 3rd World project, including “The 3rd World”, were beats that I had. He said he needed some beats and I sent them to him and he said, “Perfect.” They went with the project and I hit bull’s-eyes as far as that project goes. But sometimes you’ll make beats for somebody and they’ll be perfect for the artist you have in mind. You’ll think that is it. You’ll think that’s Jeezy’s anthem and you’re super-hyped and you play it for Jeezy and he looks at you and he says, “Not so much.” (laughs) What you might think is what they want, they might be like, ‘I did that already. Get over it. I’m onto some other shit.’ So really, you should really just make your music. It’s really hard to do that because I make music with people in mind. I’m also aware that people may not fuck with that music.
How have your production techniques changed as you’ve spent more time working on beats?
They haven’t really changed, man. I use an MPC. I use a 1000 now. I used to use the 4000 and I went on tour and it broke. I got a 1000 and it just does the same shit. It does all I need for what I use it for. And then I use whatever keyboards I have laying around. I use a Motif and then I sample and I play shit as well. Really it comes down to just ideas, man. It’s about being creative.
And a lot of times I’ll take vocal samples from accapellas and make beats around the accapellas, like the Busta Rhymes’ “Where’s My Money?” That was a song that I produced for Busta Rhymes and Kool G. Rap. It had a whole different beat on it. It had a Busta verse and a Kool G. Rap verse. I had the accapella and I was sitting there listening to it one day and part of Busta’s verse was, “Bitch, where’s my fuckin’ money?” It just jumped out at me and I was like, ‘Oh, I need to take that.’ I sampled that little piece and I made the beat around it to accentuate that so that became the hook and the direction of the song. So I just had the beat and a couple of other people had the beat and they were fucking with it and then when it came time to do the Grand Theft Auto shit, I sent it to Busta to put some verses on it and he told me he destroyed that and he did.
Aren’t you working on Busta’s album with him too?
Yeah. I got a joint on there. It’s a joint called “I Just Can’t Leave You Baby”. It’s like a double meaning, like a double entendre type of thing. It’s like the hook is talking about how “you can’t just leave me, baby.” It’s about Busta and how the hustler can’t leave the game. And then it’s Busta as a rapper who can’t leave the game and it’s also about how the fiend can’t leave the drug. It has a double meaning to it. And what’s crazy is that I never heard the Busta verses on it yet. I talk to Busta often and we just haven’t linked up. I haven’t heard the verses yet but every producer on the album that I’ve run into has told me the beat I did is nuts. I’m like, ‘Damn, can I hear the song already?’ We’re actually supposed to get up tonight so I can hear the verse.
Did you work on Nas’ Untitled album?
Well, I really came into the picture at the last minute, man. I never really new Nas like that. I’ve never had any type of relationship with Nas. He’s a guy who’s kind of off to himself. You really don’t catch him out and about like that. My relationship with dude really started in the last month. It started with just doing a radio interview with him and then we did a song together for the Barack Obama mixtape. I knew I had to get Nas on that song and I got it to his manager. 10 minutes later he put me on the phone with Nas and he said that he needed that song for his album. He was like, ‘I really need that for myself.’ I was like, ‘All right, well, it’s also going on the Barack tape.’ He said he also needed it for his album. Cool. Beautiful.
Then I get a call. “Yo, you gotta do this mixtape. You gotta make a movie before the album comes out. People do this as a promotional thing. “All right. Give me some accapellas.” Boom. He gave me some accapellas and there’s actually a song where I made it and I played it for him in the studio. He loved it so much that he said, “Look, I’m going to put another verse on the song and take it off the mixtape.” Even though I made it for the mixtape, he said he was going to use it for the album. It’s on the international version of the album and it’s an Amazon.com exclusive. It’s not on the U.S. release because it didn’t make the cut or whatever. The song is called “Like Me”. At this date and time, it could be subject to change, but it’s on the international release.
Congratulations. Do you have a track that you produced that you’re most proud of?
Probably Ludacris’ “Number One Spot”. To this day a lot of people don’t realize that I made that song and that I produced the beat. It’s probably that because it was so cool to watch and just to see something that I made in my bedroom, something that I was literally about to delete off of my MPC I was able to give to Ludacris and I was able to be in the video. I’m in a small shot of the video and I was there all day. I was there off a beat I made in my bedroom. I’m in a dressing room with Quincy Jones and he’s telling me how he made that song and that sample. He made it 40 years ago and he never in his wildest dreams imagined that someone would do what they did to his song. That’s crazy.
And also along those same lines, the Busta Rhymes and Rick James song “In the Ghetto” I also made. I had the Pro Tools file to a Rick James song. I was actually making that for my album. I sent that to Busta for my album and he called me back. He had Dr. Dre on the line. He was trying to get the song from me. Me and Dre kicked it a couple of times. I had Busta Rhymes and Dr. Dre on the phone trying to get a song from me? Hold on a second! (laughs) That was pretty dope. And just to get compliments. Just to hear Dr. Dre tell me that my shit is fucking amazing and how did I think of doing that type of shit. That kind of validates the time and the hours and hours and days that you spend making shit. It just kind of makes all of that shit cool.
You’ve also got a production company that works with artists. What exactly do you guys do?
We focus on building artists. We have one in the pipeline right now and a couple more we’re working on the paperwork for. It’s definitely in the pipeline right now. We’re definitely going to start shopping around for Johnny Polygon. He’s featured on the hook for “Black President”. He’s featured on a bar on the hook. He’s singing. He raps and he sings but he’s not a rapper or a singer, if you can catch that. He’s a unique individual and he falls into the “left field artist” category.
What’s the most effective way to build an artist in today’s game?
Give the people your music. Give your music to people for free out the gate. Paint the picture of who you are and don’t do it in a contrived corporate manner. Make it organic. Just give them you. The people need to see who you are. I’m not saying to have someone follow you around with a camera everyday and be like, ‘Hi, guys, how are you?’ I’m not saying that’s not necessary but we don’t need that. Just give the people who you are and they’ll gravitate towards you if you’re hot and if you’re dope.
You’re also A&Ring Devin the Dude’s new album. Do you want to get more into that side of the game where you can work on artists’ albums?
I don’t know. I would like to. I would love to. But there’s so much politics involved in those situations. It’s really about politics. I would have to look at the whole situation. Most of the big label projects, there’s so many people that cut your creative process to shreds with red tape that I don’t have time for that bullshit. I’ll work on such-and-such’s album and that type of thing, but with Devin the Dude, it’s a boutique label distributed by Sony. It’s a boutique label and it’s being distributed by Sony and Devin the Dude is one of my favorite artists, period.
It’s definitely a passion project. He’s pretty much a self-contained artist as well. I’m just adding some icing on the cake and some sprinkles. I’m just calling up some people like Premier and Pete Rock and producers who also have a respect and love for Devin the Dude and just don’t get to work with him because he’s another guy who’s off in his own world. I’m also shooting him some of my beats but it’s not totally about that. It’s about if you’re a part of Devin the Dude’s cult because he’s pretty much a cult. Either you love him and you listen to his music all of the time or you’ve never heard of him. There’s no in-between.
Where do you see hip-hop radio evolving in the future?
I would love to see satellite grow bigger and bigger and it actually is growing bigger and bigger because radio is becoming, due to how it runs, off of getting the maximum advertising dollars, they end up playing the least amount of songs that are hits and that rotation becomes smaller and smaller and they play the same 10 songs all day long. And now there “cable radio,” for lack of a better term, that’s for sale but it offers you a wider range of music.
But the only problem with that is that terrestrial radio, which is FM radio, is free. You can just turn your radio on and it’s there where satellite is a paid service. You gotta buy the hardware and all of that. There’s pros and cons to both sides of that. I definitely see satellite getting bigger and I definitely see FM radio, especially hip-hop radio right now, just dying. Literally. As far as the actual radio stations, the only thing that is keeping it alive is mixshows where DJs can play something that’s not in that damn 10 song rotation.
What’s been your best memory so far from your show The Invasion?
Probably…(pause) I think probably the first time I got back on the air…Oh, no, that was a good one, but I gotta say the night we had Beanie Sigel, Styles P, Freeway, Uncle Murder and a splash of Joe Budden in there and that shit went on and on. That shit went everywhere. That shit was like a cipher of, like, the year. That shit to me was like those Flex ciphers when he would have N.O.R.E. and Canibus and LL and DMX or he would have G-Unit up on his show and they would just be rhyming for days and they were passing the mic around and shit. I would have to say that night right there.
How much preparation goes into each show you do?
Well, there’s some guests. We bring in a few guests and then the music prep. Everybody plays their position. I’m obviously head of the music. I play all of that and we have entertainment news. If I’m doing an interview with someone, I’ll have someone get some background info on that person that we may not know about so we can throw a sideways question at them. That makes for good radio.
There’s been talk of a Green Lantern album for a long time now. Will that album ever see the light of day?
Probably. Yeah. It’s just in the last couple of years I was never really pressed on doing that. Whenever I felt like doing it, it wasn’t fun. Probably with all of the bullshit over the years and the last couple of labels I was at, the red tape was there and I wasn’t really getting the creativity that I wanted out of it. It just kind of left a sour taste in my mouth. I realized I could go indie with it. I just wanted to fall back and do some mixtapes. I didn’t really need that. Not to sound cocky, but I really don’t need that money.
But there are actually deals on the table that I can’t talk specifically about that’s very interesting. And I’m actually pursuing it right now. It’s a boutique on a major label. I like the idea of them and I’m drawn to it. They want to do the Green Lantern album. It’s just, creatively, I guess.
The last few popular DJ albums have seemed more like a list of rappers in the DJs’ Rolodex as opposed to having cohesive songs that made sense. How are you approaching your album?
That’s a good question. I would honestly like to revisit this when we do an interview about the album. With all due respect, I honestly would like to revisit that question. I think it’s a very valid question but it’s more specific to the album and I would like to talk about that at a more later date.
The X-Men had to change their name to The X-Ecutioners due to heat from Marvel. Did you ever get any cease and desist letters from Marvel over your name?
Technically my name is “The Evil Genius DJ Green Lantern.” That’s technically what my name is, so in that sense, no.
What’s the next move for Green Lantern?
There’s a couple of moves, man. There’s really a few moves out there. I’d like to see this played out as the plans have been made. I really don’t like to sit here and talk about what I’m going to do. You’re going to see me as you’re perusing the ‘net one day or as you’re in the store or the street buying something one day. You’re going to be like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ I would really like you to come across it. That’s really my mindstate now in the past year or so. I would like to throw shit out there and see the reaction rather than telling people ahead of time and having them waiting.