Mixtape Memories with DJ Green Lantern (Part 2)
Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)
Last week, we gave you Part 1 of our epic Mixtape Memories interview with the legendary DJ Green Lantern, which focused on his early history coming up as a mixtape DJ, the production tricks that made him an Evil Genius, and his classic collaborations with Eminem, Jadakiss, and more. Today, we pick up in 2005 following his mutual split with Shady Records, which occurred after he was unknowingly recorded on speakerphone during the Jadakiss/50 Cent beef saying to Kiss, “That’s a jab. Where’s the knockout?” (The recording was leaked on the street DVD The Come Up, Vol. 5.) It was a comment that he humbly admitted back in ’05 to MTV’s Shaheem Reid was “inappropriate,” regardless of his close affiliation with both rappers.
In Part 2, Green Lantern discusses how he moved forward after the Shady split by releasing his critically-acclaimed comeback mixtape Alive On Arrival, his projects with Beanie Sigel, the Beastie Boys, and Nas, and reveals for the first time ever details about his Jay Z mixtape that was never released, Presidential Invasion. Plus, Green talks about the similarities and differences between touring with Eminem, Jay Z, and Nas, and also his transition into EDM/trap music, which includes his Altitude mix, an upcoming EDM/trap web show, and an EP deal with Ultra/Sony. Let’s go in.
DJ Green Lantern: “The whole thing with 50 Cent, and me having to leave Shady, had left me in a place where some people thought my run would be over. He had a knack for killing careers at that point, so I had to put a banging piece of work out to let it be known, ‘I won’t be another statistic.’ [Laughs.]
“So that’s what this [tape] was. I’m gonna take my time, I’m gonna tell my story, and I’m gonna come back and entertain you. And at the same, I’m not gonna go in super crazy, but I’m gonna touch on things here and there. And I’m gonna make the hardest, New York, street mixtape that I can. And that’s what it was.
“[I was saying with this tape], ‘Let’s not get it twisted. The real reason why you like me is not because of who I stand next to, it’s because of what I do with the music. Period.’ That’s it.”
Jay Z “You Got Me On My Shit” (Green Lantern Mix)
Public Enemy #1
“My favorite memory of the Beans tape is going to his house in Philly, and spending a couple of all-nighters out there. And his homies were, at the end of the night, all leaned-out on his basement floor, with these bottles in paper bags next to them. It looked like a zombie movie. I woke up from a nap, and there were like five or six dudes laid out on the floor. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it was some sort of concoction of lean, because Philly was early on the lean. Beans was always talking about it, and Beans was on it.
“The Beans tape happened because the Kiss tape happened. Beans was riding around listening to the Kiss tape. He was like, ‘I need that.’ And that’s what I mean by the details. He wanted the guy that did that. [But that tape had] too much music. That’s the one mixtape where there were actually too many songs.”
Beanie Sigel ft. Peedi Crakk “What’s the Scenario”
Eminem “Fubba U Cubba Cubba” Radio Freestyle (Released by Big Mike)
“We were on Tim Westwood’s show, and I had a crate of records. It was Em, Proof, and D12. And Tim Westwood always wanted everybody to freestyle, and [Em] knew it going in there. And I was doing a little guest set while they were being interviewed. We had a crate of records in there, [Westwood’s] or mine I can’t remember, and I was going through instrumentals [for Em to rap over]. I put on the Mobb shit ['Got It Twisted,'] and [Em] slowed it all the way down on the turntable, because he wanted it to go with the rap that he had in his mind. [And then he absolutely killed it]. Funny side note to that is Alchemist produced that beat, and now he DJs for Em. The irony. [Laughs.]“
New York State of Mind
“Beastie Boys at this time were getting ready to drop To the 5 Boroughs. And this was in the era of, ‘Let’s do a mixtape to market you before your album.’ Somehow they get a hold of management or whatever, and somebody tells me, ‘Yo, Beastie Boys want you to do a mixtape.’ I was like, ‘Really?! Cool.’
“To be honest, when they first came out, I really wasn’t [a big Beastie Boys fan]. I was into Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, and Public Enemy. And here’s these guys. I’m like, ‘Is this a joke?’ But everybody in my whole neighborhood loved it, and they were looking at me like I was a hater. They’re like, ‘It’s party music.’ But I’m like, ‘Nah, but did you hear this Big Daddy Kane? This Public Enemy?’ To be honest, I didn’t like it until at least five years later, when I grew to appreciate it for what it was.
“But with that being said, by the time this came around, I was a full fan. I had all their albums, and I got to now get in the studio with them. And they made acapellas for me, per my request, of songs they never had acapellas of before, from the first album. So I had all these acapellas that no one had.
“I was going crazy with those joints, doing my thing to them. Bringing those ‘87 rhymes to ‘90s beats, but in 2005, 2006. I’m putting [their vocals from their first album] over Grand Puba beats, Brand Nubian beats. I’m putting it all in perspective, like, ‘This is how I want it to sound.’
“I get a lot of people that don’t ever listen to mixtapes coming up to me going, ‘Yo, that Beastie Boys tape was amazing!’ But, by and large, my street mixtape constituency never fucked with that tape. They wanted more D-Block. [Laughs.]”
Beastie Boys “Rhyme the Rhyme Well” (Green Mix)
Throwback Classics Vol. 1
“That was a promo item for jeffstaple of Staple Design that I did in ‘98. They asked me to do an old school tape. And it got bootlegged [years later, and somebody put it out with their own cover]. I never did a cover for it or nothin’. That was not an official release, but I always get asked about it.”
“That’s a compilation of all the work I ever did with Jay Z vocals, or Jay Z personally. My homeboy Noodles, not DJ Noodles but my homie that’s part of my team—Team Invasion—he compiled every Jay Z blend and [production I did], and every time I ever used Jay Z vocals. It was everything from everywhere. That spanned ten years that tape. It might’ve been one thing that was buried on some tape over here, or [something I played on the radio], and he had everything.
“He also [compiled] Green Lantern Best of D-Block, Green Lantern Best of DipSet. These were ways for the homies to repurpose some material, do a ‘Best of,’ and keep the movement alive in the streets. And I’d be like, ‘Yeah, go ahead. that’s dope.’”
Jay Z “Brooklyn Sound Boy” (Green Mix)
Unreleased Jay Z Mixtape
“The Jay tape that never came out was called Presidential Invasion. This is November 2006, like three weeks before Kingdom Come comes out. I’m on the world tour with Jay in September, October, and somehow he says something to the effect of, ‘When you do my tape, the shit better be hot!’ And I looked at him like, ‘Do your tape?!?! Don’t play with me!’ So that turned in to [him saying], ‘Fuck it, let’s do a tape!’ And I’m like, ‘Really?! You serious?!’
“[Then], we were on Angie’s show doing promo for the album, and [Jay] was humming some lyrics, and she was like, ‘What’s that?!?!’ And he was like, ‘That’s for the tape.’ And she’s like, ‘The tape!? What tape?!’ And he’s like, ‘Yo talk to Green, it’s his shit.’ So next thing you know, boom. Everyone thinks this tape is coming out. I think the tape is coming out. But, yeah. Not happening. But that’s the life of a hip-hop DJ, where it revolves around a rapper. That’s just what it is. You gotta take the good with the bad.
“There was actually a first tape that was supposed to come out from 2005 called Corporate Takeover. We had a cover, and we were about to go to MTV with [it]. That’s when he did the ‘Diamonds [from Sierra Leone] (Remix),’ that was just a freestyle [at first] that got pasted in. But, I still have songs that the world has never heard from Presidential Invasion. They’re on my hard drive.”
Unheard Songs From Presidential Invasion
“For the tour, I would create new content for different cities [we were stopping in]. Basically, I would come in to find out what song was big in the area, so that if we incorporated it into the show, as soon as I hit the beat, the crowd was [guaranteed to] go crazy. Because it’s something of theirs. So I did that for the whole tour, and that’s really how I got to be the [permanent] DJ for the tour, and tour with him for a few years.
“The song that we used on the tour for ‘Is That Yo Bitch?’ in the UK was this song by Lethal Bizzle called ‘Pow.’ It’s a huge grime record in the UK from the early 2000s, and it had a double-time bounce. It’s really fast, and double-time to ‘Is That Yo Bitch?’ Grime is really fast. So I was doing my research, asking my homie out there, ‘What song, if I play it, will instantly make the crowd go crazy?’ And my homie was like, ‘Yo, this song got banned out here, because people were just going nuts.’ So I was like, ‘I want that one.’
“We did the show in London, and I threw that on, and the crowd went crazy. Jay looks at me like, ‘Yooooo!!!’ After the show, he was like, ‘Yo, I wanna do a freestyle to that.’ So there’s a freestyle of him on the ‘Pow’ beat. It’s just like a quick verse, but I got the kid Lethal Bizzle to do the hook over, and put Jay’s name in it. And I got a verse from Bleek, because Bleek was on the tour. [It was a new Jay verse] that’s never been out. It was kind of a cool, fun, Jay verse. His braggadocio, shit-talking type shit.
“I played it randomly at a Soundclash I did in the UK a couple years ago, but nobody taped it. But it’s kind of rumored to be out there. Every once in awhile, someone hits me on Twitter asking me about it.
“There’s a few more. Most of the stuff leaked, like the ‘Jay’s Back, ASAP’ freestyle he did over the T.I. beat. I actually leaked that one. [Laughs.] Because I was like, ‘This is a freestyle over someone else’s beat. You’re not gonna to use it for your album. You’re doing someone else’s flow, so you’re not gonna take the vocals and use them for your album. So I think I’ll just put it out. [Laughs.] Wrong move.
“Got a call [from Jay] the next day, like, ‘Yo listen. Just call me, just ask me. If there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s people putting my shit out without asking me. Because it’s my shit.’ So I was like, ‘You know what? I gotta respect that.’ So now everything’s locked up. I’m not touching anything.
“He never gave me an explanation as to why the tape never came out. But it was [pretty much] because it was too close to when Kingdom Come came out. It was [bad] timing, And this was gonna be a whole tape of exclusive shit. ‘Dead Presidents 3’ was on it, that was a big gem on the joint. Let’s just say there’s about five songs [from the Presidential Invasion tape that I have that no one’s ever heard]. Some of them are original beats. Of course ‘Pow’ was a freestyle. Yes, [there’s some shit I have that if I dropped it today, it would make the internets go nuts]. [Laughs.] Some of these shits are really crazy. He’s a different type of rapper. He’s an animal with the lyrics. He’s fuckin’ Hov!!
“I hadn’t put [the tape] together because I was waiting for this one, which was gonna be the real gem—a new original song produced by me. It was the last day of the tour, and he was listening to a recording of John Legend live, and he has a song called ‘Doing It Again.’ And he’s like, ‘I want you to hook this song up. This is my story. I’m coming back. I’m doing it again.’ So I spent most of that night, and I hooked up the beat crazy. This is before The Roots did it years later, they sampled the same song. It was one of my best [beats] ever, I feel. I really put my foot in it. If Jay Z was on this, it would’ve been like my ‘Encore,’ in my mind. [Laughs.] He had the first four bars, and he was rapping it [to me]. We had two studio sessions [to lay it down, but it never happened]. Damn!
“Nobody really knows it, but my career is filled with shit like this, that would drive other people to kill people, or yourself. [Laughs.] And this is what I realize as I move into this electronic space. In hip-hop, the DJ is in a support role. It’s rap music. The producer is in a support role, supporting the rapper. In electronic music, you’re the master. It’s all on you, good or bad. It all falls on you. So you can’t say, ‘Yo, that verse was wack.’ There is no verse. But the main point is, I can’t [get mad at a guy like Jay Z if something I’m working on with or for him falls through]. It’s his world. It’s his mixtape to do or not to do. I have to just deal with it. I got stories like that all day long. [Laughs.]“
Jay Z “Jay’s Back, ASAP”
Jay Z “Dead Presidents 3″
“Nas was doing the Untitled album, and they wanted to get some presence in the street. Because, when he lays low, he lays low. So they wanted to heat it back up for a minute, and they wanted a Green Lantern joint. So I’m like, ‘Cool, let’s do it. I want some acapellas, though. I know there’s some shit in the vault. Give me some acapellas.’
“I didn’t know him at all, or anything. This is actually what lead to me DJing for him. Him hearing what I did with those acapellas. He was finishing his album, and he literally said to me—and I’ve never said this before—after he heard what I did with those acapellas, ‘Yo, I want to make a whole new album.’ We were in Electric Lady Studios on 8th Street, Jimi Hendrix’s studio, and Shakir Stewart, God bless the dead, was in the room like, ‘Okay, are you done?’ Because it was at that point. And he heard [Nas] say that [to me]. And the look on his face was like, ‘Ugghhh.’ [Laughs.]
“But me working with those acapellas and making songs out of them for the tape [led to him asking me] literally that day or the next, ‘Yo, you wanna go on tour?’ We had never even spoke about it, because I was like, ‘You know I do that too, right?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, I heard.’ [Laughs.] But from then on, [I’ve been touring with him]. I just came home from some shit we just did [overseas]. We just did [Citi Field after the Mets game] the other day. Go figure.”
Nas f/ Joell Ortiz “Ghetto RMX” (Produced by DJ Green Lantern)
DJing for Eminem, Jay Z, and Nas on Tour
“People always ask me ‘Who was the best to DJ for out of Eminem, Jay Z, and Nas?’ Em and Jay are similar, well, I don’t know about right now, but when I was with them, they made the whole set themselves, and gave it to me on a piece of paper, like, ‘Here.’ Half of me would be like, ‘Why am I here, now?’ [Laughs.] But these are huge stars, and they’re the best at what they do. And it’s their show, and you’re coming into the inner circle of their show, at the height of their superstardom. So you just have to look at it like, ‘Okay, maybe I’ll work my little flavor in when I can.’ Which is what I did.
“But with Nas, he recognized everything I was doing, and from the gate was like, ‘I want you to put the set together. And I want you to present it to me, and I’ll make any changes that I see [are necessary]. But I want you to make it flow, and put some breaks, and some feeling in it.’ So that’s what I did. I love Jay, and I love Em, working for both of them in that capacity. And even though the production level is a bit scaled down from Jay and Em, it’s just as prestigious [DJing for Nas]. So because Nas gives me that creative freedom, Nas edges them out.”
“There definitely was always a personal taste for mad different genres going on in me. Still, to this day, I listen to the craziest shit in my own time. I’m not listening to ’90s rap blends all day. I might sit there and listen to the Beatles, or Korn, or anything.
“Around 2009, 2010, I started dibbling and dabbling with some electronic music on my own, just kind of listening, and realizing that it’s more than just techno. There’s dubstep, and glitch-hop, and trip-hop, etc. And I’m appreciating the fact that there’s no lyrics, just some dope beats. So I was sitting there starting to get lost in the music, like, ‘Yo, this shit is crazy. This shit is taking me on a ride.’ Because that’s what electronic music does. There’s a drop, a build-up, then a groove, then another drop. And you don’t even realize that there’s nobody rapping on it. You’re just lost in the shit. I know I was, and I still do [get lost in it].
“Then, I started making some dubstep, trappy type shit, like last year, but still not releasing it, just playing it for people. And they’d be like, ‘Yo, what are you doing?!? This shit is crazy!’ And I still hadn’t put that shit out. I never put none of that shit out.
“Then, around [last] October, I was on tour with Nas. And we did a festival [curated by] Skrillex. And he booked Nas, and we came. And a friend of mine knows his booking agent, and we were all just kicking it. And basically, bottom line, I got the bug, like, ‘Yo, what are you doing? You’re just sitting on on all this dope ass shit.’ And this friend of mine knew what I was working with, and what I was doing, and where my head was going. So since then, I’ve started putting out little songs and remixes, and playing festivals and shows with [them].”
Altitude Web Show/EDM x Rap Project
“There’s an Altitude show that’s about to happen. It’s going to be a weekly, web-based show that lives on Hot97.com and ThisSongIsSick.com, which is like the NahRight of the EDM world. It will be a half-hour mix, and it will go live, and you can stream and download [the mix]. It’s gonna be EDM trap shit with rap verses in it. I just signed a deal with Ultra/Sony to an EP with EDM trap shit with rap verses.
“It’s really fun, though. Everyone keep asking me, ‘What are you doing?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m having mad fun. I’m having so much fucking fun.’”