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DJ Green Lantern: Inside the DJ Booth

TK

By age 18, DJ Green Lantern had finally figured out his career path and deejaying parties had nothing to do with it. Most uber-successful DJs start off relatively young, during their pivotal teenage years but Green tells The BoomBox he wasn’t even thinking that far ahead. Although he had a sizable number of friends who spun records, the mixer claims he simply had “no desire” to.

“I didn’t know [what I wanted to do],” he says with a laugh. “I honestly didn’t know. I was just floating. I knew I wanted to do something with music, but I was just out there running around, going crazy.”

After graduating high school in his native Rochester, N.Y., Green finally committed to a specific goal and started producing. He made beats for four years before he even considered touching the turntables, and even then it was only after a pay rate was mentioned. “One day I was playing my beat tape up at SUNY Brockport where I was taking classes. This kid was like, ‘Yo, you can do parties with the equipment that you use to make these beats,’” Green recalls. “I was like, ‘Nah, you can’t ’cause it’s a sampler.’ He was like, ‘Yo, I’m trying to tell you though, the Qs [Omega Psi Phi fraternity] need a DJ for Friday and they got $500.’ I said, ‘You know what? Tell your man I’ll be there.’”

Despite the fact that Green Lantern had never actually spun a record in front of a crowd, he signed on to host the college party. He’d been accompanying his DJ friends to their weekly events but had never learned technical tricks like cutting and scratching. However, he did pick up the importance of song selection.

Green started off with a single turntable and mixer but used his relationships to borrow the bulk of what he needed. His friends loaned him a second turntable and four crates of records that included hip hop, reggae, R&B and old-school material. He didn’t even have a microphone, but that one night changed everything for Green Lantern.

“The minute I got the crowd reaction at that first party, the Q party in 1992,” Green says of the excitement he felt working his first party. “I killed it — just off of playing how I would want to be played for. I wasn’t even nice or anything. I was just bringing records in on beat. It was just cutting one song off and putting another song on at the right time.”

As with most DJs, Green confirms that the rush comes from the crowd’s reaction to the set. That first event made him think twice about making beats for a living. “The response from people when you play a song and people react with screams and hands up, that’s addictive… I never looked back. From that day forward, I was a full-on DJ. I honed my skills for years just doing parties. “

By 1997, Green Lantern had been spinning at college and club parties for five years and he was thinking of alternate ways to diversify his outlets. He knew he had an ear for what sounded good since his days producing and his song selection during party sets were on point, so naturally he moved into compiling mixtapes. “I approached it totally different from parties because it’s a totally different platform, a different setting, a different experience for the consumer, the listener,” he shares.

As soon as he garnered national recognition as one of the best mixtape DJs of the early 2000s, Green received his biggest break. In September 2001, New York City’s Hot 97 called, requesting that he guest DJ on a weekend mix show called Takin’ It to the Streets. His first show included cuts from Jay-Z‘s classic ‘The Blueprint’ album, which had just leaked a week before its release. Green even scored a quick interview with the Brooklyn MC for the segment, making his initial entry into radio a remarkable one. “That was when I said, ‘This is it. I gotta go super hard,’” he reveals.

Green Lantern’s insistent grind led him from deejaying college parties in Rochester to working radio at Hot 97 and touring with some of the biggest and best rappers of our generation including Eminem and Nas. While traveling for work, Green admits that some of the most bizarre things happen away from home.

“I was in Australia and this girl didn’t just lift her shirt up… She straight took her whole shirt off and found her way to the stage,” he says, still incredulous. “Security just came along the stage and tackled her into the crowd. I wasn’t laughing at her, but the situation was pretty funny. It was amazing to me that they would just do that to a girl. That’s supposed to happen to dudes, you know? Who was she bothering? That was just amazing to me that the dude took his job that seriously.”

Green Lantern earned his DJ stripes years ago but maintains that he still gets excited to spin in front of enthusiastic party-goers; it’s part of the motivation. “It’s still crazy to see 50,000 to 70,000 people at say, Coachella or Lollapalooza, and it’s just amazing that you’re just controlling all of them,” he says thoughtfully. “You’ll say something and they scream back — call and response — and you’re just like, ‘Man, that’s just little ol’ me.’”

Top Five Songs of the Moment
1. ‘Dance,’ Big Sean
2. ‘Round of Applause,’ Waka Flocka Flame feat. Drake
3. ‘Super Freak,’ Young Jeezy feat. 2 Chainz
4. ‘House Party,’ Meek Mill
5. ‘Birthday Cake,’ Rihanna feat. Chris Brown

Top Five Songs to Rock a Party
1. ‘One More Chance,’ Notorious B.I.G.
2. ‘Let Me Clear My Throat,’ DJ Kool
3. ‘Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems,’ Notorious B.I.G.
4. ‘Romie,’ Beenie Man
5. ‘Poison,’ Bell Biv DeVoe

See Photos of a Mixtape Timeline

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