Run The Trap got to sit across from one of the most well-respected DJs in the hip hop community: DJ Green Lantern. Having recently headlined his first New York City show back in February, he came back again ready to start off his Trifecta Tour with DJ Sliink and TWRK at Webster Hall. Requesting nothing more than a few bottles of water and some Redbull, he rests his back against the seats, takes a swig of his energy drink, and opens up to us about everything from touring with Nas to explaining the difference between a DJ and artist. But, before he even began kicking his knowledge, Green Lantern–formally known as James D’Agostino–hit the play button on Flosstradamus‘ “Original Don”:
“Do you hear that? That ‘run the trap’? The guy saying the phrase has a heavy Jamaican accent, so people ran with ‘run the trap’, but he’s actually saying ‘run the track‘. The whole thing is incorrect, it’s just convenient; it sounds cool.”
After a little back and forth about the miscommunicated phrase, we got down to business.
What have you been up to since the last time you were performing at Webster Hall?
Uhm a lot of deli plates, a couple fruit plates… some water, some redbull, some gum. A lot of bass and uh, a couple of face melts.
You have kind of been under the radar music wise, aside from “Trifecta” (which we premiered on the website). Whatsup with that?
I’ve been in the lab for the past about 4-5 months working on new stuff, which is all about to start being released. Actually, I released a new one, Thissongissick just premiered it: it’s called “The Funk Space Coaster” which is an experimental, hybrid, funk-soul/trap record. So, I’ve been playing that in my sets and I’m digging the response. I took some James Brown soul sample elements, put it in a blender, set it on funk, and uh stopped it, put it on trap, stopped it… No, (laughter) I’ve just been experimenting with stuff and there’s a bunch of things that is about to come out. I’ve just been taking my time testing records before I release them. There’s actually a mix I’m doing called “Monster” that’s going to have about 10 original records, and that’s coming out in maybe like 2 weeks. It’s been done for a minute, I’ve just been tweaking it here and there.
Are you still label free?
There’s an option for another Ultra release, but there’s not like an album deal or label contractual thing other than that.
Do you like not being binded in a strict contract?
Definitely! You can do what you want. Other than that, it’s like a schedule and I don’t like to have my creativity regulated to a specific schedule. I was actually talking to (laughter) a friend of mine–we have the same management, he’s also an artist/producer–last night, he was telling me (referring to the manager) ‘Yo you should put a 12-month plan together’. I just looked at him like [blank stare], ‘Bro, it’s not me.’ Basically, some people it just doesn’t work for them; it’s a great organizational skill to have, and that will work… But, if you are a creative guy sometimes it’s not in you to do that. Sometimes, it’s just going to be ‘Look, I just made this shit… Let’s put it out.’ If it sticks to the wall, then it sticks; if not, I can just make something else.
So, what are you focusing most on right now?
Honestly. I like to experiment with a lot of different styles, but in the back of my mind I want to rock into something–I just don’t know what that is yet. But, I am having fun with all this other stuff and experimenting with different styles. I don’t think I’ll leave the styles alone, and I see that people would say–well, as far as electronic music goes–‘you’ve kind of stayed in trap lane, so that would be your thing.’ But, it’s kind of what was there. You know, it was a natural progression for me coming in from hip hop.
Last time you were at Webster hall, you were headlining your first NYC show. Now you’re back, so how does that feel?
It feels good. It always feels good to be in the big apple and just turn up! All three of our sounds are very cohesive, and I feel like the people are going to have a good time.
Talk a little bit more about Webster Hall and how the whole Trifecta Tour came about with Sliink and TWRK.
I wish I could tell you that we all got together and ate pizza, but a bunch of mutual friends of ours did get together and I feel like there was some pizza. Definitely some emails! But, we cross paths all the time and I see those guys at festivals and shows; we’ve all played the same bills together, so when some of the powers that be came to me and said, ‘what do you think about this?’ I said, ‘hell yeah! Those are the homies, when are we doing it?’ And, here we are.
You guys made the song “Trifecta” specifically for the tour, but do you think it would’ve happened if the tour wasn’t in the equation?
It probably would have happened, but we definitely went in saying let’s make something for the tour. It was fun [making the track], we were all touring all over the place and TWRK and Sliink were able to get together, while I was running around–because I’m still out on the road with Nas and stuff. It was just some emails back and forth as far as I went, and next thing I know they sent back the final version with the ending of it, the twerk section/tempo change. And, it was dope. I really like it.
Do you think the different atmospheres (Club vs. Venue) affect the way you put on a show?
Mmmmmm. YES! Because in this setting for example–the show setting–there’s definitely more attention paid on you as opposed to the club setting. I like to use this phrase [for the club setting]: you are narrating their V.I.P experience. That is nightlife in 2014 for a DJ. You are orchestrating these people’s V.I.P experience; in a nightclub it’s all about that experience. Whereas tonight’s show is, “I’m going to see this DJ, this producer, this artist….” right? It’s like I was saying, it’s a very exciting space for me.
Some people claim there is more support or unity within the DJ community than there is within the hip hop/rapper community…Do you agree?
Definitely, because it’s the nature of the two different things, right?. The nature of hip hop in a lot of ways has a layer of competition in there; there’s a layer of battle. Then, there is the rap game in itself, where the rap industry’s model is: rap is a competitive sport. The other side of that, what you’re saying is the dance world, and it’s P.L.U.R! Peace, love, unity, respect; P.L.U.R bro! And, I need that. P.L.U.R is a concept for a reason; people say that shit for a reason. I’m definitely drawn more to good vibes than to bullshit. I’d rather be in a real cool vibey situation than a room full of stare downs without even acknowledging that it’s a stare down. It is what it is, though. You take the good with the bad. Jay-Z said it: “If, you grow up with holes in your zapatos, you’d celebrate the minute you was having dough.” [Referencing Jay-Z’s song 99 Problems.]
Do you think, if there was more competition within the DJ community, it would make for better or more quality DJs?
Nah, it would just make for more assholes. Trust me. I come from a really competitive space. What really would come from that is just a whole bunch of assholery that I could easily deal without. I love the camaraderie on this side and the peaceful vibes. A lot of my rap-based homies that come with me to festivals will look around and go, “Yo, I feel so at ease right now!” As oppose to, where we would normally be at, you wouldn’t feel at ease. I mean, the unease wouldn’t stop you from being there, you still go. But, you know…
How do you keep the younger generations interested in following you–the people that might not know you or anything about your previous work and the people that may not be as eager to learn about you?
Well, honestly, I can’t control that. All I can do is put out music that I feel is a statement that comes from me, and it’s honest as a reflection of what I’m feeling. Then, I just let the chips fall, where they may. I can’t worry, I won’t worry about what a young kid, or old dude, or whoever is thinking about. It doesn’t even come to my mind. If you worried about that then you’re not really taking advantage of the title “artist”. When you say, ‘I’m an artist’, you don’t give a shit–you CAN’T. Just make music that you can stand behind, right? And, that’s it.
Do you go into a show with a predisposed mindset, or do you let it flow with each show that you do?
You know, I definitely let it flow. There’s obviously go-to records that I have, that I create for different types of crowds. But, also as a DJ there is the “read the crowd” element, like ‘okay, I need to switch up a bit… They’re falling off a bit.’ But, then, in this new space I think what actually overpowers that is being an artist. You sometimes have to turn of the DJ switch of “make the crowd go crazy at every cost”; but, what can’t happen is
you can’t, you shouldn’t make the crowd go crazy at the cost of you playing your own shit. I have mentally had to turn that off, because I’ve found myself playing everyone else’s records all night and I’m not playing my shit, because I’m not confident in it. And, I just had to say, ‘look man, this is part of the reason why I’m here… because of my songs!’ I just started putting it out and playing it, getting more confident with it, finding spaces to play it, and not caring what anybody thinks of it.
Is there any artist (vocal, producer, DJ) you see yourself collaborating with as we close in on 2014?
Yeah man! I’ve got some cool things in the works. There’s this one with Riff Raff and ASAP Rocky. That’s going to be fun. I’ve got some things coming your way.
If you could give one piece of advice to anyone trying to follow your footsteps, what would you say?
Dare to be different. You can’t be the next x,y,z. You have to be the first YOU. Anyone who ever made it was never a carbon copy. You can be influenced–everyone is influenced, but at the end of the day they are solely them. There’s that, and then you better have some drive. YOU BETTER DRIVE. Hard work beats talent, when talent aint working hard. Period. Creativity, originality, drive and ambition; that’s it.
DJ Green Lantern