Green Lantern Lights Up the Night

Surprise! EDM’s brightest superhero has a hip-hop past

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Dance music aficionados know Green Lantern (born James D’Agostino) as the producer behind such beats as his Valentino Khan collaboration, “Know About Me,” featuring Iggy Azalea. But what the dance music crowd might not know is that D’Agostino was the official DJ for Eminem’s Shady Records in the early 2000s, before his foray into the EDM world. D’Agostino is currently on tour with rapper Nas, and took a few moments while in New Zealand to chat about his February 15 gig at XS, and how he reconciles his hip-hop roots with his new EDM identity.

Las Vegas clubs are best known for their EDM DJs. When you play here, what do you spin?

I’m based in hip-hop, but I do love all genres and types of music. So I do a mix of pretty much everything across the board of what you would find at a nightclub in Vegas. I am gonna hit you with some hip-hop, I’m gonna give you some dance music, and everything in between.

You’ve been all over the EDM blogs lately. Do you ever plan to go back to doing exclusively hip-hop?

The space that I’m in is just kind of open, musically. I probably won’t turn off the electronic valve anytime, if that’s what you mean. There’s always gonna be hip-hop influences in everything that I do. When you called, I was working on something that’s technically dance music, but it feels like a hip-hop record from 1999.

What is it that makes it “technically” dance music?

Dance music is a wide umbrella that falls over all of these subgenres. Everything from Mr. Carmack to Hardwell is dance music, technically. The common denominator of all that, I think, is non-reliance on vocals.

Do you still produce mainstream hip-hop and rap songs?

Yeah, here and there. I’ve been really concentrating on my own stuff, though, I can’t front. I’m out on tour with Nas [right now], and he’s working on his album and he’s like, “Dude, where’s the beats?” I’m in my room 18 hours a day working on music, but it’s not for anyone other than myself.

So have you produced anything for Nas specifically?

I have not. I mean to; when someone asks, that’s cool. But the regular grind of a hip-hop producer, as far as shopping your beats, is not really inspiring. There’s a whole lot of sending your beats to different people and them just never getting back to you. Or even more frustrating: When you’re in the studio with people and they’re listening to your beats, but they never do anything with them. There were years of that. As much as I love hip-hop and rap music, I’m just experimenting with music that’s mine.

And you’re not with a record label right now, right?

Nah. I have a deal with Ultra to release a couple of songs [but nothing exclusive].

Is that why you don’t want to sign with a label? So other people aren’t dabbling in your music?

I just choose to just be independent. It’s kind of a new phase to me. I’m kinda still figuring out what I wanna do. I’ve been releasing some stuff on the trap side, but that could change. There might be some house stuff in [the future]. There might be some more glitch stuff. And if you’re with a certain label, most of the time they have a certain sound.

Photo by Doug Van Sant

Photo by Doug Van Sant

What are the most notable differences between playing hip-hop clubs and dance clubs?

In the urban clubs, it’s like you’re playing the hits or the songs that everyone knows in an exciting fashion. But in this space—in electronic music—people wanna hear what your taste is, as a curator of content. They want you to bring them into your world.

What have been your most memorable moments?

It’s really been the DJ stuff as of late, because it’s more shows that are centered on me. I’ve DJ’d for some of the biggest artists on the planet at their height and I’ve been in front of 100,000 people, [but] a show where it’s just me and 500 or 1,000 kids, it really overshadows those other shows where there are 100,000 people, because it’s about what I’m doing and how they are responding to music that I have made.

What’s the best part about touring?

Food. All the way. 1,000 percent. I’m a fan of this one chain, it’s a chicken spot called Nando’s. They’re here [in New Zealand] as well as Australia. I’ve eaten it twice already, and we just got here.

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