Get to Know Your Local, Friendly Producer: Interview with Mr. Green

Still Underground - Classic Beats, Vol. 3

Inspired by last week’s post concerning Mr. Green, the producer who co-created the “Live From The Streets” documentary, I decided to get in touch with the man himself and ask him a few questions. For those unfamiliar, what Mr. Green does is explore cities for street musicians (or in one case, just sounds from a city), records them, then turns those street musicians’ works into hip hop beats. The whole process is fascinating because you see the artistic process while also seeing a final product that has a tremendous amount of personality. You can check out the entire first series here. Check out what Mr. Green has to say about it and his music!

Catchy Hip Hop [CHH]: What was the inspiration for the “Live From The Streets” series?

Mr. Green [MG]: My friend Sam Lipman Stern and I just wanted to do some kind of hip-hop/documentary project together and we came up with live from the streets.

CHH: Of the entire first series, which episode was your favorite to do and why?

MG: My favorite episode, even though it didn’t get the most views, is the Shanghai one.  I’m proud of that one because I was working with limited resources.  All I had was my cheap Casio camera and my old droid Eris phone to film the footage and capture the sound.

CHH: What has been your biggest challenge while producing these?

MG: The biggest challenge of live from the streets and all the projects that I work on is the business side.  The art just seems to come together naturally. I don’t have to think about creating too much, it just happens.  This might sound weird to some people but the hard part comes after I make a really good beat.  Then I have to figure out how much to sell it for, who to sell it to, who to get to rap on it, etc.  I think I’ve done a pretty good job though, I’ve been doing this for about five years and every year I do something way bigger than I did the last year.  The crazy part is, I’ve never had a manager.

CHH: How important is having a diverse musical and artistic base when it comes to being a hip hop artist? It seems from this series that you draw inspiration from and have an appreciation for music and art beyond hip hop. 

MG: As a DJ/producer it’s your job to be searching for new sounds, always. You can’t just be looking for sounds in the same places that everyone else is looking, you have to learn how to think outside the box and take sounds from every type of music and every aspect of life even if it has nothing to do with hip-hop.  I listen to everything because you never know when you’re going to find something that inspires you.

CHH: Since you deal with very particular sounds in, not only the “Live From The Streets” series but also your regular musical endeavors, what sounds in day-to-day life do you find particularly beautiful? On the flip side, which sounds do you avoid or just find really hard to work with?

MG: I try not to make any techno music, not because I don’t like it but because I think there’s enough techno in the world and the world doesn’t need me to make it.  On the contrary, I think there isn’t enough good hip-hop out there… that’s why I’m here.

CHH: As I have done with other interviews and since it is the theme of this blog, how do you define “catchy” in music? Do you ever strive to create infectious beats or is “catchy” a bad word for you?

 MG:  …even if you’re not paying too much attention to it, it makes you nod your head or tap your foot or get involved in someway… That’s what catchy means to me.

CHH: You have been making music for a long time and have done some very successful projects. What is the best story, or most memorable, that you’ve gained from your years in music?

MG: Man, in the last year I did a show at the Apple Store, I worked with artists I grew up listening to, I headlined a show in Canada, I had songs on national television, I performed at a festival I used to go to as a kid…  it’s hard for me to pick one… 

But, to pick one, it was probably the first time I heard one of my songs on the radio. It was in November or December 2007, they played the  song Pacewon and I did “Children Sing”.  It sounded so good on the radio I can’t even describe the feeling. 

CHH: Any shout-outs? Upcoming projects we should know about? Random musings?

MG: Yeah I’m doing more stuff with Pace, I did a couple songs with RA the rugged Man that are dope, I’ve been working with Malik B from The Roots crew, some of that stuff we’ve been doing is real dope also more stuff with young zee and I got The Live From the Streets album coming out… hopefully next year… it’s a big project so I don’t want to promise anything but it’s coming along.  I’ve already got verses from legends on there and I’m just getting started.  Before The Live From the Streets album comes out we are going to do a Live From the Streets season two.

There you have it! Big thanks to Mr. Green for taking the time to answer my questions!

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