Fool’s Gold Records (home to Danny Brown and Run the Jewels) newest signee World’s Fair includes six members (Remy Banks, Prince SAMO, Nasty Nigel, Jeff Donna, Lansky Jones, and Cody B. Ware) who hail from various neighborhoods in Queens but have gained traction and credibility in the New New York landscape as each member has their own unique aesthetic. Among a bevy of mixtapes from past years and a few highly anticipated future releases, World’s Fair and Children of the Night (Banks, Jones, and Nigel) look to bring the scope of New York Hip-Hop back to Queens. Priding themselves on their original and cultured musical approach, World’s Fair look to make their name off electric live performances and eclectic product. Read below as we talk to the collective about the group’s beginnings, Queens Hip-Hop, their various influences, and the future. Queens get the money!
AB: For those who don’t know, where does the group’s name (World Fair) stem from? It seems that the name has a special cultural meaning within the group. Are all you guys from the same neighborhood of Queens?
Lansky Jones: World’s Fair originates from a lyric I had written in a 2009 COTN (Children of the Night) song off of the Where The Wild Things Are mixtape. “I just show off my trade in Queens, the modern World’s Fair” was the line. The name itself represents us in every way. We are unabashedly the United Nations of the modern Rap scene, and all of us channel our unique personalities, different cultural and socioeconomic upbringings through the music. Growing up in Queens you are exposed to damn near every culture and color the world has to offer, so it all coincides. Cody, Jeff and Prince are from different parts of Jamaica (Briarwood and Hillside, respectively), and grew up with one another. The COTN half are from northern Queens; Nigel from Corona, Remy from Forest Hills as well myself, though originally hailing from Roosevelt Island, which is essentially an extension of Long Island City or Manhattan, however you’d like to look at it.
The group’s sound isn’t what rap fans come to expect from Queens artists being that World’s Fair music is so eclectic which differs from the classic Queen’s hardcore sound (Mobb Deep, 50 Cent, Nas). With that being said, do you guys still draw interest from your Queens rap elders/counterparts?
Remy Banks: We are a pretty eclectic group. With us coming from different parts of Queens and different backgrounds it really gets shown in our music. Ranging from House, Grime, Dancehall, Freestyle, Reggae to Pop music; we love it and have been influenced by so many different sounds. But I would say our Queens elders are what we look up to and say, “They really put it on for our borough and we want the same.” Even if you listen to “’96 Knicks” everything from the beat to the raps is our sound but the chorus is sort of our ode to 50 and G-Unit. What he did for the music was unlike anything that has been done before and it really set a precedent.
Every aspect of the World’s Fair aesthetic including the single art, mixtape covers, production, and videos is very rich in culture. I see a lot of 90’s pop culture, streetwear, and high-level artistic graphics prevalent in the group’s products. Where do these cultural influences stem from?
Nasty Nigel: I feel that the whole group is super in-tune with what goes on in life. I always pictured us as the musical incarnation of Seinfeld. Not that everyone in the group loves that show, might just be me, but just like the awesome sitcom, we kind of tackle everything under the sun with our vast array of colorful characters. To put it short, being a born and raised New Yorker you need to be in the know and we draw our influences and inspiration from the city.
With World’s Fair being a rap collective, who are some New York rap groups (past and present) that you all view as legendary? What other artists outside the genre of rap do you guys draw influence from?
Prince SAMO: Well, we all have a wide array of influences and with everyone being so different that makes the influences kinda all over the place. Personally, I’d have to say that 99% of my influences comes from outside of Hip-Hop. Capleton, Supercat, Florence + Machine, Erykah Badu, the list goes on. I might not make music that sounds like their music, but they are what I listen to mostly and they are who I kinda channel when I’m writing. NY Rap groups that we find legendary would have to be people like Tribe (A Tribe Called Quest), Wu (Tang), Onyx, Boot Camp Clik, you know, the classics that everyone knows and loves.
New York rap is going through a resurgence after numerous years of being nearly defunct. Every hip-hop act/posse has their own unique, solidified sound. What is the group’s opinion on why this New New York movement became prevalent so quickly and why New York hip-hop fans have resonated with it so much?
Jeff Donna: Since New York rap has been in the shadows for a while, the first opportunity to bring light back to the city needed to be seized. People were eager for something new to reopen the lane for New York Hip-Hop. Momentum was quickly gained and didn’t lose steam. But I believe it’s the unity amongst the up-and-coming artists in this New New York movement that plays a major factor in the resurgence of New York hip hop. The support and camaraderie amongst most of us is genuine. Each borough has its rising stars and collectively we bring the spotlight back to the city. There is strength in numbers and the plethora of new artists out of the big apple has demanded the attention of the world. The fans feel unified as well. They are more proud to rep the city. As they support and follow their favorite artists, they support and follow this movement, this renaissance, this culture, in the birthplace of it all.
People think being a music artist is glamorous all the time which is far from the truth especially when you’re trying to build your reputation and separate yourself from your counterparts. What would guys say has the been the most trying times in your rap careers? When was the moment where you guys were like, “Hmmm…this could actually work” and make a career out of it?
PS: The most trying times in our careers aren’t over yet. The “Road to Glory” is a long and hard one. We’re still working hard to get where we want to be. Until we get there, it will still be considered a trying time in our career. everything we do at this point is so important and instrumental to our future. It’s just the beginning, and we have a long way to go.
I think the moment it hit us that this could work was probably later on than most, like probably our first show as World’s Fair. Before that it was something we loved, something we had passion for, but our first show was sold out and we had NO music out, NO co-sign, NO kinda buzz really and the people wanted to see us. i think that’s when it really hit us like, “Yo, we got something special here, we could do this shit.”
In prior interviews, you guys have stated that World’s Fair performances are wild and many things happen unexpectedly. What has been most live revenue the group has done so far? SXSW or maybe Santos? Why?
NN:I feel like our shows get wilder with every show. The last one we did was at the Bushwick Block Party and we had a sea of people flooding into the streets jumping as we played familiar records, brought out friends of ours on stage and threw out du-rags and honey buns. We just like to have fun and make it feel like a party. When it feels like a job, there is no fun in that and who wants to work nowadays?
Remy, I saw a Vine about a week or so ago of you with body-long du-rag. Very rare. Was this a custom, one-of-one fit?
RB: Can’t reveal too much information on that, just stay tuned.
Who are some artists and producers that World’s Fair wants to collaborate with for the next project? They may read this and reach out to you guys, you never know. (Ha!)
JD: Well we all have our individual tastes, so this can go on forever. Production from Timbaland, Alchemist, Star Slinger, RZA,Tyler, The Creator, Q-Tip ,The Neptunes, No I.D., Madlib, As far as artist go it would be SZA, Arca, King Krule, Little Dragon and on and on and on.
Last but not least, what can expect from World’s Fair in the coming months in terms of releases from each member? Any big shows or features you guys want to let the fans know about?
LJ: After this album it will be back to our regular scheduled program. Everyone is working on their own solo effort, still recording stuff for the next World’s Fair album and COTN is working on the next group album…keep checking back with the World’s Fair Twitter for more info.