ABOVE: WORLD’S FAIR. IMAGE COURTESY OF LOREN WOHL
Coordinating seven people isn’t easy. A decision as simple as where to eat dinner can turn contentious when more than a few opinions are involved. Nonetheless, Interview sat down with World’s Fair, the six-emcee-and-one-DJ hip hop collective from Queens, just before their show at the Knitting Factory last month. Though we didn’t know it at the time, a seven-person interview—all of its interruptions, tangents and contradictions included—was the ideal introduction into the world of World’s Fair.
The group thrives on paradox. They’re simultaneously one sound and six; old school and new; competitive and collaborative. Like their native Queens, the collective and their forthcoming record, Bastards of the Party, have mastered the art of unlikely combinations.
MEMBERS: Jeff Donna, Prince SAMO, Cody B. Ware, Lansky Jones, Remy Banks, Nigel Nasty, and DJ Thoth
AVERAGE AGE: 24
HOMETOWN: Queens, New York
COMING TOGETHER: Cody B. Ware: I knew Prince since I was 8. I knew Jeff since I was 13. He was in my first rap group. This is how we all came together: Jeff and Matty [Thoth] went to high school together. I went to school with Remy. I ended up meeting Nigel, who was then in a rap group with Lansky. I brought [Remy] to [Nigel and Lanksy]. Jeff stopped rapping. I brought Jeff back into the fold. Prince was rapping a little bit, but not really. I brought him into the fold. Then we just decided to combine Children of the Night [Lansky, Nigel, and Remy] with me, Jeff, and Prince. And then we brought Matt on to DJ.
DJ Thoth: This is how it started: They said, “Look man, you look really good on stage and you’re smart. I don’t really want to travel the world without you.”
Remy Banks: It was very situational. We were at SXSW and we had no DJ. We were like, “Matt, you don’t rap. Get behind the thing and press the space bar.”
Thoth: Literally five minutes before they were supposed to go on, Nigel runs up to me and was like, “Okay, you’re going to DJ.” I was like, “Okay, I don’t know what to do, but all right.” I got on stage and people were like “Oh, my God! You did your thing!” And I was like, “I did?”
STYLES OF MUSIC AND OF HUMAN BEING: Ware: I make an emotional, aggressive fusion of rap. I call it “black metal hip-hop.” I feel like it’s the bastard child of rap. People just look at it and are like “What the fuck is that?” What I do as a human being is in the music—emotional, aggressive, honest.
Prince SAMO: When it comes to World’s Fair, our music is a very innovative way of doing something nostalgic at the same time. It has a nostalgic feel to it, but it’s a new sound.
Ware: We’re the babies that grew up. We’re the babies who—
Banks: —listened to Mobb Deep.
KIDS FROM QUEENS: Thoth: We’re the representation of what everyone thinks Queens is, as a multicultural melting pot in comparison to the rest of the boroughs.
Ware: There’s a lot of rappers nowadays (especially young rappers) that are really afraid to tell their story. For some strange reason, they’re afraid to be honest about the life they’ve lived. For us, we can’t make music without just being ourselves and telling our story. Whether people connect to it or not, that’s up to them. But the people who do connect to it seem to be by our side every show.
Banks: We’re the melting pot in rap form.
Ware: We have a Pakistani kid, a Filipino kid, Dominican, Haitian, Puerto Rican, Russian—I feel like we’re the only ones who have ever done that. It’s not on purpose. We weren’t like, “Let’s go find a Pakistani kid to join the group.”
NEW NEW YORK: Banks: There is no New New York without Queens. We bring that to the table.
DJ Thoth: We’ve been given that identity as the face of Queens. You know, you’ve got Beast Coast, which is pretty much Brooklyn. Then you’ve got uptown which is A$AP and Tan Boys. Then, you’ve got Queens, which is us.
WORKING TOGETHER: SAMO: Is it difficult recording together? Extremely, extremely, extremely. But, in the end, it all meshes together, and it all sounds good when we put it out. It’s hard to go from Prince SAMO mode to World’s Fair mode. When it’s Prince SAMO mode, it’s just me and like two other people making the decisions and coming up with ideas and concepts. When it comes to World’s Fair, it’s like, “I like this. I don’t like this. Fuck you. Fuck this.” That’s everyday.
Banks: It makes [the music] much sweeter.
INFLUENCES: Ware: Company Flow kind of set the tone with “Company Fair,” the first single we dropped. We don’t all listen to Company Flow, but I think just that song embodied where we wanted to go. We coined the term “futuristic boombap.” That’s where we want to go—contemporary sonics with a golden New York feel. We all have different influences, but the music we make is New York.
SAMO: When it comes to World’s Fair, what we all kind of base our [sound] on is Nas, Mobb Deep, Lost Boyz, Onyx, and Jay-Z. [That’s] what we all grew up with.
Ware: We didn’t go in with the intention to mimic the sound. We just went in with the intention to make good music that we felt was our vibe. Every song here is our vibe, and they don’t sound the same.
BASTARDS OF THE PARTY: Nigel Nasty: We wrapped up the demos for our first album [Bastards of the Party], and we’re still continuing to make some music, so it’s not like we stopped or anything. Hopefully we get to wrap that up and get that out there.
FAVORITE SOUND OR SAMPLE: SAMO: Tom Scott and the California Dreamers.
Lansky Jones: I won’t name my favorite samples at the moment, but probably Ahmad Jamal.
Ware: Art of Noise.
GUILTY PLEASURES: Ware: I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, man. If you like it, you like it. I’m not ashamed. Pop music.
SAMO: Honestly, my guilty pleasure is Ke$ha: “Die Young.”
Jones: My current guilty pleasure is Young Scooter, “Colombia.” It’s the most amazing song. It is French Montana’s “Pop That” from last year.
Banks: Slipknot. I didn’t tell nobody I listened to Slipknot.
Jones: I like movie O.S.T.s [original soundtracks] also.
FAVORITE PLACE IN QUEENS: All: Danny’s Pizza. It’s our favorite place, except for Prince SAMO.
Banks: And except for Lansky, who eats whatever he sees on the Food Network.
LIVE SHOWS: Jones: Our music is incredible, but our live shows are our biggest and strongest point. All of the qualities of Queens that we initially expressed to you—all the different walks of life and how they clash—just explodes on stage.
Jeff Donna: It’s very energetic. We leave it all on stage.
Banks: We bring the women out. You go to any rap show in this goddamn city, and you’ll see a bunch of fucking men. At our shows, you see women, and then you see the men in the back. You see women moshing; punching men in the face; throwing bras on stage.
WORLD’S FAIR WILL BE PERFORMING WITH FOOL’S GOLD RECORDS AT SXSW IN AUSTIN, TEXAS. THEIR FIRST ALBUM. BASTARDS OF THE PARTY, IS DUE OUT THIS SPRING. FOR MORE ON THE COLLECTIVE, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE.