Twenty years later and Queens is still trying to move out of the shadow Nas and Mobb Deep have cast on the borough. Of course, there is no shortage of rappers—both big and small—who hail from Queens; 50, Nikki, L.L., Beatnuts, etc., but few have proven quick to wear the location as a badge of honor. To be fair, this could be a borough-wide issue, given how quickly neighborhoods are to shed the “Queens” from their addresses (I’m looking at you Ridgewood, Flushing, Jackson Heights, Long Island City). Semantics, I know, but you don’t see anyone dropping the Bronx or Brooklyn from their residence.
Luckily for Queens, Remy Banks doesn’t need semantics.
Banks’ long-awaited Higher mixtape finally dropped yesterday, kicking off a busy summer that will see him touring through September. The release also signals a return to New York for a genre that has been dominated by young names like Kendrick, Father, and Odd Future. For all of it’s cultural significance, NY has been stuck in a Tidal wave of Jay Z for what seems like decades. There have been other “new” New York names bandied about in recent years, but Banks and the World’s Fair crew have finally given us a release with the proper air of “what’s next,” even if you have to get eight tracks deep to hear their calling card. The previously released “.rem” is the Queens (and NYC) borough anthem you can hang your hat on. A song so raw it could’ve been cut straight from Mobb Deep’s The Infamous, while the chorus of, “Get money, fuck bitches, that’s how I’m living!” might finally put an end to music critics’ overuse of the term “emo rap.” Braggadocio lyrics of sexual prowess and smoking blunts are nothing new, but it’s rare in 2015 to hear them with a confidence that is both aggressive and relatable (see: not off-putting). After all, Banks just wants us all to, “Rep your hood, rep your block, rep your whole crew.”
Admittedly, Banks isn’t even the best rapper in the World’s Fair crew (a nod he gives to Jeff Donna, while calling Nasty Nigel the most “abstract” rapper in the group), but he’s likely the most charismatic. He’s also the best face to rep all of the hip-hop standards with the gusto of his predecessors, while embracing the now-age. It’s nostalgic in the way that every rock band after 1965 has been nostalgic—referencing without ever looking backwards. Funk cuts like “the function.” and “higher.” will have west coast heads nodding, and Banks proves he’s not above a love song with “things i do.” The smokey penultimate is the Black Noi$e-produced “n1go.”; its laid-back vibe and Nintendo sample (Okay Player says Super Mario Bros. and Final Fantasy, but I’m going on the record as saying Castlevania 1.0) will have you hitting repeat before it’s short three-minutes are over.
Point is: there are so many nuggets (pun intended) of production and lyrical gold, Higher will force multiple listens. And that’s not even mentioning guests like Hak from Ratking, Left Brain, D.R.A.M. and the rest of World’s Fair. When history looks back on Higher, I doubt many will see it as the best of Remy Banks, but it will undoubtedly represent the official launch of a career with as much potential as anyone Queens has produced. My only question to Banks would be, shouldn’t you be repping the Mets instead of the Yankees?
You can stream / download Higher below and scroll on for a full list of Remy Banks tour dates. You can also watch Banks test out various smoking utensils in our Pipe Check video from 4/20.
Remy Banks tour dates:
19 Tucson, AZ at Rialto Theatre *
21 Austin, TX at Emo’s *
22 Dallas, TX at Southside Music Hall *
23 San Antonio, TX at ACMH *
11 Joliet, IL at Mojoes *
12 Cleveland, OH at House of Blues *
15 Montreal, QC at Club Soda *
16 Toronto, ON at Opera House *
18 Syracuse, NY at The Westcott *
19 Providence, RI at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel *
21 Boston, MA at Paradise Rock Club *
22 New York, NY at Best Buy *
23 Washington, DC at The Fillmore *
25 Baltimore, MD at Rams Head Live *
27 Charlotte, NC at Amos Southend *
28 Asheville, NC at Orange Peel *
29 Raleigh, NC at The Ritz *
30 Atlanta, GA at Masquerade *
01 Tampa, FL at Orpheum *
02 Miami, FL at Grand Central Live *
03 Orlando, FL at Firestone Live *
05 Philadelphia, PA at TLA *
06 New Haven, CT at Toad’s Place *
08 Houston, TX at Warehouse Live *
10 Pensacola, FL at Vinyl Music Hall *
11 Birmingham, AL at Iron City *
12 New Orleans, LA at Republic *
13 Jacksonville, FL at Maverick’s *
15 Nashville, TN at Marathon Music Works *
* with Earl Sweatshirt