2015 will be remembered as the year that Fetty Wap took over hip-hop. Right out of the gate, the rapper and singer did things that usually happen over the course of an entire career. He broke records. He topped charts. He went multi-platinum. He got everybody talking. He did it all without the backing of a major label, becoming the biggest-selling indie artist of the year. At the same time, he never dreamed any of this would happen.
The rapper and singer will admit, "I didn't really think I would be an artist. Last year, I didn't have an address. Now, I have five." He grinded for it, and he ended up doing all of those things that seemed impossible—even before he released an album.
Fetty came out swinging. However, he had no choice. A typical childhood in his native Paterson, NJ is all about survival. You aren't dreaming about fame, fortune, or making history. You're thinking about how to stay safe, get your next meal, and where you'll sleep at night.
He kicked off his career with an untouchable streak of smashes. Over the course of 2015, his breakout hit "Trap Queen" went triple-platinum as his next two singles, "My Way" [feat. Monty] and "679" [Feat. Remy Boyz], reach gold and platinum status, respectively. His fourth single "Again" cemented his spot in history as the "first artist ever to simultaneously chart his inaugural four entries in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot Rap Songs Chart." Add to that his accomplishments becoming the “first artist since Eminem to land 3 songs in the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100” and the “first artist to take 3 spots on the Shazam Global 200 Chart.” Plus, he took home the “Artist to Watch” award at 2015 MTV Video Music Awards—his first VMA.
He's lit up stages everywhere from the MTV Movie Awards mashing up "Trap Queen" with Fall Out Boy, BET Awards, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon with The Roots, and Jimmy Kimmel LIVE! to his hometown school, Eastside High [the real life school portrayed in Lean On Me]—where the mayor of New Jersey presented him the key to the city. Kanye West and Rihanna sing his praises, while Drake "blessed" "My Way" with an official remix. What do Taylor Swift and the Kansas City Royals have in common? Well, they're part of his massive "pop-cult" following, both using the "Trap Queen" opening line, "1738," during national interviews. Meanwhile, the pop superstar has performed the song with him live.
His original sound spoke to everybody and now it drives his self-titled full-length debut, Fetty Wap [RGF Productions/300 Entertainment]. Throughout the album, his voice will fluctuate from audacious melodies and brass bars into mesmerizing, hypnotic hooks that remain gripping. Fetty's sound is fresh and fully flavored. Breaking the mold, he makes romantic gestures over trap beats, showing a whole lot of love for the ladies worldwide and giving people something to move to.
He describes it best. "When people ask me what I sound like, I just say, 'This is Fetty Wap'," he says. "I make 'feel good' music, if that makes sense. Anyone and everyone can listen to a lot of my songs together and have a great time. When you hear one of them, I hope you enjoy yourself. I don't try to do what others are doing or follow trends. I'm humbled when I hear somebody say I've built a new sound for hip-hop. I just encourage everyone to stay true to what got you success in the first place and don't try to change based on what this industry or anyone thinks you should do or sound like."
It's a style that he's been working towards since childhood.
"As a kid, I played the drums and piano," he recalls. "I never really took it seriously. It was more of a hobby. However, I guess music has always been in me, coming from a family of singers and musicians. It was a combination of things. Remy Boy Monty was a big part of me starting to rap. He would go to the studio, and I would go with him. Frank “Nitt The Gritt” Robinson was also instrumental in encouraging me to go for it. I didn’t start off wanting to rap, but being around him and my boys, it happened naturally."
It's also the reason why "Trap Queen" became such a defining moment. "I just knew that it would go," he continues. "The first time I heard it on the radio, I couldn't believe it. It felt special in the studio, but I never imagined this would happen. 'Trap Queen' means a lot. It basically changed my life."
However, Fetty quickly released more "life-changing" tracks. "My Way" was a "fan favorite" from the beginning, as he put it, while "679" came to him as he celebrated his most recent birthday. "Again" offers a closer look at the artist from a different angle. "I recorded that when I was going through something in my personal life," he goes. "It's an important one."
Fetty's own label RGF Productions, owned by Danny Su Griffin, Frank Robinson, and Bernard Smith, created the perfect platform to launch the record in New Jersey prior to the partnership with 300 Entertainment.
"Lyor Cohen, Todd Moscowitz, and Kevin Liles all made me feel like family," he smiles. "It's never any pressure. When making a decision like that, you need to go with who you feel most comfortable with. I had that feeling since the first day and still have it with them. They always treated me as a person opposed to as 'an artist.' We're a family."
On the road, Fetty stands out as a dynamic and unforgettable live presence. He delivered his growing arsenal of hits to massive crowds during the One Hell of A Nite Tour with Chris Brown, but has his own big tour plans up ahead for 2016 and beyond. His shows bring that infectious energy from the record to life.
“That’s the chance for me to really connect with my fans,” he goes on. “I love getting out on stage and turning up with everybody. There’s nothing like it. I go out and give it my all.”
The album's cover—a simple close-up of his face—makes a statement. Fetty wants everybody to look right at him and hear what he's got to say.
"I just want fans to enjoy the record," he leaves off. "It's me. Personally, I'm most excited to be able to provide for my children. They won't have to experience the same struggles I did as a kid, God willing. They're my biggest inspiration, and I do this for them."
Now, all eyes will be on Fetty for a long time to come. – Rick Florino, August 2015