Many things attracted me to the hip-hop arts growing up as a shorty, but
one of the things I gravitated to instantly was the idea of making music WITHOUT
singing. I was a terrible singer, and even more insulting, participation in my
district's music program was NOT optional until high school. I had to fake my
way through each and every choir performance, quietly imitating whoever was next to
me, praying hard as hell that I would neither be seen nor heard. Rapping on the
other hand was something I could CHOOSE to do. I didn't have to sing, I just
had to flow, and have something worth saying when I did. I enjoyed how different
rapping was from singing. When rappers made fun of R&B and pop singers for being
cornball I felt like they were saluting the rest of us who weren't singers too.
Somehow in the last five years rap music has gone in entirely the opposite direction.
Instead of being the cool alternative to singing, rappers have been sounding more
and more like thinly veiled R&B artists. It may be that self-confessed rapper turned singer T-Pain ushered in this
new era back in the 2000's and it just took a while for the rest of the industry to
catch up, but in 2015 it feels like every hot new "rapper" is somebody who sings
up to 80% of the time and then drops a few bars in the middle of a track, and if
you hear their radio hits you might not even know they were "rapping" at all. The
most notable example of this is Future,
but he's so successful that intentionally or not everybody seems to end up imitating
him. Even established rappers like Drake
and Lil Wayne seem to spend more
time singing than spitting bars on their songs now.
Fetty Wap is just the logical progression of taking this hip-hop shift to the
furthest possible extent. Unlike a lot of recent singing rappers, Wap doesn't hail
from the Dirty South, instead coming to us from Paterson, New Jersey - which may
be as good an indicator as any as to how ubiquitous the style has become. Even though
the phrase "overnight success" is abused for promotional purposes by eager publicists,
it really is true in Wap's case given he only started making and recording music in
2013. In late 2014 his song "Trap Queen" hit the internet lottery and went viral,
and 80 million listens later every record label came with their hand out looking to
get a piece of the budding superstar. Ultimately 300 Entertainment (distributed by
Atlantic Records) won the war, and given a talent roster that also includes
Migos and Young Thug they certainly seem to be the
"it" label right now.
Part of Wap's continuing appeal may be noticeable in the video - the distinctive
appearance he has due to his left eye being replaced with a prosthetic due to
childhood glaucoma. It gives him that cachet of credibility with fans right away
who don't know his backstory but think just from seeing him that he's "been
through it" and is the "real deal" even as a singer. He also appears to spend a
lot of time at the gym lifting weights - and that's got to be appealing to the
ladies in his fanbase (perhaps some of the guys too). He looks the part of a
mid-1990's era gangster rapper, but he croons his way through hits like "My Way"
which have both nothing and everything to do with Frank Sinatra. Neither song
sounds like the other but they both make the same point - I live how I want.
"Take you where you want to goooo
Flexing on your ex, I knowwww
He ain't ever take you out
Barely even left your hoooouse
How dare that nigga run his moooouth
when his pockets in a drouuuught
The last single he put ouuuut
didn't even make it ouuuut
And he dumb as hell and I swear his ass don't think, ayy
If he disrespect, two shots and I won't blink, ayy
Never really cared what the fuck these niggas think, ayy
I got deep pockets and I swear my s--t's on sink, ayy"
Fetty Wap doesn't do a lot of outside collaborations on this album, which actually
makes sense given how quickly he's come up, and how quickly everybody involved would
have rushed to put his self-titled LP out. His friend Monty is on just under half of
the tracks (regular or deluxe edition) and is pretty interchangeable for Wap -
sing-songing his way through bars in the exact same manner as his compadre. Monty
also hails from a clique called Remy Boyz, but the single "679" seems to have changed
from the album and left some members of the Boyz other than Monty out. Perhaps there
were licensing issues with the vocals - it's hard to say.
The whole of the self-titled "Fetty Wap" album is remarkably inoffensive and
uninspired. Those two things should be contradictory and somehow they're not.
"No Days Off" is what you'd think - Fetty stays "in the kitchen" and "karate kicking"
because he takes no time off from his hustle, even comparing himself to Master P
(another indication how Southern in origin most of today's rap-singing is). "Couple
Bands" is about Wap flossing his newfound wealth, "Boomin" is about how he and his
RGF/Zoo Squad homies run things (one of his more "rap" songs actually) and "Again"
is about how they'll do it all again. "Coming from the trap all a nigga know is
get it" states Wap in all sincerity, and if you're looking for anything deeper
than that from this 24-year-old you're listening to the wrong album.
Now to bring this thing around full circle, I admit to total complacency when it
comes to the rappers-turned-singers phenomenon. I've tacitly accepted it, and even
though a lot of the content is lyrically vapid, there's some of it I actually enjoy
riding around listening to. I can say "there's not much to it" like it's some sort
of indictment, but a lot of the rappers I grew up to weren't super profound either.
Public Enemy made the political statements, while EPMD snapped necks and cashed large
checks. N.W.A. said "F--- Tha Police," while DJ Quik just wanted to get some trim
"Tonite." The mark of quality for a rap album is not necessarily to change the
world with your words, though rappers who have a point to make might last a little
longer in the fickle world of rap fan consumption. The thing I'm really trying to
figure out is when we all stopped caring about rappers actually rapping, because
Fetty Wap is marketed and sold as a rap artist, yet he barely even bothers to at all.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10
Lyric Vibes: 5 of 10TOTAL Vibes: 6 of 10