Wednesday afternoon in Venice Beach couldn’t be anymore radiant. An orange glow directly shines on every single person and object within a close radius as the Pacific Ocean welcomes sunset. Tourists, general passers by, homeless folks, surfers, thirst buckets and everything else in between are all visible from one incredible vantage point. That location? The roof of beachside marketing and content creation headquarters for social photo and video sharing network Mobli. Chill vibes become an understatement thanks to the sponsored liquor and Cali Kush freely available. Downstairs features a large lounge equipped with large flatscreen, Xbox One, turntables playing an eclectic mix of tunes, ping-pong table, and plush furniture. Beneath the party atmosphere lies an efficient workplace fitting several current generation iMacs, a fully fledged recording studio and kitchen area where cooking shows are filmed. It’s a chill time while space occupiers patiently wait for the arrival of someone who’s become a fascinating enigma within Hip Hop. The artist is none other than Paterson, New Jersey rapper turned singer Willie Maxwell a.k.a. Fetty Wap.
By now, both core rap connoisseurs and mainstream alike have all heard Zoo Wap’s breakout single “Trap Queen.” Released over a year ago, the track has become synonymous with contemporary Hip Hop. This means autotune, influences more in line with music from below the Mason Dixon line and sing-songy delivery. However, one idea set him apart which aren’t too noticeable at first glance. There’s an urban romance novel approach to “Trap Queen” that wouldn’t feel too out of place in writings from Zane, Wahida Clark or Mz Lady P. It’s almost as if Fetty Wap can be called a stylistic mix of Drake, Gucci Mane and Ja Rule. Most of music’s mainstays have already sung his praises from Kanye West to Rihanna and even currently incarcerated “Hot Nigga” Bobby Shmurda who co-signed him first. When the 24-year- old makes his way to the beach house patio, it’s nearly anti-climactic. Arriving with members of his affiliated Remy Boyz 1738 squad, he talks a bit with his publicist before heading to a nearby dispensary along the boardwalk. Similar to the music video for “Trap Queen,” he’s dressed like someone on the cusp of superstardom from head to toe. Kanye’s new Yeezy Boost adorn his feet matching fitted True Religion jeans and white tee engraved with the Ferrari insignia. A chain featuring the Versace Medusa symbol hangs around his neck while a red fitted snapback covers hair that’s been dyed brown up-top. Of course, that signature congenital glaucoma afflicted left-eye stemming from an accident during his younger days almost becomes the centerpiece.
Making his way back to the beach house, Fetty Wap greets various members of the media (including reps from Perez Hilton and HipHopWired), employees of Mobli and a few folks just hanging out there. Before sitting down to address the media in a live Q&A being streamed, he makes his way upstairs to record a video while everyone else waits at the downstairs lounge. A few of his boys even scope out the boardwalk looking for some Southern California snatch and even come out successful by just mentioning Fetty Wap’s name. When he arrives back downstairs to a barstool placed in the lounge’s center, the attention is placed all on him.
In Los Angeles for the past two days of a week’s trip, Fetty Wap has been indulging. “I’ve been high the whole time since I got here,” he says. “Just been working and getting high.” The success comes full circle for him. Around this time last year, Fetty Wap was maintaining a local independent grind with the rest of his Remy Boyz clique. “Matter of fact, we were selling EPs and ‘Trap Queen’ had just dropped on SoundCloud,” he explains. Since then, the track which has also been remixed by French Montana and Fabulous gained 30 plus million streams on the music service and 16 million on Spotify. Actual music sales are just as good if Billboard has anything to say. Since signing his deal last year with Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles’ 300 Entertainment by way of RGF Productions, “Trap Queen” has peaked at number one on its U.S. Rap, two on U.S. R&B and six on the Hot 100 charts. Not bad for someone who spent a full year developing his own sound. “Now we feel like we put that work in and that the hard work paid off,” Fetty Wap describes his current state of emotions. “We just stay humble and keep making good music. I just say that it’s a blessing for everybody to love the song the way they do.” Someone in his position would be tempted to change by the new-found fame but he’s quick to proclaim “stuff like that don’t happen to us.” He’s just happy with the current situation. “I just feel thankful that these people out of all people like Ye and Jay rockin to my song,” Fetty Wap says. “I’m thankful that I did my job good enough that they heard it.”
“Trap Queen”s video has gained quite a following. Dropping August of last year, the visual has garnered nearly 30 million views. Taking place in his home neighborhood in Paterson, his manager came up with the video’s concept outside of one idea. “I think the song had just hit a million plays on Soundcloud and I just had got a black BMW convertible and just wanted to put it in the video,” he says. “Everything else was whatever.” Quite an upgrade from a Cadillac he was whipping around before then thanks to a steady mixtape and apparel hustle. Leave it to Fetty Wap, the most mind blowing point in his career is coming to L.A. And yes, he’s found time to eat In-N-Out. Still, he’s surprised by the newfound attention. “It don’t be the cameras and the media people but the fans I thought will never, never know me,” says Fetty Wap. “I walk past them and they be like it’s you.”
In the finicky world of Hip Hop where one-hit wonders come and go, there’s been a specific level of focus in ensuring he doesn’t join the ranks of Trinidad James or even Shmurda. The last couple of months have been spent listening to nothing but himself and various Remy Boyz members. “We work with each other and tag-team a track,” he says before mentioning Future’s “Commas” and “Flick Of Da Wrist” by Houston rapper Chedda Da Connect. “Just trying to get better. That’s how we got our music better by just working and working.” Then again, his growing fanbase has kept him pretty alive thanks to various viral videos and unofficial YouTube post including “My Way” and “Teach You How To Jug.” In Fetty Wap’s world, that’s extra support. “That means that people are listening and reaching out,” he explains. The following has attracted future collaborations with Kanye, Rich The Kid, K-Kamp, Quavo of Migos, French Montana, Ty Dolla $ign and allegedly Diddy. For someone who’s only requirement to record music are Backwoods and Remy Martin 1738, he’s attracting the right people.
Fetty Wap has come a long way from his Paterson upbringing. Nearly, 13 miles away from Manhattan, he’s dismissive of its violence and crime. “Some hoods are worse than others,” he says. “I just grew up in a bad hood. Ain’t really too much to say about it.” Pretty modest for an area where nearly 37 percent of people there live below the poverty level and a budgetary shortfall cut the local police force by a third. In fact, things got so bad there that the city implemented a curfew on business in fifteen designated hot spots. From Fetty’s perspective, his right eye was the least of his worries. “After a while, I started making jokes about it too,” he explains. “I got tired of wearing the prosthesis and when I took it off, I felt more comfortable.” In his world, his eye isn’t an issue considering the fake one led many to believe he was cross eyed. Made more sense for him to just be himself, similar to his music. “You don’t like it, that’s not my problem,” he says.
Something else he doesn’t care much about are the argument regarding East Coast Hip Hop’s current lack of creative identity. Sure, “Trap Queen” sounds more in line with music pumping out of Atlanta similar to other nearby New York rappers like French Montana, Nicki Minaj and even Shmurda. Of course, this has caused many a East Coast traditionalist to scowl. Considering Fetty Wap’s background, he’s taking advantage of an opportunity for something greater. “I ain’t ask for no handouts you know what I’m saying,” he ask. “Ain’t nobody help me do this. Put your team on and make sure yall eat and make this money.” Point blank, Fetty Wap has a family to feed including a son and daughter. According to him, he won’t feel satisfied in his career until his singular mission. “When I can call my mom and let her know she can quit her job.”