what the fuck happened to fetty wap?
A reflection on the shortest & weirdest run of dominance in hip-hop history
It’s over. Let’s make that very clear before we get started. Fetty Wap, the young, one-eyed Phenom hailing from Paterson, New Jersey, and successfully surfing hip-hop history’s most unpredictable and explosive tidal wave, will never find himself on top of the music scene again.
We’re fans. Let’s also make that very clear before we continue any further. Fetty Wap is a uniquely talented, powerful, genre-defying artist who has been undoubtedly the biggest blockbuster act in recent memory and is largely to credit for ushering in hip-hop’s current melody-focused movement. He is deserving of all fame and acclaim that he has ever received. Hate him or love him, it’s impossible to deny the breadth of his reach and influence during his dominant run and in the time since. But the pace and force with which his rise up the music totem pole was experienced is, for all intents and purposes, completely impossible to repeat.
So, let’s talk about that rise – what we refer to as the Fetty Wap Era. Cole had Lights Please, Drake had Best I Ever Had, Waka had Throwin’ Fingers, and Fetty Wap had Trap Queen which has, since its release, amassed something like 2 billion combined listens, streams, and views. Completely unprecedented, never before seen territory for a breakout hip-hop single.
It peaked in the charts at No.2 on April 11, 2015, and the world would never be the same. From there, Fetty would go on to collect 15 more spots in the Billboard top 100 and using leftover momentum from his canon fire start, will surely add to that list even as his career continues to push forward at a much more moderate pace. Of the 15 Billboard charting tracks, 12 peaked within a year of the Trap Queen’s release (13 if you allow Promise which peaked at #19 on April 30, 2016), and of those (baker’s) dozen, all of them made their way into the top 50. To make it simple, the Fetty Wap Era ran from April, 2015 to April, 2016, and it did so at a brutally swift and powerful pace.
For scale, here are his unparalleled contributions to Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Charts during that timeframe.
#2 April 11, 2015 : Trap Queen
#5 August 8, 2015 : My Way
#30 August 15, 2015 : Around The World
#12 August 29, 2015 : Again
#23 October 10, 2015 : $ave Dat Money
#50 October 17, 2015 : How We Do Things
#19 October 17, 2015 : RGF Island
#32 October 17, 2015 : Jugg
#3 October 31, 2015 : 679
#49 November 14, 2015 : Gold Sluggs
#36 February 13, 2016 : 1Hunnid
#19 March 5, 2016 : Jimmy Choo
* #19 April 30, 2016 : Promise
Leaving out only two. Wake Up got to #15 on July 23, 2016 which can be seen as a late outlier from the Fetty Wap Era, and in collaboration with 6ix9ine & A Boogie Wit da Hoodie on the track Keke, he now finds himself back in the charts for the first time since.
I’ll be honest and say that when news of Fetty Wap making a tiny wave again first brought this subject to my mind, the strangeness of his remarkable disappearing act was a simple hunch, but numbers don’t lie. Instead, they beg the question for a second time: what the fuck happened to Fetty Wap?
What we’re looking at here is essentially the musical equivalent as the Pen Pineapple Apple Pen guy dropping a full-length heater, climbing to the top of the charts with mass success of the album itself, singles, features, and a sold-out, international tour, and then unprecedentedly disappearing for two years albeit with a fairly continuous stream of new music. So, it’s not like Fetty Wap has disappeared per se. In fact, with his latest release – the third installment of his For My Fans mixtape trilogy – he’s putting out as much music as he ever has.
So then why does no one give a fuck? That is the right question.
The answer is really not all that complicated and comes down to a few simple notions.
Fetty Wap was extreme when Trap Queen and eventually his self-titled debut album first hit the scene. The world had never really heard anything like him. His style was shocking, different, and unconstrained by the idea of traditional genre. In 2015, we were just seeing the tip of the current melodious hip-hop iceberg. Kendrick’s To Pimp a Butterfly, Dr. Dre’s Compton, Rocky’s At.Long.Last.ASAP, and Joey Badass’s B4.DA.$$ were some of the obvious standouts and predominantly lyrical albums at the time of Fetty Wap’s rise. Sure, DS2, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, and What A Time To Be Alive also made splashes of their own, the cocky, mainstream likes of which only Drake and Future could deliver, but they were something else entirely. And so was Fetty. In his own way, Fetty Wap was a pure experimentalist pushing the boundaries of hip-hop, testing the limits of his own capabilities, and existing as a left field, off-kilter, impossible to define weirdo. More importantly, he was the only one doing it – or at least, the first to be recognized for it. And he was much more than recognized – he became a full-blown pop culture icon seemingly overnight, taking over not just his native hip-hop and R&B roots, but the entire music scene.
In the modern scene, a slew of artists has taken advantage of the roads paved in Fetty Wap’s wake. Hip-hop has changed. Artists taking the melody-focused route, artists existing in the grey areas between hip-hop and countless other stylings, and artists who have altogether taken their own form of Fetty Wap’s unique sound now litter the hip-hop realm. He proved it wasn’t necessarily about having the best flow, the best bars, or the best voice, but instead, success could be found by having something unique, interesting, and new.
Being so unique and new has unfortunately left Fetty Wap forever typecast. It’s the classic example of getting to big too fast. Think about it this way:
You can’t put Daniel Radcliffe in any new movies without expecting the audience to turn it off half way through because they’d rather watch Harry Potter. In the same sense, you can’t put any new Fetty Wap music out there without fans reminiscing about the summer of 2015 and queuing up Trap Queen for the next 90 minutes.
His first album, and realistically, Trap Queen alone was so grand, so defining, so impossibly popular, that any music made for the rest of his career could never catapult him to the level where he once existed, and because of it, he’ll forever be remembered for his past, even during his present and for the entirety of his future, no matter what he does.
And truth be told, he likely won’t do much more than what we’ve already heard and seen. He’s not multidimensional enough to compete in any market other than the one he popularized which has, for the most part, been completely exhausted at this point in music history. Unfortunately, as hip-hop has changed with heavy influence from Fetty, artists, like they always do, have taken what the master started, run with it, and left him in the dust. The movement that Fetty so profoundly helped influence h,s to put it simply, outgrown him, and he’s not dynamic enough to keep pace.
All this doesn’t mean that he’s finished as an artist, although he’s probably finished having deadbeat music publications name historical eras after his namesake. He’s still talented, still influential, and still so important from a pop culture stance that he’ll likely never completely fade, and any music he puts out is sure to be met with a decently sized audience built of the truest cult fans of summer ’15. His most recent hit, Keke proves just that.
Just like Tiger Woods having the chance at winning another major, Fetty Wap has a chance at putting out another hit single or two – maybe even an album – and for his sake and ours, we certainly hope he does. But even if he doesn’t, it’s important to remember in the moments we find ourselves asking, “What the fuck happened to Fetty Wap?” that we’ll always have Trap Queen, we’ll always have the Summer of 2015, and we’ll always have the mammoth collection of music influenced and inspired by the Fetty Wap Era.