Fetty Wap Does Things His Way to Score Grammy Recognition
With his gregarious introduction to the hip-hop world, Fetty Wap had us all at “Hey, what’s up hello.” That simple phrase is in part why he is the record-breaking, Grammy Award-nominated rapper that he is today. Although it took some time for the world to catch on to what he knew would be his first big hit, which he's said in many an interview, it soon became clear the rapper was on his way to a continuous victory lap.
His monster record, "Trap Queen," is truly the definition of a sleeper hit. While it was a slow burn for the public to get wind of the track after he uploaded it to his SoundCloud in March 2014, a year later, it's growth was undeniable with more than 11 million plays on the music streaming site in early 2015. The song itself is as addictive as they come, even if the content is geared for a more mature audience. “I remember hearing ['Trap Queen'] for the first time and although I didn’t necessarily like what [the lyrics] said -- there was no incredible lyrical content -- but there was something about it that made you want to sing along,” Laura Stylez, a host on Hot 97's Ebro in the Morning, tells XXL in a phone interview.
Hot 97’s own Funkmaster Flex is credited for getting the New York and New Jersey area hooked on the bando lullaby dedicated to Fetty’s beloved ride-or-die woman. While many artists have received love on Flex's radio show before, it's what one does with the momentum that follows that counts. Fetty had a hit record with "Trap Queen" based on numbers alone. Factor in the elements of the song as a whole and he had a found a winning formula. “I think what it is, is Fetty has great hooks -- he has this signature sound and a formula. It’s very distinctive,” Stylez continues.
Just like Gucci Mane’s protégés Future and Young Thug, Fetty managed to remix Chief Guwop’s blueprint to complement his own style -- and it worked. In less than a year, he went from passive salutations to a household name. When it came time for the 2016 Grammy Award nominees to be revealed, many who road the “Trap Queen” wave were confident the 300 Entertainment signee would come out on top. While he didn't score a Best New Artist nod, Fetty’s year of excellence wasn't overlooked. With everyone from Kate Hudson to internet sensation George Dalton reciting the lyrics to his breakout hit, it was only right the Grammys acknowledged him with two well-deserved nominations for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance for “Trap Queen.”
The recognition comes as a slight shock for the Zoo camp. "We surprised, but we not surprised. It's a great feeling,” says Nitt Da Gritt, head of RGF Productions, the first label Fetty signed to. Nitt, who has worked closely with the rapper since his entry into the game, will be heading out to L.A. alongside him for the Grammys.
Traveling to the other side of the country to possibly win a golden gramophone is a big deal for their city. The acknowledgement shines a light on Fetty's hometown of Paterson, N.J. (Fetty was awarded the Key to the City in August of 2015). “It's big for Jersey. It's been a long time coming for Jersey. It was only a matter a time for everything [to come together]," Nitt shares.
While the magnitude of “Trap Queen” is the foundation of Fetty’s success, his entire 2015 must be evaluated on a much larger spectrum. If the 58th Annual Grammy Awards won’t recognize Fetty as Best New Artist of 2015, then we will. After all, out of the 10 artists on the 2015 XXL Freshman cover, Fetty, arguably, seems to have exhibited the most commercial success given the time span. Those Billboard numbers don't lie.
The Remy Boyz leader kicked off 2015 with a co-sign from Kanye West. The Life of Pablo creator surprised New Yorkers by bringing out Fetty Wap during his Roc City Classic Concert last February. His appearance made a statement, as the 24-year-old was the only artist that wasn't a G.O.O.D Music affiliate to hit the stage that night. Just a few months later, he was invited to the 2015 MTV Movie Awards where he performed “Trap Queen” alongside frequent pop-hip-hop mashers, Fall Out Boy. The first quarter of 2015 was already hot, but seemed like a scrimmage compared to how Fetty went on to be the MVP of that summer.
Thanks to the embrace of “Trap Queen” around the country, Fetty was inducted into the 2015 XXL Freshman Class in June. He appeared on the coveted cover with fellow rookies such as Dej Loaf, Raury, K Camp, Shy Glizzy, Tink, Vince Staples, Kidd Kidd, OG Maco and GoldLink. Soon after, he was the only act to earn a spot on both the festival stage and on the main stage at Hot 97's Summer Jam. How? As Nitt Da Gritt puts it, Fetty “just does him.”
The following month, Fetty graduated to the king of the charts with three of his first four singles -- “My Way,” “Trap Queen” and “679”-- landing in the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Fetty was the first male MC to achieve the feat since 2013, following behind Eminem’s trifecta with “Rap God,” “Monster” featuring Rihanna and “Bezerk.” Then in August, the one-eyed wonder shocked Taylor Swift fans during her Seattle 1989 Tour stop when he teamed up with pop star for yet another “Trap Queen” cover.
Fetty was officially a pop sensation and without question could seemingly stand up to other Best New Artist nominees at the Grammy Awards this year and win if he was nominated. When you look at the Billboard song positions and numbers, the rapper is giving singer Tori Kelly, indie rocker James Bay, country star Sam Hunt, singing guitarist Courtney Barnett and “All About the Bass” songstress Meghan Trainor a run for their money.
The “My Way” rhymer has managed to plateau to heights most seasoned artists have yet to achieve. In August 2015, after he dropped his fourth single “Again," he became the only rapper in the 26-year history of Billboard to achieve top 10 status simultaneously on his first four singles. Eight other acts have posted four concurrent top 10s, but none have pulled a Fetty and nailed it with their first four charting tracks, according to Billboard. Keep in mind this is all prior to his debut album dropping.
By the time his highly anticipated self-titled LP dropped on Sept. 25 2015, the masses were so hooked on his sonic aesthetic (simple lyrics saturated in raw harmonies and decorated with infectious hooks) it took less than two weeks for the 17-track effort to peak at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200 chart. This marked another milestone for Fetty, making him the first male hip-hop artist to debut at No. 1 since 2012.
Even after his motorcycle was struck by a car just days after his album released -- leaving him with his leg broken in three places -- Fetty continued to grind. He hit the stage at Powerhouse 2015 in October and performed with his leg in a cast from a throne-like chair. Talk about dedication.
Given his outstanding year, Fetty’s slight from the Best New Artist category seems like a major "L" for the awards committee. Although Nitt said the team is a bit “nervous” going into the Grammys, win or lose, Zoovier is showing no signs of retreat. He already made his mark on the fashion world last month being featured along with Kendrick Lamar and Joey Bada$$ in the #MyCalvins Calvin Klein global campaign. His ad made it clear he makes money and in Calvins. So much mula that Fetty recently topped Forbes’ “Hip-Hop Cash Princes: The Class of 2016” list. Could endorsements be next for the “Jugg” rapper, who currently has six songs on the Hot 100 chart?
We know one thing for sure: Fetty is definitely keeping the music at the forefront. His Post Malone-assisted Welcome to the Zoo Tour has already kicked off and fans could possibly get a new collaboration from the two. With a debut album behind him along with the For My Fans EP and his French Montana collaborative mixtape, Coke Zoo, dropping last year, he's now blessed fans with some more new music in the form of the Zoo 16: The Mixtape this month. Four new releases in five months proves Fetty isn't slowing down anytime soon. And despite the argument against oversaturating the market with his music, his formula works. At this rate, we wouldn't be surprised if he's on the Grammy board's radar for years to come.
The Grammys may have missed the mark to notice him for Best New Artist, but giving him the opportunity to compete for a win for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance is a starting point. Doing things his way hasn't failed him yet. -- Dominique Zonyee
See Best Rap Performance Nominees & Winners at the Grammys Over the Years