[Art by Denilson]
At this point you either believe in global warming or you’re being purposefully ignorant. When damn near every scientist in the world is slapping you in the face with facts - not theories, not guesses, but concrete facts - and you still dismiss them, it makes me wonder how anyone could be so stubborn and willfully blind.
Fetty Wap is hip-hop’s global warming, the hottest thing in music, and yet he too has his deniers. I was one of them.
The more I learn about music and the industry, the lighter my backpack gets. There was a time when all I would listen to was whatever wasn’t on the radio because I automatically assumed it was terrible. While I’m far from a fan of Clear Channel now, I can at least appreciate more mainstream songs in context; you need something light to get you through that traffic jam, right? With Fetty Wap though, I had never played close attention nor did I ever give him a listen. Why bother, right? I could spend time really listening and figuring out where I stand on his music, but he could just as quickly be gone, replaced when Drake shares his view from the six. Why pay close attention to an artist who would go the way of the Harlem Shake before you can say “Con los terroristas”? When I finally got around to listening to “Trap Queen” it only confirmed my suspicions; I made it 30 seconds before concluding the song was terrible. I’m an elitist, a backpacker that was smarter than most people and I had him figured out. Fetty Wap had a cute little run, but it’s high time we all move on, right?
Since that ill-fated tweet, Fetty Wap has become even more of a thing and I’m feeling dumb. Shit, he’s not even a “thing” anymore. The “Crank Dat” dance is a thing, the “Nae Nae” is a thing, Fetty Wap has inarguably passed one-hit wonder status. He’s now one of the most popular artists in music, period, any genre, and it’s become impossible for even the most strident deniers to deny any longer.
Go stand on a street corner at 2 AM on a Friday and I guarantee you will hear “Trap Queen” echoing from the club, or maybe that drunk girl stumbling on by will be singing “Baby won't you commmmmeee my wayyyyy.” Recently, I’ve been keeping an ear out for it, just to hear how pervasive Fetty Wap is, and every time I have gone out in the past month, I’ve encountered some form of Fetty. If you aren’t old enough to go to a bar, hop on Vine and search #Fettywap, you’ll get videos ranging from a bunch of white kids getitng turnt, to babies in cars getting equally as turnt, to...to...this…
In 2015, the true sign of an artist’s impact is their influence on social media, and by that standard Fetty’s gone mainstream. But we’ve seen this before, right? In the age of the Vine, shit pops up all the time only to be forgotten about as soon as the next craze hits. A long time ago it was Pogs or Pokemon cards, now it’s Vines and memes. There’s actual, real famous and then there’s “internet famous” and there's always been a line. But as the “Trap Queen” Vine grows like kudzu, that line gets even more blurred, and now Fetty Wap doesn't just have the ambiguous internet on his side, he has big time numbers from the established music industry.
Just check out Fetty’s ever growing resume:
* The most streamed artist on Spotify in all of North America.
* Two number one hits in “Trap Queen” and “Again.”
* One of only eight artists ever to have four songs in the Top 10 simultaneously.
* The ONLY artist in Billboard history, ever, to have their first four songs in the Top 10 simultaneously.
I’ve seen songs go viral before and I’ve seen “internet” famous,” but I haven't seen anyone have this much success this fast. He has all the drunks, Vine-stars and meme makers on his team, but now he also has the numbers. He's showing he can go toe-to-toe with anyone, and is even one upping the Drakes of the world. Regardless of what you think of his music, you have to admit, what he is doing is groundbreaking. Everybody is concerned with the “why,” but the real story here is the how and what that “how” means for music. Because really, how on Earth is Fetty doing this?
Around this time last year, Fetty had just signed up on Twitter (his first tweet came in June of 2014). This time last year he wasn’t even signed to 300, that came in November.
In June of '14, "Trap Queen" had 390,000 plays and that seemed like a ceiling. But now, a little over a year later, it has 96.6 million. Hell, the play count has gone up by 200,000 since I started writing this last night. Still it’s not just “Trap Queen.” It’s all of his subsequent hits that make Fetty Wap elite (*shudders*). Past releases “Again,” “My Way” and “679” are all also charting. Drake’s remix may be able to account for some of the success of “My Way,” but how do explain these other hits? The ones that feature Monty and not Kanye or The Weeknd or any other big name guest feature. Seemingly without the help of other huge artists, seemingly overnight, Fetty Wap not only became a major player, he surpassed those major players.
And that’s just the Billboard charts which, if we’re being honest, are becoming hopelessly outdated. There’s no accounting for all the Vine views, all the bootleg YouTube uploads, all those spins in the club and those drunk twenty-somethings singing “Trap Queen” at 3:30 AM in Dupont Circle. The New Jersey native has gone from obscurity to literally one of the most listened to artists in the country without beats from big producers, blockbuster movie placements and star-studded videos and has done it all in the blink of his eye.
If numbers matter for J. Cole, if they matter for Kendrick and Joey Bada$$ and everyone else, than they matter for Fetty too. Whether you like it or not, Fetty Wap is making history. Other songs have been Vine-famous and while you hear them all over the internet (“Watch Me Whip”) the artists behind them aren’t capitalizing they way Fetty Wap is. He’s on to something, the numbers are too staggering, to historical to say otherwise, but just what is that something? What do we make of this exponential, overnight rise?
To quote Allan Kingdom, “Nothing that really means anything changes overnight.” Fetty’s rise is quicker, and more powerful than any other artist I can think of, so I can't help but feel that a star that burns this bright will burn out just as fast. As I mentioned, no artist has ever had their first four singles go top ten. But what about the last artist to chart his first three singles in the top 10? Remember Chingy? Where is he now? Likely working at the Holiday Inn with some of his friends. Then again, Chingy didn't have the internet on his side and turned out to be pretty dependant on Ludacris’ name value and DTP. So who knows? I wouldn’t be surprised if Fetty and Iggy are playing county fairs together in five years, but I will no longer be surprised if Fetty’s a global superstar in five years either.
I truly believe we are in the middle of a huge shift in the industry, one where all these factors, Vine, memes, streaming services, Reddit, Rappers plucked from obscurity by Drake, have combined into this new, immensely powerful force, and while Fetty Wap is far from the first, he’s now the blueprint for what riding the force of that wave looks like. The way we interact with and listen to artists is changing and perhaps no rapper is more indicative of this change than Fetty. It’s been said it is easier than ever to blow up thanks to the internet, but at the same time how easy is it really? You still needed that Kanye beat or that Pitchfork review - even Chance was aided by placements with Bieber, Madonna, and Gambino - and you still need more followers. Yet, Fetty Wap is breaking every one of those new rules while making up new ones and opening new lanes. He’s proving that internet famous can translate to “real life” success and whether it’s ephemeral or longer than Dwight Howard's bell bottoms, he’s the first to really do it. Fetty Wap is making history, he’s showing us what the future is like where Vine and memes don’t just make a rapper famous, they define what being famous is.
Honestly, I’d like to think Fetty Wap is a passing fad, I’m a backpacker at heart after all. I’m steadfast in my belief that it takes years and years of painstaking, setback-filled work to finally get your chance. That’s how we separate the men from the boys, the Vines from the Redwoods. I’d love to sit here and claim Fetty isn’t a thing, I’d love to ignore all the numbers slapping me in the face for my comfort, but then how long until I sound like someone who rejects science for convenience? How long until I start sounding like I’m arguing with Bill Nye? Fetty Wap isn’t just making history, he’s already made history, and he seems to only be getting warmed up. Are you ready to admit it yet?
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]