The year is 1738. Many people are plagued with smallpox or other legitimate, more pressing problems (FOMO on the birth of King George III?) — but me, myself? I’m stricken with Fetty Wap fever.
Before we get down to it, there’s one thing you should know: hip hop is not my preferred genre. This just in — white girl from cushy Michigan suburb not the world’s biggest fan of rap music. More at 11.
It’s no secret, and it’s no surprise. David Bowie gets me going, as do Sarah Vaughan, Elliott Smith and The Kinks. Of course, as a music writer, I pride myself on listening to a myriad — by the truest sense of the word — of genres. Jazz, R&B, neo-soul, pop-y pop, folk, etc. (Admittedly, Johnny Cash is about as far as I’ll go into country. Maybe Shania Twain if I’m feeling frisky.) But dabbling in hip hop is not exactly the most relaxing listening adventure for me. I love it; I appreciate it. I could rap “The Real Slim Shady” to you right now, in its entirety, and have a damn good time doing it. But it’s just not the butter to my bread. Given the choice, I’d pick Marvin Gaye over Kan-yeezy almost every time.
Lately, though, I’ve been walking around campus sans any typical tunes beating through my head. “679” by Fetty Wap and Remy Boyz has taken over. Stepping out of my dorm (“… and I got this sewed up”), riding down the elevator (“Remy Boyz, they know us”), eating a bagel (“all fast money, no slow bucks”), walking to class (“no one can control us”) and sitting down in lecture (“ay, yeeEEEAaah baby”). It won’t leave me, no matter how hard I try.
Mr. Wap, born Willie Maxwell in 1991, is a fascinating creature. He catapulted into the spotlight this summer with the melodically minimalistic smash “Trap Queen,” a strange song upon closer examination. There are about five notes sung throughout the whole thing (same three in the verses, same two in the chorus, excluding the rap), and pixie-like, staccato synths run rampant. It’s appealing from the get-go but ultimately lacks variety —not exactly what you’d call “chart bait” in a day and age where constant shock-factor is needed to hold a listener’s attention. To boot, it introduced the world to that signature Wap vibrato we now love/hate: “… getting fly with my baby, yeEEEAaah.” Never has a goat in heat yodeling about his boo thang sounded so hot.
Since then, my beloved “679” and “My Way,” which features a perfect verse from Drake, have secured Wap’s place in pop music’s vocabulary. Plus his debut album is set to come out on Sept. 25. Most importantly, though, people listen to Fetty Wap. Whether it’s ironic or not, “I’m like hey, what’s up, hello” has worked its way into Instagram captions worldwide.
Speaking of irony: this could be debated, but quite a few listeners dig Wap because they think he’s hilarious. Almost everyone with whom I’ve discussed mentions his one eye and bursts out laughing (glaucoma stole the other from us, may it rest), and my friend often tries to mimic his weirdly strained singing. Also, his music isn’t really respected in the way, say, Kendrick Lamar’s is. As of late, hip hop has become a platform for artists like Lamar to convey heavier subject matter, i.e. their dissatisfaction with police brutality, the implications of and stereotypes involved with being a famous African American man, etc. Fetty Wap raps about squadding up and chillin’ with his girl. Even newcomer and surprising tickler-of-my-fancy Vince Staples talks about his girl on “Lemme Know,” but since he’s less mainstream — and perhaps a bit more lyrically deft — the music seems less trivial.
OK. That’s all peachy. But I still can’t sweat out my Fetty Wap fever. Even though he’s “trivial” and Cyclop-tic and repetitive and odd, I still enjoy listening to Fetty Wap.
The key word there is “enjoy.” Just because an artist isn’t as intellectual, as critically adored as one of his contemporaries doesn’t mean he isn’t successful at his job. Wap resonates with the masses arguably better than any other pop and hip-hop artist out there right now — and he does so in a deeply enjoyable way. And though the word is grossly overused, his music is fun, above all else. He makes me dance like an inebriated aunt at a wedding, sing along obnoxiously and laugh at the absurdity of it all. I can’t say that for many other current musicians. In my fevered past week, I’ve loved nothing more than putting the fun back into my life and my playlists amid swirls of homework and new classes.
This is college, after all. Sometimes I don’t want to think. I just want to party like it’s 1738.