Fetty Wap’s meteoric rise an uncompromising success story

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By Moira McCormick| For the Sun-Times

Popular music’s breakout-success story of 2015 belongs to Fetty Wap, fueled by the propulsive, quadruple-platinum hit “Trap Queen,” his disarmingly oddball, wickedly contagious Valentine to a (now former) partner in love and crack cocaine.

FETTY WAP When: 6 p.m. Feb. 17 Where: House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn Tickets: $38.50 (all ages) Info: http://www.houseofblues.com/chicago

The young East Coast sing-rapper plays the House of BluesFeb. 17 — part of his first nationwide solo tour, which is yet another credit on a freshman resume boasting so lavish an array of commercial accomplishments, it almost strains credulity. Fetty Wap is the only lead recording artist literally since the Beatles to land his first three charting singles concurrently in the top 11 spots on Billboard’s Hot 100. The Fab Four’s coup occurred half a century ago, while Fetty Wap repeated that feat just last August, courtesy of his hit troika of “Trap Queen,” “679” and “My Way.”

Wap broke another, arguably bigger, music-biz record on Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs chart. With his next single, “Again,” Fetty became “the first act in the tally’s 26-year history to chart his first four entries in the top 10 simultaneously,” as the music-industry trade mag reported Aug. 27.

“Sing-rapping is the next chapter in the continuing evolution of R&B and hip-hop,” said Billboard senior correspondent Gail Mitchell, citing in the genre’s tuneful earworms a pop element that’s clearly addictive. Fetty Wap’s chantlike cycles of melody in “Trap Queen” helped build that nascent wave to a crest.His eponymous full-length release topped The Billboard 200 album chart as soon as it dropped, in late September.

Fetty Wap | Chelsea Lauren Photo

Fetty Wap | Chelsea Lauren Photo

“[I]t feels instant, alive, and straight off the streets,” raved AllMusic.com, lauding the “rare, pleasingly unfiltered debut that captures an exciting upcoming artist with little refinement.”

Now officially certified platinum, “Fetty Wap” closed out 2015 among the year’s 10 top-selling albums, according to Nielsen Music, while additional chart milestones put Wap on a par with such established names as Lil Wayne, Chris Brown and Eminem.

But wait, there’s more. The massively successful Taylor Swift performed “Trap Queen” live with him. Fetty won an MTV Video Music Award. Drake did a remix; Gucci Mane (“my favorite artist”) did one too. Fetty scored two Grammy noms. Kanye gave a co-sign. So did Rihanna and the World Series champion Kansas City Royals.

Had he at any point imagined that his life would someday be a delirious pop-star fantasy made real?

During a rare phone interview earlier this month, Wap took stock of his downright storybook good fortune, and concluded, “I ain’t ever really think I was gonna be like this.

“In 2010I was homeless,” the 24-year old continued, his voice as deep-pitched, slurry, and as lived-in as it sounds on records. “People make certain decisions, and they have to live with those decisions. Decisions that I made, growing up, caused me to sometimes not have nowhere to sleep – sometimes weeks, sometimes months. You just kinda gotta know how to fight through it, know what I mean?”

Fetty Wap, birth name Willie Maxwell, hails from threadbare Paterson, N.J., a municipality ID’d by the website Law Street Media as “one of the more prominent victims of industrial decay.” Having gone blind in his left eye from glaucoma during infancy, one could assume the youngster was victimized by extra helpings of childhood cruelty, over and above the expected travails of coming of age in an economically depressed town. Yet Fetty demurs.

“I never was actually caring about what people think,” he remarked. “I always knew I was different. I was the only kid in my city with one eye … [but] different is cool.”

Raised in a musical family, Wap dabbled in drums and piano as a kid. “My father used to play the keyboard,” he related, “so I used to watch him, and I just learned how to play.”

A scant three years ago, Fetty and his squad of closest friends – naming themselves Remy Boyz 1738 after the premium cognac, their preferred liquid refreshment – took up music in earnest, impelled by the Remy Boy called Monty. Monty went on to become an MVP in the Fetty phenomenon, vocalizing all over his recordings; a recent benefit from Wap’s sweet-natured largesse came at Christmas, in the form of a new BMW.

“That’s my brother,” said Fetty Wap. “He deserves it.”

Moira McCormick is a local freelance writer.

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