I almost feel like I shouldn’t be reviewing Fetty Wap’s self-titled debut as an album.
“I’m not a storyteller,” Wap admitted, before dropping the album. His songs don’t seek to tell stories, and neither does his album. Instead, they are based on pure emotional evocation, from the joy of “Trap Queen” to the haltering, broken-down exhaustion of “No Days Off.” As an album, Fetty Wap is repetitive and unstructured. As a collection of separate tracks, it’s a treasure trove of songs that Wap easily match the perfect summer jam sound of “Trap Queen,” several of which show potential for both sonic and emotional depth that could easily keep Wap on top of the world for a long time to come.
Throughout the album, Wap successfully maintains the endearing air of joy, emotional vulnerability, and honesty that made “Trap Queen” such a hit. Some tracks, such as “Boomin” or “I’m Straight,” exude power and confidence, while Wap’s melodies imbue them with a buoyancy not found in most boast-rap. Meanwhile, sadder songs on the album are emotional sucker punches, showing the loveable rap-singer at his lowest and most desperate. In “No Days Off,” Fetty barely ekes out his trademark “ya-a-a,” stuttering over “1738” throughout the song. He sounds tired, fitting the “always on the grind” mentality of the song. Another downer track, “Again,” is Wap’s most successful narrative, a heartrending sequel to his breakout hit. The song depicts the aftermath of Wap’s “Trap Queen leaving him, and his sense of emptiness that comes with her absence. Throughout the song, Fetty regurgitates iconic lines from “Trap Queen,” desperately sputtering “married to the money” and “we just call them fans, though,” over and over again. The recycled lyrics bring to mind an emotionally unhealthy, recently dumped person pathetically texting his/her ex inside jokes they used to share, stripped of the earnestness and warmth that made them meaningful. The emotional vulnerability in Wap’s lyrics are reflected in his voice, his unstable warble sounding flawed, broken, and undeniably human. Although his lyrics and melodies are admittedly simplistic, his ability to capture the empathy of the listener allows him to create powerful and evocative music.
The appeal of Wap’s simple melodic lines and rough, untrained voice echoes the idiosyncratic style of jazz legend Miles Davis. At the start of his career, Davis followed the standard of the time, working his chops to play fast-paced, complex bebop and hard bop. As he began leading his own groups, instead of playing as a trumpeter on other’s tracks, Davis began to simplify his solos, focusing more on tone and dynamic expression rather than runs or complex rhythms. This shift led to a new style that he first solidified on his album The Birth of the Cool. The relaxed tempo and stripped down melodies made Davis’ music more accessible to a wider range of audiences, that might have struggled to keep up with the amount of melodic information typical in the hard bop style. The more minimal, focused style also kept Miles’ trumpet playing grounded even when he pursued much more experimental forms of free jazz and jazz fusion in his later career, such as on the endlessly innovative Bitches Brew. Wap’s simple melodic structures are as catchy and easy to follow as Davis’, and allow him to experiment more freely with styles of production and subject matter unexplored by most mainstream rappers or pop artists today. If he takes this opportunity, Wap could find himself achieving both commercial success and musical experimentation, grounding his more adventurous efforts with the appeal of simple melodies much like Miles Davis did in the 60s and 70s.
Fetty Wap is not necessarily a great singular work, but a collection of disparate successes, finely crafted singles that cement Fetty Wap’s status as a pop sensation and not just a one-hit wonder. Here’s hoping that he makes a full recovery from his recent motorcycle crash, and continues to explore his sound and range of emotions to make compelling, likeable music that everyone can enjoy.