Fetty Wap may have hit a bump in the road with a serious motorcycle accident on Sept. 26, but after back-to-back hits on the Hot 100 this summer, the ubiquity of fan-shot “Trap Queen” tributes on YouTube, and the release of his heavily anticipated debut on Sept. 25 (which premiered at No. 1 on the Billboard 200), the one-eyed, Paterson, New Jersey-born rapper is poised to be one of hip-hop – and pop music’s – biggest acts of the year.
The person who is least surprised is Fetty himself: “I expected ‘Trap Queen’ to change my life,” the 25-year-old, whose given name is Willie Maxwell, tells EW of his breakout smash. “I expected it to be on the radio. Every time I played it, I knew it was working.”
Hot 97’s music director, TT Torrez, would agree. She found the song last December, after hearing her nephew stream it online. “I felt in my gut it was huge,” Torrez says. “The record just won’t go away.” Hot 97, and soon other radio stations, began playing “Trap Queen” like crazy, and it quickly became a strong contender for Song of the Summer – even though it came out in 2014. “This summer, everybody from young kids to grandparents were singing the song,” Torrez tells EW. “Everyone felt like they had their own trap queen.”
When asked if he knows – or cares – about covers of “Trap Queen” that reappropriate its drug-fueled meaning, Fetty says, “It’s all good. Everyone having their own definition of their trap queen is cool. I have a lot of fans from different backgrounds so you can only expect different meanings.”
He’s more focused on what the song’s success has allowed him to do. “Being able to provide for my [two] kids and mother is one of the biggest changes to my life since ‘Trap Queen’ has come out,” he tells EW.” All things I am thankful for.”
Now, it seems as if his full-length is loaded with hits too. “Last week, we had so many Fetty Wap [tracks] that came back in top [requests],” Torrez says, nodding to the rapper’s latest singles “My Way,” “679,” and “Again.” “I’ve never seen this type of research in my career.” It also helps that he’s had ringing endorsements from Kanye West and Taylor Swift, who invited him on-stage on Aug. 8.
But when it came time for him to prep his first album, Fetty, who grew up in Paterson’s housing projects, wanted to keep things as real as possible by featuring his hometown crew, the Remy Boyz . “I want to show my brothers that even if nobody likes the album, that we had the opportunity to share what we did. They’re the reason why I did this.”