Fetty Wap Debut Album Review: Junk Mail
Welcome to Junk Mail, where a few Music Times staffers email back-and-forth about each week's biggest release throughout the work day. This week, Carolyn Menyes, Ryan Middleton, Johny Blue and Lindsay Haddox chat about Fetty Wap's new album, Fetty Wap.
Carolyn Menyes: It seems like forever ago that Fetty Wap's breakout track "Trap Queen" arrived in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and after producing three more hit singles, his debut self-titled album has finally arrived. It seems that Wap has found the sort of blueprint for a hit single: a booming, intense beat, his warbling voice and lyrics about drugs and women and cars. Obviously, this has worked out very, very well for him. But, when listening to the full 20-song collection that is Fetty Wap, I can't help but feel like I'm listening to one 77-minute version of "Trap Queen."
Lindsay Haddox: At first I was enjoying my early morning Monday listen, but that feeling went away pretty quickly. The fact that there is 20 songs on his album is a bit excessive, because like Carolyn said, it feels like a long version of "Trap Queen" that I'm listening to. I can really only hear someone say "1738" or "Skwaaa" so many times before it gets old. I think that Fetty Wap is really fun to listen to when out at a bar/club because his hits are fun and catchy, but it would have been better to hear an album that was better produced and allowed him to be a bit more creative with the music.
I feel as if his label wanted to ride out this wave of success he's on and get out an album, but if they would have taken a bit more time it could have been better.
Johny Blue: Ah Mr. Wap, or Sir Fetty as I like to call him, is clearly not ready to let up his Billboard reign. That is why in addition to his three incredibly catchy (and similar) top 10 gems, we now have an entire album of the same magic that turned him into an overnight sensation. Like him or loathe him, there is no denying the death grip this Jersey MC has had on radio over the last few months.
Early into the album, it becomes painfully obvious that he's got his formula down to a science. Sandwiched between his hits "Trap Queen" and "679" is the equally boomy and autotune heavy "How We Do Things," not to be confused with the actually song "Boomin" found later on in the album. At 20 songs it IS excessive, but truthfully, Fetty and co. aren't looking to sell us an album anyway. The way his chart run has gone, these 20 songs are just 20 more attempts to duplicate his breakout success. And at this rate I wouldn't be surprised if they are able to squeeze at least two or three more hits out of this initial run, especially considering the remix potential in an album with no major features... yet.
Ryan Middleton: Hits on hits on hits on hits. Mr. 1738 has dominated the radio since the winter with "Trap Queen" then "My Way," "679" and finally "Again."
This album looks to capture the same magic from those hits with incredibly catchy hooks, booming and well-crafted production and random things to shout that have become part of everyday lingo. Agreed that 20 songs does seem like a bit much for in reality a romance album packed with hit potential and no major features, though the chemistry between him and Monty is exactly what you draw up.
There is somewhat of an album arch here, but it feels more like a compilation of hits.
CM: Yeah, and it's good that Wap is so successful right out of the bat, but I didn't need 20 songs of these. The constant "SKWAAA" and "1738" shout-outs felt like an inside joke I wasn't in on, and the production and even musical flow of every song was really, really similar. It shouldn't be too surprising to me that Fetty Wap is basically 20 "Trap Queens." I constantly confuse "My Way" and "Again," because their flow is just so similar. Wap's very distinctive voice and rapping style doesn't help this flaw, either.
I think that Wap has some good things to say on this album - from his unrequited love to his start in drug houses - but it gets lost because every song features the same synths, the same drums and even the same sort of cadence. I can't even that he has a song here called "Trap Luv." It sounds almost identical to "Trap Queen" at the start, I just expect him to say "Hey, what's up hello" but instead he quacks out lyrics on a single note.
Did he need more collaborators on this? And what do you think of the messages underneath all the "Trap Queen" copies?
LH: I think we can all agree that he really filled this album with hits and nothing out of his comfort zone. I think what Wap needed for this album was to work with more producers and play around with instrumentals more. If every song didn't sound so similar he would have had an album that was worth the 20 songs, unfortunately you end up getting lost in it trying to figure out if you are listening to a new song or not. This is his first album though and being that it's been so successful this could lead to bigger collaborations or him meeting more people to help on future songs.
To be honest, I feel like from the beginning of this album Wap is just talking about sex and drugs in like every single song. He legit starts off "679" with "Baby girl you so damn fine doe/ I'm trying to know if I can hit it from behind doe" and there is not much depth in that. When you look into Wap's life he definitely has a story that he could talk about/tell, instead he stuck to very basic lyrics. The good thing for him is there is a place for it in rap right now because who doesn't love a good club banger?
JB: I think that there is a strategy to this all. Labels have wised up over the years and are getting better and better and squeezing every last drop out of these hit makers. While it all seems to make no sense, clearly 20 songs with no features is an attempt solely at cementing his "sound" and creating more potential for hits once the remixes start rolling in. Drake started things off with his "My Way" remix (which is what initially made everyone like that song), and I'm sure there's a list of people looking to jump on any of these "Trap Queen" doppelgangers at a moment's notice.
"Rewind" is one of the few standouts for me, maybe because of the SWV melody they borrowed for its hook. I can easily see any of R&B's bad boys hoping on this one, or even bad girls (yeah you, Tinashe). And with nine features, they are clearly prepping Monty to carry the Remy Boyz torch once this initial buzz dies down. It all seems more tactic than anything else, I don't feel this was a legitimate attempt at a cohesive album.
RM: Musically, the album may not be as cohesive as it could have been, but thematically it comes together on what we have come to know Fetty Wap for -- love and family. We know that he will rep Remy Boyz, Patterson and RGF as if his life depends on it (just hear the shouts) and the primary theme is Wap professing his love for some woman. I agree John, "Rewind" feels like the most heartfelt track on the whole LP, trading the booming synths for softer piano and drums, saying "I know you're with him now, but soon you'll be mine / If I could bring it back, I'll probably press rewind."
There are more hits like "Trap Luv" and "Jugg," but also misses like "No Days Off," which is expected from an album this long from an artist this young.
This album cements him in my eyes as hip-hop's premiere hookmaker. His voice is still so unique to hip-hop / pop that there isn't anybody who has been able to find the magic he captures between rapping and singing.
With Monty getting so many features, it will be interesting to see if he can carry his own songs without Fetty like "Change Your Life."
CM: It's so funny -- "Rewind" just came up on my fourth listen as I read your responses. I agree -- the piano and smoothness of this song helps it to stand out from the constant "Trap Queen" and "My Way" reworks. The song also feels tender as he sings/raps about being on a woman's mind, even when she's with other people. It's that sort of unrequited love story that helps to humanize Wap. It's a shame that "Rewind" is track No. 17, a.k.a., only included on the deluxe edition of the album.
It's interesting that you call Wap hip-hops biggest hookmaker, Ryan, because this feels like the same hook and hook tactic over and over again. So, I guess I respectfully disagree with that BIG TITLE, but that hook he has is a good one. I also thought this album was TOO cohesive not a mixed bag, because it's really like 20 "Trap Queens," which there can be only one queen, right? RIGHT?
I think when Wap shines the most on this album, like with "Rewind," is when he breaks a little out of his mold. Did anyone else think that "Boomin" was, well, boomin'? It has a Rick Ross quality to it, but I enjoy the intensity.
LH: I think "Boomin" is different from the other songs, he also chose to rap rather than sing on that song compared to the rest of the album where he sings. It would be interesting to see Wap do more songs where he is rapping.
It is obvious that he has some type of talent or at least people are enjoying what they hear from him because he was the first rapper in 26 years to chart his first three songs simultaneously in Billboard's top 10. Of course there could be more depth to his songs, but he does stay true to who he is through this album and gives the audience what they want from him.
Although this album feels like it was compiled of singles just put together I do not see Wap as a one hit wonder. This may be a weird comparison, but he reminds me of 2 Chainz in the way he can kind of make songs about whatever he feels, even if they sound the same or don't make ton of sense, but he still see's success from it. Also, this album puts Wap out there so now, if people don't know now they know about him. I think Wap is going to be around for a while which will allow him to grow as an artist and expand his talents and I think that will be an interesting journey to see.
JB: I half agree Lindsay. I do see potential for Fetty Wap to stick around based on his foundation, but I don't think it's as guaranteed as one may think. It's still early but with his track record being based solely on hits, failure to deliver another one soon could result in a quick and sudden falling off the scene.
With that being said, I think that he's definitely brought himself enough time to prove Ryan right. Fetty's voice is perfect for hooks, and while he's pretty monotonous when left to his own devices I'm sure hip-hop's elite will soon start tapping him for bigger better hooks that will give him range. In the meantime, he's succeeded in creating the best album I think he's capable of at this time. Trap Queen^20 Fetty Wap is the best balance of all the things that have made him special in a very short period of time.
RM: We can agree to disagree on exactly how big Fetty's hook potency is, but another aspect that has aided his rise are the beats he works over. This album has at least 14 different producers and with that lack of continuity, someone has to keep the project moving forward sonically and that is Wap (along with his A&Rs). As a guy so reliant on hooks, those beats HAVE to be big and bold and the ones he chooses on the potential hits deliver.
I think the question of why he put out a 20-track album is important. It is a risk to unload all of this music when he has been so successful with singles, but he probably doesn't want to be pegged solely as a singles artist, which is good for radio, but doesn't leave the lasting legacy an artist craves. It could also be a massive dump of music from the "Trap Queen" and "My Way" era and a signal that he is turning the page into some sort of new sound hinted in the second half of the album.
CM: Two things to respond to, here. We need to wait for Fetty Wap 2 before we can declare this guy a continued success. He's no one-hit wonder (because, duh, he's had three top 10 singles) but you know who he beat for that record? Chingy. And where is Chingy now? Wap is DEFINITELY the hottest act of 2015 (except maybe Taylor Swift) but will he stay as hot forever? I'm not so sure, and I'm not a betting kind of gal.
I think Wap maybe needed some edits on this album; some of these songs are musically almost identical. There's "Trap Queen" and "How We Do Things," which kick off the album with the same hook. Both "RGF Island" and "D.A.M." both have #squadgoals over a hard-hitting piano beat... I guess there's 14 producers on this album, but I'm having a hard time hearing them. Plus, with this level of cohesion, listening to Fetty Wap straight through in its entirety is a little mind-numbing. This is definitely a collection of singles, albeit one with a theme or love and trap houses, but I don't think the point of this album was to prove Wap's prolific nature. It was to push more singles.
LH: I agree with Carolyn, we really cannot say what will happen with Wap because really we have no idea. He has done great for himself thus far and we will see what happens from here.
I think that this album does need a lot of work instrumentally, but when you are looking to just create singles to sell you don't really have to much room to experiment with new sounds. However, it does seem that Wap is trying to break to mold of being just a singles type of guy and that does show in certain songs like "Boomin." Sadly, this album doesn't do the best job at that with many songs blending into one another with similar beats.
JB: I agree guys. This album, if we are going to call it that, is consistent in all the wrong ways. Kudos to him for cashing in on his formula, but it's not very listenable as a whole and requires several listens (if you have that kind of patience) to process all of it. Unfortunately for him you don't have to go past the first few songs to get a full grasp of what the rest of the album has to offer anyway, so it's all kind of pointless. "Rewind" is my only take away if I had to choose one. I'll hold my breath for the next Drake verse.
RM: While I don't think we can get a full picture of Fetty just yet one album in that is largely based on his hit making formula, he has only won so far in his career and with that history it is hard to count out a guy who all he does is win [DJ Khaled shout]. The album is too long, but mixed in there are several more hits that will keep Wap up in the charts and on the radio for the rest of year and into 2016.
Definitely still waiting on that Drake collab.
LH: I believe that there are definitely a few more hits to come off of the album and therefore we will continue to see him around. With that being said this gives him a lot of time to create an album that is of quality and experiment with his sound. I'm very interested to see what else he is going to do and if he will become a star or end up fading out, only time will tell. I say, good for Wap for being successful so far and better luck in the future. I will continue to embrace my inner trap queen and enjoy his songs with lines like "I got a glock in my Rari."
CM: Fetty Wap is a proven hitmaker, but it seems as though he kept it in his comfort zone for his debut album. If you've heard him on the radio at all (and you have), then you've basically heard all of this album. Wap needs to prove that he can break outside of that box if he wants to maintain relevancy a la the rap greats. Otherwise, he'll be the next to check into the "Holidae Inn" in the sky.
JB: Every year we watch acts like Fetty Wap rise from nowhere to captivate the world with their infectious (albeit rudimentary) music. While he's no Kanye West, his narrative continues to prove why hip-hop is one of the most exciting and unpredictable genres in music. "Trap Queen" opened the door for him to live his dreams, and naturally he wants to make sure he gets as much out of it as possible. Where he goes from here is still unclear, but it's safe to say his first album will not be remembered for quality or content. At the current rate Fetty's got a few more hits in him before he falls off, but if he's looking for any kind of longevity he needs to find some structure fast.
RM: Fetty took a risk moving away from his recipe of hit singles by going for broke with a 20-track album. Though it is messy, he does largely stick to that formula of top-class hooks over bombastic and melodic beats within the context of an album, though there are some softer and more heartfelt tracks like "Rewind." His self-titled debut will undoubtedly yield several more hits that will keep Wap's winning formula on top, but the longevity of this will come into question in six months to a year. He has been proving the doubters wrong with each passing single, maybe he will continue to do so as his career progresses.