Fetty Wap, the karaoke yodeler, must be wondering whether he'll be around next year. His shotgun blast of debut singles has splattered the Hot 100, but so did "Fancy"; so did "Nasty Freestyle"; so did "Hannah Montana," "Versace," and "Fight Night," yet we see what's become of the Migos. The world is dark. The future is bleak. Fetty Wap's debut album is, effectively, a guided tour of his SoundCloud past*, plus a handful of new songs to justify the retail price.
On Fetty Wap, the eponymous singer has forgone the celebrity guest raps that he's certainly earned at this ecstatic phase of his hype. Instead, Fetty Wap is a block party—you might even call it a barbecue—with Paterson's finest having assigned much of the supplementary grillwork to Remy Boyz rappers Monty and M80, and to a few young producers you'd never known until "Trap Queen" broke in January. The album version of "My Way" replaces Drake with Monty, the latter being reliably (and simplistically) devoted to "what you want," "what you like," "if you like," assuming you're a ladyfriend. On the strength of such localism and singularity, Fetty Wap does effectively create a bubble in which Monty, that indispensable wingman, is the only rapper who matters.
Trap booms and hi-hats notwithstanding, Fetty Wap is R&B on the pop crossover. (With exceptions noted below.) As with Bobby Brown, Nate Dogg, and Akon, forefathers of the style at hand, Fetty Wap's occasional rap cadences are never the core exercise; nor is rapping essential to his appeal. From start to distant finish, in fact, Fetty Wap is aggressively committed to endearing listeners to the singer's disputed chops—wails from a dentist's chair, is how I'd describe it—with a debut album that otherwise discounts values like personal dynamism, variety, or range.
"Trap Queen," "My Way," "Again," and "679" are all great songs: impassioned, radically romantic, and congenial sans the PG-13 restraint of, say, Jidenna's "Classic Man." When Fetty sings "two shots, and I won't blink," on "My Way," we understand that he's belting his sweet nothings rather than issuing credible threats. When he introduces his lover to the coke trade on "Trap Queen," that story may indeed be coming from an illicit place, but the song itself is joyous and proud. "Trap Queen," being the musical equivalent of PDA, has inspired a Kidz Bop cover and PG music video alternative, both created to sanitize and whitewash the song entirely.
The present ubiquity of Fetty's singles renders Fetty's album largely redundant. By design, the 20 songs of this album's deluxe edition are cannon fodder seeking the bullseye; a crude experiment in attrition, whereby duds are included not because of some miscalculation of taste on the label's part, but just for the hell of it. So when a Wale-type song like "No Days Off" or a sumptuous lounge cut like "Rewind" challenges the album's status quo, the particular effect is subsumed, if not erased, by Fetty Wap's overall monotony.
Fetty Wap does very frequently repeat itself. "Trap Luv" and "D.A.M." both cannibalize "Trap Queen." "I Wonder" apes "My Way." "Jugg" and "How We Do Things" both retread "RGF Island," though "Jugg," with its marching band machismo and less stressful register, is the superior song (for drunken recital purposes). When Fetty does experiment, it's typically in service of an impersonation, e.g., "Time" is a catchy, trap configuration of Krayzie Bone's flow, and "Boomin'" is very apparently derivative of Chief Keef's lingo and cadences. These exceptional moments are where the distinction between singing and rapping blurs. On Fetty Wap, the only stable genre conventions are Fetty's themes: romance, friendship, and present success.
Fetty Wap writes love letters ("Trap Queen," "My Way," "D.A.M."), motivational blurbs ("Time," "Couple Bands"), and clique anthems ("679," "No Days Off"). Monty is a ladies' man unto himself. Unfortunately, neither of these guys is what we'd describe as An Album Artist. But Fetty Wap is a hitmaker, unquestionably. So, then, will he become America's premier hook-man a la Akon in the '00s? Or a pop time capsule: the I Love the '10s! edition's T-Pain? Does Fetty Wap spend next year on the low, donating his choruses to well-rounded rappers in order to subsidize his own, longer-term development of craft, perspective, and a persona? I hope he goes the latter course, which I'll call the DeJ Loaf Stratagem. In any case, this album is 77 minutes long, which is all the wailing that one could possibly want or need to hear from Fetty Wap in 2015.
(*One of my favorite Fetty Wap songs, "Show You," is missing from this album. Rude!)