Fetty Wap is an American rapper, singer and songwriter who became an international success with the release of his first single 'Trap Queen' in 2014. Since then he’s earned himself a place in hip-hop history with four more hit singles, 19 collaborations, two studio albums and five mix tapes. Wap rose to fame from a background of crime, homelessness and drug addiction, becoming one of the ultimate rags-to-riches success stories in the modern music industry.
American rapper Fetty Wap was born Willie Maxwell II. He was raised in Paterson, New Jersey, a state with a rich history in rap and R&B in which many of the genre’s influential artists, including Jay Z and Lauryn Hill, have their roots.
Despite being the artist behind several international chart-topping hits, Wap only developed an interest in rap music in his late teenage years. However, his childhood was not completely devoid of musical influence. As a boy, he was a keen drummer and regularly played the drums in his local church band on Sundays. His interest in playing music continued through to high-school, until it was halted by a hand injury sustained during a fight with another student.
The young Willie Maxwell was born with severe glaucoma in both eyes, a rare condition which ultimately lead doctors to remove his left eye as it was too badly damaged. The operation was performed when he was barely a year old and he was fitted with an ocular prosthesis.
His visible disability made him the subject of taunts and cruelty during his elementary school years, so he was isolated and often found himself in fights with other children. This conflict grew worse when Fetty entered high-school; he eventually dropped out when his grades took a nose dive after he fell in with a bad crowd. At the age of around 14, he decided to stop wearing his false eye, as despite the bullying he received, he had grown to accept his own appearance.
Fetty Wap’s life took some unfortunate turns when he left high-school. He spent most of his time homeless and with no income he started dealing drugs in order to get by. He managed to get off the streets occasionally by squatting or staying with friends – though he rarely had a bed to sleep in and was lucky to have a carpet underneath him.
Wap became interested in rap music when his best friend Monty took it up as a pass-time. For this pair of down-and-outs it became a way to escape the horror of their situation and express themselves through music. They quickly began to see music as their ticket away from life on the streets, pursuing it obsessively.
It was during his young adult life that Willie Maxwell became known as “Fetty”, a slang term meaning “cash” – given to him as he had a reputation for being able to make money. The “Wap” part of his rap name was added further down the line as a tribute to one of the songwriter’s biggest influences Gucci Wane, also known as “GuWop”.
Fetty Wap has released five mixtapes, two studio albums and twenty four singles (19 of which he was a featured artist) so far in his music career. His first hit single ‘Trap Queen’ was released in 2014, transforming him from an unknown rapper to an international star. ‘Trap Queen’ did not become popular until 2015, months after its initial release. This slow start is not representative of the record’s ultimate success; it has since become a platinum record and gained over 130 million plays on Soundcloud.
Wap describes his particular music style as ‘ignorant R&B’ as it incorporates purposeful auto tune pitch correction as well as combining singing and rapping.
In addition to fame and money, ‘Trap Queen’ won Fetty Wap immediate critical acclaim when he landed an MC100 award for Most Played Video of the Year; he was also nominated for Best New Artist at the BET awards but failed to take home the crown. 2015 also saw him named ‘Artist to Watch’ at the MTV music video awards.
Wap signed his first record deal with 300 Entertainment under Atlantic records soon after ‘Trap Queen’ was released. Not destined to be a one-hit-wonder, the rapper released two more top ten singles ‘679’ and ‘My Way’ in 2015. ‘My Way’ was made internationally famous when Drake created a remix of the song; this is the version played on Radio One and is the one more widely recognised. The song secured Wap a nomination for Song of the Summer at the MTV music video awards that year.
In September 2015, his debut album entitled Fetty Wap was released and reached number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, with over 75,000 copies sold. Wap’s early success meant he became the first male rapper with three songs in the Billboard 100’s top ten since Eminem achieved the same in 2013. Wap’s next single ‘Again’ marked a fourth entry to the top ten, making him the first artist in the history of the Hot Rap Songs chart to have four simultaneous top ten chart entries.
Following the success of his album, Fetty released two mixtapes available for streaming only. These were named Coke Zoo and Zoo Style: The Mixtape; Wap was subsequently nominated for two awards at the 58th Grammy Awards. Three more mixtapes then followed, entitled Zoo’16: The Mixtape, Money Hoes & Flows and Zoovier.
February 2016 marked the official release of a new single, ‘Jimmy Choo’. It was featured in a vine which went viral, the video featured two girls dancing to the track – the single’s rising popularity was largely down to this vine. The track debuted at 69 on the US billboard 100 chart as it sold 35,000 copies in the first week of its release. By March, that number had risen to over 110,000. For Wap, ‘Jimmy Choo’ marked the fifth consecutive song to make it into the top ten of the Hot Rap Songs Chart.
Not content to have conquered the music industry, Wap announced plans to make his own racing game which would be available of phones, tablets and Apple TVs by May 3, 2016. The game was a spin off from the Nitro Nation games and featured Fetty Wap and Monty as characters in the main storyline. Major car brands such as BMW, Nissan and Cadilac partnered the rap artists in promoting and releasing the game.
2016 also saw Wap named Top New Artist by Billboard, in addition to other nominations he received including Top Rap Song, Top Male Artist and Top Streaming Artist. Fetty released another single in April of that year entitled ‘Wake Up’, followed shortly after by ‘Make You Feel Good’ in August. He went on to enter into collaborations with various other artists including US X Factor competitors Fifth Harmony, who had been signed by Simon Cowell after the show, and Nicki Minaj. Wap and Minaj’s single was called ‘Like A Star’, it failed to infiltrate the charts in any region other than Australia, where it peaked at number 86.
Fetty Wap’s next studio album entitled King Zoo is set to be released in late February, 2017.
The video accompanying Wap’s single ‘Wake Up’ sparked some serious controversy. It was filmed at the rapper’s old high school, Eastside High in Paterson, New Jersey, and includes a number of drug references. The school’s officials have spoken out against the content of the video, claiming that it sends the wrong message to students, glorifying drug and gang activities. The school board are launching their own investigation into some of the claims made in the video. Wap asserts that the video was not intended to promote drugs and dropping out of school as a viable way of life, going on to say that it was meant as a reassuring message for kids who like him, did not flourish in the school system. He says that young people in this position need to know that they can find their own way to success in life, even if they don’t do well in school.
Fetty has been charged with a number of minor driving offences over the years, pleading guilty to driving with a suspended licence, having overly tinted windows and an illegal licence plate. Despite his guilty pleas, Wap infamously told the press that he is only really guilty of ‘driving whilst rich and black’. However, the fines he’s been ordered to pay certainly haven’t been based on his worth. The rapper once strolled into a court room carrying $165,000 cash, but was only ordered to pay around $400 in fines for his offences.
The press spotlight shone on Wap’s love life when a sex tape featuring him and his ex-girlfriend Alexis Sky was leaked on Instagram following their break-up in 2016. He took the brunt of the blame for the leak when Sky took to social media denying any responsibility for it. The model insinuated that it was just another thing she had to deal with as a result of Wap’s continuing mistreatment of her during their relationship. Wap’s current girlfriend Masika Kalysha hit back at Sky, claiming that she leaked the video herself to gain publicity and be “like Kim Kardashian”.
Wap has a son and two daughters. His son Zoovier turned five-years-old in 2016 and his eldest daughter Zaviera turned one. He is thought to be still in a relationship with Masika Kalysha, the mother of his youngest daughter Khari Barbie Maxwell. The couple have featured on VH1’s Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood, a reality TV programme documenting their life together as new parents. Controversially, Wap refused to claim the baby girl as his own daughter when she was born, only stating that she was in fact his child when he and his girlfriend announced they would be appearing on the show together as a family.
Fetty Wap still lives in New Jersey. In his spare time he enjoys dirt bike and quad bike riding with his crew GHB Zoo. Wap is known for tearing around the streets and pavements of New Jersey on his quad bike – an obviously dangerous activity which he has been widely criticized for. Wap however, defends his hobby stating that they have little other choice as there aren’t any publically accessible off-road areas nearby. He believes the hobby gives young men and boys of the area something to keep them busy, helping them to steer clear of drugs and criminal activities.
In many ways, Wap comes across as a typical rags-to-riches rapper and songwriter, however he recently revealed that in addition to hanging out with his crew, making music and biking on the streets of New Jersey, he enjoys trading stocks in his spare time.