What Kind Of World Are We Living In? Fetty Wap's Self-Titled New LP Premieres On NPR
Fetty Wap,–the NJ-based trap king phenom–has just premiered his new self-titled album via NPR’s First Listen series, which here at Okayplayer immediately prompted the question: Wait, what? What kind of world are we living in, exactly, wherein the soft-voiced, mild-mannered and most definitely high-browed domain of All Things Considered and a Prairie Home Companion is the venue to not only embrace the unapologetically outlaw, strip-club-friendly sound of a Fetty Wap, but the venue to buss it wide open??–a trap record that by all rights should be premiered with multiple bomb-a-drop sound effects and a Funkmaster Flex-level personality jock to scream himself hoarse on the EX! CLUSIVE!s as he exhorts us to love this music in a vaguely bullying tirade?
To be clear, nobody is entirely mad at this brave new world. Hell, if I worked at NPR I would be pushing them to cover more relevant street-level culture just like this. In 2015 Fetty Wap *is This American Life. Fetty Wap *is American folk music in 2015, surely as much as Alan Lomax and the Georgia Sea Island Singers were in another era. And maybe more to the point, while nobody is gonna suggest that Fetty is in the same arena–or even practicing the same artform–as your Kendricks or your Jay Elects, as Jay Elect himself pointed out, it’s difficult to be mad at this young black man celebrating his life and getting money via his own style, creativity and–it has to be said–a certain irrepressible joy at being in the world, even if it’s a fantasy world of matching Lambos, grams that don’t get you killed, trap queens that always have your back and your side, too.
In fact, the main point of dissonance between Fetty Wap and his new politically correct champions is the latter’s legible discomfort in knowing how to talk about this phenom. The sub-header for the premiere describes Fetty Wap as ‘hilariously American’ and reading some of the other prose here, you can almost hear the NPR staff tearing their ACL’s as they reach backhandedly for positive characterizations. NPR’s hip-hop specialist Frannie Kelley rightly points out the DIY/direct democracy effect at work in Fetty’s rise, though, his connection with a huge audience that was achieved without a label, management or even a high-end studio. But if he did it on his own, does he still need the National Endowment for The Arts? I mean, if John Kasich can’t get his head around The Roots, I have to wonder how the US Government is going to feel about subsidizing these tales of cooked crack-pies and Glocks in the ‘rari with federal funds, which still account for some 10% of NPR’s budget at last check-in.
These are all the thoughts swirling in a player’s head as I cue up “679” for the 679th time (listen yourself below). To be honest I’m not sure how to feel about this world. But one thing is for sure; it’s definitely not the world I went to sleep in back in Nov. 4th, 2000, thinking Al Gore was the new president. Somehow I crossed the streams. Somewhere I messed up and got myself struck by the fluorescent green lightning that brought me… here: