The end of the year is nigh, and our DJ’s have been reflecting upon 2015’s best album releases. As the year comes to a close, we have called on DJ’s to break down why ‘their’ album is the album of the year. Keep checking back for more of 2015’s best beats.
2015 Album of the Year Nomination:
Fetty Wap – Fetty Wap
Label: RGF Productions/300 Entertainment
Review by Daniel Bromfield
DJ Daniel of Queer Breakfast
Fetty Wap’s self-titled debut focuses almost exclusively on hanging out or selling drugs with three other people in the mid-sized New Jersey city of Paterson. It’s a tiny, insular world even by the standards of the most fiercely regional rap, and there’s even less sonic variation to go with it; most of these songs are variations on the same formula, and the only guests are the two not-particularly-interesting other members of his crew Remy Boyz. But the amount of content Fetty milks out of this tiny world is staggering. He explores his situation from every possible perspective and emotional angle and keeps the songs from sounding redundant (though not quite justifying the album’s runtime, about ten or fifteen minutes too long).
Much has been said about Fetty’s relentless positivity, which is indeed one of his strongest suits; he’s one of hip hop’s most heart-on-sleeve romantics, as well as its leading crusader against ableism. But these aren’t the decadent “good vibes” you might expect from someone like Wiz Khalifa. Rather, his joy is a respite from the harsh reality of selling drugs to make a living. Bleak, desperate songs like “Again” and “Couple Bandz” contrast with the ecstasy of “Trap Queen” or “Jugg” to make it clear that Fetty doesn’t particularly enjoy the trap, and he’s in no way glorifying it. He revels in every moment he spends in his car with his beloved Trap Queen, every moment spent drinking cognac with his Remy Boyz. The sense is that without them, his spirits wouldn’t be nearly as high. Above all else, this is an album about making the best of a bad situation.
These themes reveal themselves with time. But this is pop rap, and its superficial pleasures make this great music in its own right. The most obvious of these is Fetty’s voice. His eccentric cadences superficially resemble those of Young Thug, but while Thugger’s voice ebbs and flows fluidly, Fetty’s is muscular – he goes straight for the gut. His vibrato is so gorgeous it makes his “yeaaahh baby” catchphrase sting a little every time it shows up in spite of being treated as a watermark. Yes, he uses Auto-Tune, but half the time it’s hard to tell if he even is or if he’s just that good a singer. And even if that tearful quaver in his voice is a studio creation, his sound engineer should receive every industry award for making him sound so goddamn soulful.
If you wind up enjoying Fetty Wap even on just a superficial level, I advise you to spend more time with it. I’m still noticing new things about this record; I didn’t even realize just how complex the layers and layers of ad-libs in the background are until a friend pointed it out. The first time I heard this album, I saw it as an unusually beautiful party record. Upon the second listen I was enthralled by what was going on in the background; listen three, I started to take note of the underlying emotions beyond the superficial joy he radiates. By the fourth listen, I was convinced I was listening to the best pop album of the year.
Thanks, DJ Daniel! Stay tuned for more reviews of 2015’s best albums.