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Year's Top Newcomer Fetty Wap Dominates in Both Rap, Pop

FILE - Fetty Wap
FILE - Fetty Wap

Fetty Wap has had a lot of success without the release of an album: The rapper-singer is enjoying another week with two songs in the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (a third track sits in the Top 20), he's on tour with Chris Brown, and he even surprised Taylor Swift's audience at one of her recent shows with his ubiquitous hit, "Trap Queen.''

After much anticipation, Wap is finally ready to release his debut album on Sept. 25 — just days before the deadline for Grammy eligibility.

"I'm just waiting for it to get mixed and mastered,'' Wap, 24, said calmly in a telephone interview. "My album been done for, like, two months now.''

The wait has been partly because of Lyor Cohen, the record executive who helped solidify the careers of Jay Z, Ja Rule and Ludacris, and who signed Wap to his 300 Entertainment label.

"Our industry is lacking on a wholesale level of artist development ... and we feel that [Wap is] just so brilliant and has developed this new style, new sound,'' said Cohen, who didn't want Wap to rush out an album.

Wap, born Willie Maxwell, has dominated airwaves with his melodic but grungy "Trap Queen,'' a song about a lover having your back — even if that means helping you cook and sell drugs.

The catchy hit gets equal play on New York stations like Hot97 and Z100, it's peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100 chart and sold 2.2 million tracks. He's followed the song with anthems like "My Way'' and "679,'' which currently sit at No. 10 and No. 17 on the Hot 100 chart, respectively.

All three songs are in the Top 10 on the R&B/Hip Hop songs chart and in the Top 5 on the Rap songs chart.

"I guess it's just raw. ... Everybody sounds like everybody else,'' Wap said of his winning formula and of his competition in hip hop.

He said he's leading in rap — and pop — because his sound isn't based on sampling older songs: "When you hear Fetty Wap music, it's all new music. ... I don't sound like anybody else.''

Wap grew up in Paterson, New Jersey. He started rapping two years ago, and "Trap Queen'' was one of the first songs he recorded.

"I really didn't know I was going to be doing music,'' he said.

As "Trap Queen'' began to chart in February, Wap earned attention for his look: He developed glaucoma as a baby and said doctors were unable to save his left eye. But he's been able to lead the conversation about himself back to his music, thanks to his back-to-back hits.

He kicked off his opening stint on Brown's One Hell of a Nite Tour on Wednesday, and he's nominated for two MTV Video Music Awards this month, including artist to watch and best hip hop video.

"He's not doing the same regurgitated rap stuff,'' Cohen said. "It's not a redundant thing.''

Wap says he's learning a great deal from Cohen — especially outside of music.

"He helped me a lot when I was going through stuff, when my grandfather died. He was calling and calling, making sure I was all right, asking me if I need anything,'' Wap recalled.

"It ain't how like I be seeing it on TV where they arguing and stuff. We don't even being going through that, for the most part we don't even talk about music, he just be telling, like, watch myself,'' he continued. "[Lyor] talk to me like a mentor.''

Cohen, who ran Island Def Jam and Warner Music, started 300 Entertainment with Kevin Liles, Todd Moscowitz and Roger Gold. The label's roster includes Young Thug, Migos and T-Wayne, who also had a Top 10 pop hit this year with "Nasty Freestyle.''

"I do believe that I have a huge responsibility to my artists, especially the young artists that all of sudden their socioeconomic position changes, to help them realize all the obstacles that confront them,'' Cohen said.

Cohen even called a famous doctor to help Wap with his vocals to ensure he wouldn't experience issues others have faced, including Adele, Sam Smith and recently Meghan Trainor.

"When I went to his rehearsal this week, I realized that he was straining his voice and I thought there's one of the great voice doctors that has helped the likes of Paul McCartney and our greatest singers [to] teach them how not to destroy their vocal cords,'' he said. "He's doing an insane amount of traveling and singing ... and a lot of people think, 'The person's just singing or rapping, that's not a tough thing.' But when ... you're going full-stop using your vocal cords and you're not doing it in the particular way, you can actually damage them.''

As Wap readies the release of his untitled debut album, he said he's happy with his achievements in music but his main goals don't involve singing.

"It's hard to be around my kids right now 'cause I'm always going somewhere, like at the same token where I'm from I can't really be having my kids outside anyway because people be hating,'' said Wap, who has a son and daughter and still lives in Paterson.

"Like, my main goal is to remain a good father,'' he said.