Fetty Wap is mid-joint. He’s on the road for his new mixtape, For My Fans, and as we settle into his tour bus minutes before his next show, a part-fan part businessman politely interrupts to offer his goods—all marijuana-related, to the rapper. Everyone on the bus gets free weed, and the artist himself receives an offer to collaborate. Keep an eye out for Fetty Wap brand pre-rolled joints at your local MJ mart later this year.
“I wouldn’t say I’m addicted to it, but I wouldn’t say I’m not addicted either,” he tells CR with a smile (the rapper says nearly everything with a smile). “I probably smoke weed about every 30 minutes. I’m addicted to feeling good. I love being happy.”
Fame came quickly for Fetty Wap, whose real name is Willie Maxwell II. His single “Trap Queen” became the most on-demand song when it came out in 2015 with 616.46 million audio and video streams. It was one of just five songs to exceed 400 million plays. Prior to the single’s release he had spent relatively little time—just over a year—pursuing music professionally.
“I really smoke because my life changed real fast,” says Maxwell, who went from questionable activities (“Trap Queen,” after all, references cooking crack cocaine,) to collaborating with his musical idols, among them Gucci Mane, Drake, Sia, and David Guetta. Although not yet released, he’s recently recorded a song with Nelly, and is in talks with Lil Wayne’s camp about working together on new music. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with some of music’s biggest names, Maxwell has had to make a few adjustments: “I had to find a balanced place. It was either go back to how we used to act, or smoke a lot of weed.”
Staying high and happy has seemed to help keep him out of trouble. Maxwell comes from Paterson, one of New Jersey’s most violent cities, and realized early on that to get out he needed grounding and focus. “When I was a kid, I was kind of violent,” he says. Born with glaucoma, he lost his left eye at an early age. Ruthless bullying followed, and in an attempt to better fit in, Maxwell wore an ocular prosthesis. Still, “I used to get picked on a lot,” he admits.
“I got tired of it and I snapped. I started fighting a lot, and broke a lot of bones in my hands.” The scars running along the ring finger on his right hand serve as permanent physical memories of those turbulent times. “When I was a teenager and doing illegal shit—I was selling weed when I was 17—I stopped caring about how I looked,” he says. “I just cared about getting money. That was attracting fake love,” Maxwell says. “People wanted to smoke with me, people wanted 20 dollars.”
The rapper’s perspective changed with the birth of his son over seven years ago. Tired, he loosened himself from the grip of others’ opinions. His priorities shifted, and his new family and a sense of self-respect took precedence. When he stopped devoting energy to the hangers-on, the fake love dissipated—with this shift grew room for self-realization: “If you have no love for yourself, nobody else gonna have love for you.”
No longer dependent on looking like those around him (or how they expected him to look), Maxwell stopped wearing his prosthesis. “Some people that knew me were like ‘Oh shit, why you walking around like that?’ I was like, ‘Cause I don’t care no more. This is how I am, this is what I look like. I don’t look like what you thought I looked like. If you don’t like it, oh fuckin’ well,’” he says. “I started to love myself. I liked the way I looked. A year went a past, and it became natural, it became normal.”
This security is something he’s both passing to and receiving from his kids. “My son used to say when he was younger, ‘Dad, why don’t I have one eye like you? I want to look like you.’ That was a confidence booster to me. There’s people that want to look like me,” says Maxwell with a hint of surprise. “I always try to tell people, if you don’t got no love for yourself, you’re not going to get nowhere in life. You’re going to be stuck where you’re at forever, because you’re going to be searching for something that really you got to bring out. You can’t find something that’s not already there.”
Special Thanks Polaroid Originals
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