By Maddie Orton
Hundreds of Paterson’s high school students greeted Billboard Hot 100 Chart-topper Fetty Wap with cheers on Thursday. Fetty Wap, given name Willie Maxwell, hails from the city and briefly returned home to give students a free concert.
“This is a homecoming welcoming party…to what we see as a true rags to riches story, a gentleman who never lost sight of what he wanted to do in life, and persevered,” said Paterson mayor Jose Torres.
The concert was a back-to-school kickoff event that included raffles for iPads and backpack giveaways. Costs were primarily covered by sponsors.
Seniors Brittany Rose and Kayla Matthews were ecstatic when they heard the MTV Video Music Award-nominee was coming to town.
“I want to scream. I don’t want to scream, but I want to scream,” laughed Rose. “It’s really touching. It’s inspiring. Motivational.”
But critics sounded off about the city holding up Fetty Wap as an inspirational figure for high school students. Lyrics from his hit songs “Trap Queen” and “679” include references to guns, drugs, and sexual situations.
One commenter on an NJ.com article wrote: “Have you read the lyrics to his songs? Drug culture glorified, mysoginistic [sic] denigration of women, promotion of violence not to mention rampant greed.”
Paterson parent Samantha Rodriguez said the lyrics aren’t ideal, but artists write what they know. And the takeaway message isn’t in the lyrics, but in the concert itself.
“They’re not looking at the big picture…which is that he’s making it,” said Rodriguez. “He is showing these kids, ‘You know what? If you want to do this, you can do it as long as you really want to do it and you work for it. Behind all this, he had to spend a lot of hours…This is a job like any other one.”
Rose said, whether or not it’s appropriate, it’s the music students listen to.
“I think we should have him here because he’s someone from Paterson,” said Rose. “Because there are so many kids who don’t have dreams, and he’s a prime example of what following your dreams can do.”
When asked if she really feels that way and if she feels kids in Paterson don’t have a person to look at, Rose said, “No not at all.”
While the concert was limited to high school students only, there were several guest artists who were more than happy to warm up the audience before the highly-anticipated headliner.
“Fetty’s giving us this platform—his platform—to help other artists like myself and a couple of other ones on the stage to showcase themselves,” said North Jersey recording artist Zach Matari.
Fetty Wap also shared the spotlight with one performer who needed no introduction — surprise guest French Montana.
The concert wasn’t just a big deal for students, it was a big deal for Fetty Wap, too. He told the crowd that, of all the concerts he’s given, he’s never been more nervous.