There is an immense distance between "Trap Queen" as recorded on a wintry Paterson, N.J. day in early 2014, and "Trap Queen" heard today, coast-to-coast, coursing through the airwaves, from passing cars, across packed dancefloors. It isn't the first record to traverse the massive void from the bottom to (nearly) Billboard's apex. The rocket-ride from obscurity to obsession happens every few months in hip-hop, as social media propels artists to varying degrees of fame without a traditional publicity machine. Yet not since Chief Keef in 2012 has one of these artists seemed like such a promising pop songwriter. Fetty Wap has the gift for hooks: not all of them land, but even the ones that don't feel like purposeful approximations.
"My Way", the loping follow-up now accompanied by a pro forma Drake verse, is set to be "Trap Queen"'s somber counterpart. And YouTube is littered with Fetty's variations on that distinct warbling style: the Baauer-assisted shuffle of "Promises", the sweet gem "Again", the West Coast thump of "679". But "Show You" best captures the raw springtime ebullience of Fetty's breakthrough moment—its lyrics would read better emblazoned across the stratosphere by a skywriter than scrawled in a notepad at 12th and 22nd in Paterson.
Compared to "Trap Queen", a more balanced record which earns its impact through its long build-and-release, "Show You" is driven by glimmering, euphoric overload. It finds the shortest path to the biggest emotions, short-circuiting the normal protocols for a hook so big it could be seen from outer space. It's a bold lunge for automatic responses: the details may be personal, but its methods are universal. Like a space shuttle dropping weight to achieve lift-off, its flaws serve the chorus, contend that everything else musicians may do—crafting, refining, perfecting—is a drag on pop music's real purpose, its sincere emotional power.
Lyrically, Fetty Wap—who only began to rap last year—matches the song's directness, each line a decisive gesture of triumph or devotion: "Do anything to protect us," "Zoo Gang run the world now," "Fetty Wap a brand new sound." We know these moments don't last forever; that to maintain a career, he either churns out iterations until the well runs dry, or fleshes out his own universe to give his creations the dimension they only suggest now. But these moments are just as worthy of celebration. The further an artist has to travel—the more radical his vision—the purer the gesture must be, so that the world can see it all the way from Paterson. "Show You" is a better hook than song, but the hook is so good the song only has to keep up.