Fetty Wap seemed to be living the hip-hop dream after building a successful career off hits like "Trap Queen." Then a drug trafficking arrest in 2021 derailed his life. In his first tell-all interview from prison, the New Jersey rapper gets candid about doing time and where he went wrong.
Interview: Georgette Cline
Illustration: Bruno Guerreiro
Editor’s Note: This story appears in the Winter 2023 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands in December.

Six days after Fetty Wap dropped his project, The Butterfly Effect, in 2021, he was indicted and arrested for drug trafficking conspiracy. While the title of the rapper’s effort stemmed from the idea that smaller events may ultimately result in something with much more significant consequences, coincidentally, he was experiencing in real time the harmful effects of his past actions. He and five other men were charged with conspiring to distribute and possess controlled substances, including cocaine, on Long Island, N.Y. and in New Jersey. How he got to this point came as a shock.

On the outside, Fetty Wap, 32, appeared to be living the good life following the success of his 2014 breakout hit, “Trap Queen.” The two-time Grammy-nominated song is among 121 tracks in history that have been certified diamond, putting the Paterson, N.J. native in an esteemed league of artists. Multiplatinum-selling tracks like the Remy Boyz-assisted “679” and “My Way” featuring Monty, both released on Fetty’s 2015 self-titled debut album—which came out on 300 Entertainment and RGF Productions, where he is still signed—proved fans were turning up to his R&B-layered bars and irrepressible hooks. Despite dropping 11 projects between 2016 and 2020, he wasn’t reaching the heights of his prior career pinnacle. Performances and touring helped keep him afloat.

The money coming in didn’t seem to balance what was going out. Fetty was racking up $150,000 in bills a month. Buying homes, apartments, jewelry and cars were among the rap balladeer’s purchases. The sting of the pandemic halting live shows in 2020, plus family obligations as a father of six children who seemed to care for everyone around him led Fetty to start running drugs to re-up on his funds.

Eventually, he got caught up. Following his 2021 arrest and an initial not-guilty plea, Fetty pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine last August. In May of this year, he was sentenced to six years in prison and five years of post-release supervision. He’s currently doing his bid at Federal Correctional Institution, Elkton in Ohio, where he called XXL from in October to speak for the first time from prison.

The circumstances may be grim, but Fetty stays motivated thanks to his family and kids. He’s also still dropping new music from behind bars. The rhymer's long-awaited sophomore album, King Zoo, arrives on Nov. 24, which includes the song “1738” featuring Coi Leray. Aside from his new rhymes, Fetty is taking GED classes. He’s inspired to show his babies that “it’s cool to go to school.”

As he finds ways to stay up while he’s locked down, Fetty Wap opens up about the crime that has made him reflect on his life choices, the ways 50 Cent is helping him from the outside, writing songs inside, why he feels like a coward and where all that money went.

XXL: What’s helping you pass the time on a daily basis in there? Do you read? Work out?

Fetty Wap: Yeah, I work out. You know, I just do the regular push-ups, pull-ups, dips and squats, like regular workout in here. We don’t got no weights in here, though. I eat a lot and I write. I’ve been writing a lot. I don’t wanna spoil it, but I’ve been writing different things, like from trying to write a little book and write music, and I was trying to write a series for a TV show. Keep my mind occupied and just, you know, staying off the negativity that goes on with all the politics, you know what I’m sayin’?

How many songs do you have written? Do you have an album’s worth of material right now?

Man, well, I’ve almost been down for two years, so I guess you could say I got a lot of music. I wrote a whole lot. I don’t even know. I got like three notebooks full. So, I guess whatever that is.

You stay in touch with your family. Have there been any rappers that have supported you during this time?

Rappers? Yeah, not a lot, though. 50 Cent. He reach out all the time. Coi Leray. You know, that’s the homie. She from Jersey. I love Coi Leray, man. Chief Keef. They hit Instagram. When I call my sister, she’ll tell me like, “Oh, this person said this, and this person said that,” and I just relay the message back through her through the phone, and she’ll hit them back for me.

I could say like maybe five people that reach out. Yeah, 50 Cent, Coi Leray, Chief, my boy Ether Da Connect from New York and my guy Remy Boy Monty.

How does that make you feel that people are checking for you out here?

I ain’t gonna lie to you. I be feeling like people don’t really f**k with me like that, you know what I’m sayin’? Being in here, through the federal system, man, a lot of words travel. So, you hear a lot of s**t. Maybe real or maybe fake. The support system I see a lot of other rappers got, I don’t got that in here, you know what I’m sayin’? I handle all this s**t on my own.

I feel like I did some good things out there in the music world, and I made a name for myself. Whether it be the old songs or not, I still made a lane for a lot of artists that came after me. I don’t be feeling that respect in here. I don’t be feeling like people respect that. So, I mean, I appreciate and respect the hell out of the people that did hit me up, you know what I’m sayin’? Like the ones that did really show me love and, that was supporting me, and that’s checking on me and everything like that. And so, other than that, I just be thuggin’ in here.

Do your children know you’re incarcerated? How do those conversations go?

Yeah, I don’t lie to them. They know what’s up. My baby boy about to be 6 years old and he already know. “Daddy, when you come home from jail...” I love my kids, man. ’Cause they just so different. They got their own personalities. It’s like, "Daddy, I miss you.” And I just explain to them, like, “Daddy made some bad decisions.”

And the best way I could explain it to the younger ones is more so like when they get in trouble or you can’t use the iPad at certain times and stuff like that. I kind of explain it to them like that. Like, “Daddy is in adult time out,” you know? I explain it to the little one like that. But my older ones, they kind of already know what’s going on, you know what I’m sayin’? I just give it to them straight up.

When it comes to your mindset, what are some of the things you’re thinking about and reflecting on?

Some of the things I think about really is being home. I take accountability for everything I did. I don’t really be blaming nobody for nothing. It ain’t nobody else fault that I’m here, you know what I’m sayin’? However it may have went down, whatever, like with the people and all that, basically, just not standing tall. But at the end of the day, that’s my fault for involving myself around people like that, you know what I’m sayin’? And putting your trust in the people that’s not really real, that’s not really who they say they is. So, my whole thing is like, man, just stop f**kin’ with n***as, man, you know what I’m sayin’? That’s how I feel.

I just reflect on some of the s**t I did in the last few years, how I feel like I coulda took music a lot more serious than I did. And like just keep it that route, instead of this route, you know what I’m sayin’? I’m just grateful that I’m still here; I’m still breathing. I’m able to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m around a lot of people that’s doing real lengthy sentences. Some of the dudes I be kickin’ it in here with, some dudes got 50 years and 30 years, you know what I’m sayin’, some of them got life. One of my mans, who I was in Brooklyn MDC with, right now, he facing 120 years. And he just smiling every day. We just be kicking it with each other. I be telling him about all the music experience I have. I met a lot of genuine people in here. So, you know, they all like, “Yo, bro, when you get out, man, take that serious, man. Stop f**kin’ around with your blessings before you end up losing it for good.” So, you know that’s one of the things that I reflect on—really taking music serious and going places.

Fetty Wap performs during the 2019 Rolling Loud music festival at Citi Field on October 12, 2019 in New York City.
Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

During your sentencing this past May, you told the judge: “I only ever wanted to help my family. I never asked myself if it was all-the-way right.” Why was that important for you to say at that time?

I mean, ’cause it was true. It’s all true. A lot of people don’t say it to my face, but you know I hear the rumors. Like, “Oh, he dumb as hell. He had the world in his hands.” And all this other s**t, but people don’t understand the s**t I was going through with the music s**t. And like I always say, I never fought no labels. I didn’t fought 300. I didn’t fought RGF. I signed them contracts. Willie Maxwell signed them contracts.

Nobody made me do it. Nobody forced me to do it, you know what I’m sayin’? When I put myself in that situation, I ain’t really think for the long run. I’m thinking I could just run up a few million dollars, and I’m gon’ be good forever. I ain’t never had no financial guidance, and like a person to really guide me the right way. It was just like everybody just didn’t care. As long as they got they money, they just didn’t give a f**k, you know what I’m sayin’?

When I wanted to start doing s**t, this is what I know how to do. It was like, I’m being honest with myself, you know what I’m sayin’? Like, aight, the music wasn’t really doin’ that good. I’m putting out music, but nobody’s payin’ attention. So, I’m like, man, f**k it. I’ma go back to what I know how to do. Instead of pursuing my career harder or going harder to make people listen, man, I kinda was a coward, you know what I’m sayin’? Like if I’m fallin’ off, f**k it, I ain’t about to look like it, you know what I’m sayin’? I was a coward for that. And I was just like, I can’t let my family down. It wasn’t for the, to be like, “I’m outside. I’m outside, n***a, I’m really doin’ this s**t for real.” It wasn’t for none of that.

It was like, man, like I got y’all [my family]. I’m never gonna let y’all fail. But if I gotta be away for however long like y’all gon’ be good no matter what. Personally, I feel like I stuck to my word. I tell people all the time I’m in jail. I’m locked up, but I’m not f**ked up, you know what I’m sayin’? I’m takin’ care of my whole family from jail still. That s**t don’t stop. I mean, what I was doing stopped. Let me clear that up. But as far as takin’ care of my family, I found different outlets in here. Different people that helped me.

Like I said, 50 [Cent] helped me a lot. He started showing me different ways, like s**t to invest in and s**t like that. And then my homie Akash [a New York-based rapper Fetty collaborated with on the song “Balenciaga” in October]. Like he put something together for us to really help me grow like really big. He’s doing something big. I can’t spoil it, but we doin’ something really, really big that’s gonna change the game, you know what I’m sayin’? And I’m not even talkin’ music-wise. I’m talkin’ business-wise.

So, I just been sitting back and learning how to not be so impatient. I was so like, f**k it, I gotta get this money right now, you know what I’m sayin’? So, I really feel like I was just a coward.

From what the public didn’t see, is it just bad business situations and contracts that kind of held you back? You had songs like “Trap Queen,” “679” and “My Way” that were hits, but maybe people thought you had all this money, but behind the scenes because of business...

Yeah, it wasn’t like that. Somebody got all the money, but I don’t got it. I’ll just leave it like that, you know what I’m sayin’? I made all my money from doin’ shows and tours and stuff like that. And really the reason why I’m here. I ain’t never really get all that, the rap money, I guess you would say. Like masters and royalties and s**t like that, nah.

What message would you like to send to the fans?

If I could say anything, man, anybody that really pays attention to me, man, like choose a different life ’cause this s**t wack, man. I hate being here. I hate being away from my children. I like to drive. I like to enjoy myself and I can’t do the one thing that I love more than anything else and that’s record music, you know what I’m sayin’? I’m on they time. Count time, gotta get up. You gotta do what they say ’cause you don’t got no control in here.

This s**t ain’t for the weak in here. You gotta be strong-minded in here to go through this stuff. If I could say anything, man, if you got the right way to do it, choose the right way ’cause the wrong way, you never know what could happen. That’s really like the realest I could put that s**t, honestly, man.

fetty wap illustration
Bruno Guerreiro


Read Fetty Wap's interview in the Winter 2023 issue of XXL Magazine, on newsstands now. The new issue also includes the cover story with Latto and conversations with Killer Mike, Flo MilliDD OsamaMaiya The DonMello BuckzzSexyy RedBigXThaPlug, plus more. Additionally, there are interviews with Quality Control Music's Coach K and P discussing 10 years into the label's growth, in-depth stories on the popularity of sampling in hip-hop in 2023 and the state of hip-hop touring, and the best moments of hip-hop's year-long 50th anniversary celebration.

See Photos From Latto's XXL Magazine Winter 2023 Cover Story