Fetty Wap, Halsey & Charlie Puth: New Jersey’s Young Pop Heavyweights

Three New Jersey musicians are dominating the pop charts and breaking records—and they were all born in the '90s.

artist collage

Fetty Wap, Halsey, and Charlie Puth. Images via artists’ respective Instagram accounts

The music industry is buzzing with the names of three talented New Jersey musicians who each skyrocketed to fame with surprising speed, all thanks to their original talent and without any hand-holding from big name executives (or a Disney contract).

In the age of YouTube and social media, record deals can happen overnight. For local artists Fetty Wap (24), Halsey (21), and Charlie Puth (24), the Internet played a major role in their journey to mainstream. All three are nominated for the People’s Choice Awards category “Favorite Breakout Artist” alongside major artists like the Weeknd and Tori Kelly, who both performed at the MTV Video Music Awards in August. The award show will air on January 6, 2016.

Here’s what you need to know about these buzz-worthy artists:

Fetty Wap

Hometown: Paterson
Born: June 7, 1991
Labels: Atlantic Records, 300 Entertainment, RGF Productions
Instagram: @fettywap1738

instagram.com/fettywap1738

instagram.com/fettywap1738

Willie Maxwell II, known by his stage name Fetty Wap, lost his left eye at a young age due to congenital glaucoma. Wap attended Eastside High School, sang in a church quartet and played piano and drums. Just over a year ago, Wap was selling his CDs outside Jersey shopping malls, like the Garden State Plaza, to start a local following. He self-released his semi-autobiographical breakout single “Trap Queen” on SoundCloud in March 2014. The catchy track is apparently about a girlfriend who had a great recipe for cooking crack. The video, shot in Paterson, was nominated for the MTV Video Music Awards “Best Hip-Hop Video” and won for “Artist to Watch.” Despite these accolades and near-constant radio play this summer, many assumed Fetty was destined to be a one hit wonder.

The last week of August, Wap defied expectations and became the first act in the Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs chart’s 26-year history to chart his first four songs in the top 10 simultaneously, with “Trap Queen” at No. 2, “My Way” featuring Monty at No. 3, ”679” featuring Remy Boyz at No. 5 and “Again” at No. 8. His debut studio album, Fetty Wap, recorded in Clifton and released on September 25, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. Big name collaborations keep coming: He is featured on the official remix of David Guetta’s single “Bang My Head” with Sia. In an interview with Maxim, Wap revealed he now has a home in Hackensack filled with Air Jordans (this may be an exaggeration). According to his official bio, “his mission in hip-hop isn’t to become more famous, but to use his fortunes to help his community rise above their hardships.”

Halsey

Hometown: Washington
Born: September 29, 1994
Label: Astralwerks / Universal Music Group
Instagram: @iamhalsey

instagram.com/iamhalsey

instagram.com/iamhalsey

Ashley Frangipane initially caught attention on the blogging platform Tumblr where she published original song lyrics and poems and earned 16,000 subscribers on YouTube by 18. Her stage name is an anagram of her first name, and also a reference to a street in Brooklyn where she developed her sound. Her honest song lyrics appeal to young women with frank descriptions of sex, drug use and dealing with mental illness. She graduated from Warren Hills Regional High School in 2012 and worked on songwriting until she self-released her first single, “Ghost,” on SoundCloud in January 2014. The song exploded online, catching the attention of five record labels within days.

Badlands, released in August, was the second-biggest debut of 2015 for a female artist’s first full-length album–Meghan Trainor’s Title was first. (Sharing her album title with a well known song by another New Jersey artist is merely a coincidence.) The work is also her label’s highest charting album, ever. Her fall tour sold out within minutes, resulting in countless venue upgrades in cities across North America—which also sold out, within minutes. Halsey’s dedicated fan base spurred an impressive venue addition: a Madison Square Garden show to close out her world tour on August 13, 2016. The pre-sale sold out within 24-hours, and the entire arena is almost sold out. She also opens for the Weeknd’s The Madness tour, and appears on Justin Bieber’s newest album Purpose, dropping November 13, on a song called “The Feeling.”

Halsey also covered Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” for a Norwegian radio station.

Charlie Puth

Hometown: Rumson
Born: December 2, 1991
Label: Atlantic Records
Instagram: @charlieputh

instagram.com/charlieputh

instagram.com/charlieputh

When Charlie Puth was only two, a dog bite left him with a permanent scar on his right eyebrow. He started posting singing videos to YouTube in 2009, and graduated from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School in 2010. He went on to major in music production and engineering at the prestigious Berklee College of Music on a full scholarship.

On his second day in Los Angeles in July 2014, his publicist tipped him off that the Fast & Furious franchise was looking for a moving original song to play at the end of Furious 7 as a tribute to actor Paul Walker, who died in November 2013 in a car accident. While Puth had never met Walker, he later told Billboard, “I had experienced a loss very similar to Paul, where a friend passed away in a car accident.” He wrote the chorus and the bridge for what would become the hit single “See You Again,” which was selected from more than 100 submissions.  Along with catchy verses and a refrain from Wiz Khalifa, the hip-hop ballad held number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for 12 non-consecutive weeks, tying with Eminem’s 2002 hit “Lose Yourself” for the longest-running number-one rap hit in the country. “See You Again” is the first hip-hop music video to reach 1 billion views on YouTube, and the track is nominated for the American Music Award for “Song of the Year.”

His single “Marvin Gaye” featuring Meghan Trainor debuted in February, but only recently earned heavy radio rotation. He also is featured on Lil Wayne’s single “Nothing But Trouble,” and his studio album Nine Track Mind drops on January 22.

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