Fetty Wap, a New Jersey rapper who rose to fame with his hit “Trap Queen,” an ode to a love affair entangled in the drug trade, was sentenced to six years in federal prison Wednesday for trafficking narcotics in whole country.
The singer, whose legal name is Willie Junior Maxwell II, 31, has been in custody since his bail was revoked in August, after prosecutors said he, during a FaceTime call, displayed a gun and threatened to kill someone. He later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine.
On Wednesday, he appeared before Judge Joanna Seybert in federal court in Central Islip, NY, to receive a sentence one year longer than the minimum. Mr. waved. Maxwell to about 20 family members and friends who attended the sentencing as she entered the courtroom wearing a beige jumpsuit, her dreadlocks pulled away from her face.
His lawyer, Elizabeth Macedonio, argued that Mr. Maxwell was supporting many relatives and children and that he needed money to support them once the live entertainment pandemic was over. Mr. Maxwell himself apologized to the communities and families of drug users he hurt.
“I just want to help my family,” Mr. Maxwell told the judge. “I never asked myself if everything was right.”
Prosecutors argued for a longer term, saying she used her fame to “enhance the drug trade” while earning millions from her music after releasing “Trap Queen” in 2015. They pointed out the use of children as extras in the song’s music video and noted the ample media attention the case received.
Christopher Caffarone, a prosecutor, on Wednesday asked the judge to remember the “collateral consequences” of drug abuse and pointed out that many people suffered during the pandemic, but “they did not turn to drug dealing.”
Judge Seybert called the case one of the most difficult he has decided in 30 years on the bench, noting that Mr. Maxwell had overcome obstacles to achieve “incredible fame” – only to be thrown away. He noted his loving, supportive family, many of whom wrote to him, and his relationship with his children. But his crime was serious, and his actions while on bail raised serious questions, he said.
“The thing you can’t escape is that there are other options,” he said.
In March, one of Mr. Maxwell’s co-defendants, Anthony Cyntje, a former New Jersey corrections officer, was sentenced to six years for acting as a cocaine courier. Maxwell’s remaining four co-defendants have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.
Mr. Maxwell, who hails from Paterson, NJ, and lost his left eye to congenital glaucoma, was at the height of his musical success when he was a drug dealer. “Trap Queen,” featuring her unique mix of singing and rapping, reached No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in May 2015. The music site Pitchfork described his “devilish melodious singing voice” as an “instrument that shocks, shocks with lightning.” He was nominated for two Grammys the following year and appeared on the VH1 reality show “Love and Hip Hop: Hollywood.”
In court on Wednesday, Ms. Macedonio recounts the obstacles Mr. Maxwell previously faced, including constant bullying due to his glaucoma and drug addiction before his music career with the group Remy Boyz began. Then “Trap Queen” hit the airwaves.
“Suddenly the kid from Paterson, the kid who shouldn’t be going anywhere, is in the national spotlight,” he said.
He noted that the charges only involved a six-month period of activity and accused prosecutors of trying to use his fame against him in their argument for a longer sentence, saying it showed “a complete disconnect ” between law enforcement and the world of music.
Since August, he has been held in protective custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, out of concern that he will be targeted for his fame.
After Mr. Maxwell’s arrest, he rushed to perform as many gigs as possible to earn money for his family before what he knew would be a long prison sentence, he said.
Even while the case was pending, Mr. Maxwell released a slow R&B jam called “Sweet Yams.” Prosecutors said that was code for drugs.