Post Malone

Is Post Malone actually good?

The dude’s cool; I’ll give him that. He’s got a tattoo of a sword on his face. That is pretty cool. But is his music any good? As a nascent curmudgeon and someone with eclectic, albeit old-fashioned, musical tastes, I’m exactly the sort of person you’d expect to find Post Malone unpalatable.

Post Malone and the hip hop culture

As a rule, I don’t like hip hop. I find the culture of hip hop vain and superficial. I don’t like the sound a lot of the time. I tend not to care about its great figures. Post Malone, on the other hand, does something more interesting than I feel most performers in the genre are capable of. And, more than that, his work tends to destabilise traditional notions of genre.

Malone emerged in 2015 in meteoric style. After having spent a few years dropping out of college, producing mixtapes, and working in a chicken restaurant, Malone went on to produce the track “White Iverson” which received one million views on SoundCloud a month after having released it. From there on, Malone’s trajectory was set for the stratosphere. His track gained attention from record labels, and in August of 2015, he was signed to Republic Records.

“White Iverson” is standard hip hop fare, it reflects on the rise of a talented young performer with the American dream looming large behind every lyric. Written before he’d reached the top, “White Iverson” seems to give almost tacit assent to standard hip hop tropes of money and “ho’s”.

Ho’s are an essential theme in hip hop, as is money. A lot of people out there might like to think that I dislike hip hop because I’m jealous at not having all them ho’s and all that money. They might even be right. However, I mostly dislike hip hop since it seems to have become so reliant on these themes. It’s lost its ability to shock. It seems to lack the ability to innovate.

What Malone does that’s so interesting is not merely to take these tropes and turn them on their head but to derive something more soulful from the milieu of American dream thinking. In the United States, everyone’s striving to get rich or to get laid, but it’s more often both of those things. At the track’s outset, he declares himself a “new breed”. He certainly is. He talks about “spendin’ all [his] fuckin’ pay”, and something about that speaks to me of ordinary working-class struggles. It speaks of the American dream.

Post Malone is an unpretentious addition to the genre. Coming from someone who doesn’t like hip hop, I feel this ought to be considered high praise indeed. Having seen interviews with Malone also, that’s exactly how he comes across; he comes across as the cool, unpretentious, nice dude you’d like to hang out with. Perhaps this is someone to change the genre.

Perhaps this is someone to bring the genre down to earth and transform it into something a little more profound. Yes, there are expensive cars in his videos. However, what I feel he intends to do by invoking these aspects of material wealth is to subvert the expectations of his audience while also paying service to the genre’s tropes.

Post Malone
Credit: Getty Images

Money is a big concern of the American psyche. It’s a big concern everywhere. However, few other nations are quite so overtly capitalist in character as the United States. It follows that this concern with material wealth would carry over into the music of that great country. Malone’s music strikes me as, on the one hand, having its loyalties firmly within hip hop tropes while simultaneously innovating through the subversion of those tropes. It’s an interesting concoction and a hard one to pin down in criticism.

Post Malone seems to avoid becoming the stereotype of being the off-the-shelf, egomaniacal, monied douchebag type. He clearly has money. He clearly enjoys having money. A big part of the American dream is the notion that having and enjoying money is a good thing. While I don’t necessarily take issue with its politics, the most important thing is still his sound.

Is the music good? Yes. It’s variegated enough to make each successive track intriguing and novel. It tends to tell stories and to tell them well. It’s soulful and dynamic. It seems to come not from a shallow desire for material wealth but a place of deeper integrity and a love of, and concern with, music.

Above all, it manages to be stylish, soulful and soothing without falling into pretension, vapidity and the narcissism that so many of us have come to expect from hip hop artists. It defies genres. Malone’s music plays with the idea of genre skilfully while doing so for the sake of innovation and not to look clever merely.

It manages to entertain and play on the emotions while delivering something full of character. My final assessment for Post Malone is that he gets a 4/5, and I think he’s a good egg, a positive force to be encouraged and not dismissed by ‘haters’ of hip hop like myself.