Why Post Malone Matters (Bieber Aside)

The hyped rapper (?) just put out his debut mixtape 'August 26.' Is it sweet, or is it sus as hell?

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We logged online today to discuss Post Malone’s new mixtape, August 26. For those new to Post Malone, he’s the rapper/singer responsible for the ubiquitous and odd hit “White Iverson”, and August 26 represents the first fuller look at Kylie Jenner’s favorite musician.

Corban Goble: I’ll set the scene for you — Austin Post, a.k.a. Post Malone, is opening for Justin Bieber’s massive Purpose tour at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. He locked down the spot on the strength of “White Iverson,” an instant classic with the sneakers-and-snapback set, and also because having Post Malone open a tour that’s attended mostly by teens is a pretty savage look by Justin Bieber, the current biggest savage on earth.

Some background on Posty Post: Post Malone has to be the most perplexing artist making music right now. He’s a white kid from Grapevine, Texas, and his dad worked for the Dallas Cowboys. Previous to his career as a rapper-turnt-singer, Post recorded granola Bob Dylan covers and caused a stir last fall when a video of him saying the N-word surfaced.

Neither of these revelations — which both occurred after “White Iverson had been passed around — did much to deter the hype. Oddly, Post opening for the biggest non-Beyoncé tour going doesn’t feel that off. He’s waddling around on stage — he’s wearing painted on white jeans as part of a flowing all-white ensemble, and he’s having a problem with the zipper on his pants — in front of a crowd that’s half-interested, half-not. He plays “White Iverson” to open. Every other song he plays during his 30-minute set is a lot like “White Iverson,” if “White Iverson��� had three less good musical ideas in it. He plays White Iverson” to close.

And now, we have his debut release August 26, a mixtape whose listening party was the cool-kid cooldown from the Met Gala. Winston, tell me about August 26.

Winston Cook-Wilson: Up until recently, I had always kept Post Malone at arms’ length, as much as I possibly could. It wasn’t so much Post Malone himself that I worried about — at least, until the N-word debacle and that “Lithium” cover he did at Coachella — but rather Post-Post-Malone: What new period in hip-hop, culture, and/or politics would the Rise of Post inaugurate?

Maybe it’s pretty same-as-it-ever-was (white man tops charts with watered-down version of tropes that rose virally through African-American music). But Post Malone’s gossamer, bloodless Chief Keef-meets-Yeezus-Bon-Iver imitation felt dangerously close to the sound of dystopian world domination. The young man — who looked like he’d be a Lost Boy in Hook if Spielberg remade it with a cast of 2016 Vine stars — showed more lasting potential than Yung Lean’s self-consciously quirky Gucci Mane-ripping cubism. After all, “Iverson” is Top 40-grade catchy and straightforward. And now, with the Bieber slot and August 26th, he’s one step closer to it.

Saucin’, saucin’, I’m saucin’ on you

August 26 is, as you say, mostly songs in the “White Iverson, but worse” genre, but they are also all proficient. It will be hard for his critics to fully just write him off as a total inept moron (this is different professional-grade rap music, with discernable ideas in it). But it remains to be seen if it will elevate, or even sustain his stardom. He’s in need of another booming single, at least (the followup to “White Iverson,” the Uncle Kracker-tinged “Go Flex,” is hanging at the bottom of the Hot 100 right now).

He’s pretty much making his own gauzy, “sauce-filled version of a uniform trap mixtape. Sometimes he fades into his own sickeningly trendy beats. On “Fuck” [feat. Jeremih] — the funniest track listing since the Bieber-featuring “Maria I’m Drunk” on Travi$ Scott’s last album — the only thing that really differentiates Jeremih’s croons from Post’s is that vaguely husky slur to Post’s voice, which ties him sonically, as well as visually, to that lapsed, Crocs-wearing football player you went to high school with who dipped in homeroom.

As on “Flex,” there are some rap-rock moments here, which to be I find the most revelatory; wish he’d commit to that style more than the “Citgo” redos. It would be more interesting, and I’d feel better able to deal with it. The “Dreams” redo (“Hollywood Dreams/Come Down”) is unreasonable — it just wholesale rips the Mac’s chorus. Closer “Oh God” sounds like a nightmare outtake from Mellow Gold, if Beck was actually Aaron Lewis from Staind — that is to say, full-on Kracker-style, baby.

There’s plenty of ridiculous stuff to talk about here; what are your favorite moments? What does the shape of August 26th say about the “sauce” in which Posty is gonna drench the future of music?

CG: Imagine being one of Post Malone’s “ho” characters on August 26; it’s a tough ride with no end in sight. If youre not getting constantly “sauced” on, you’re getting cut off “like a machete.” 2016 is a fucked up time in Trump’s America.

I am both confused but also strangely want to praise Post for having enough okay-enough sounding material to not have to jam on his three most needle-moving songs — “White Iverson, “Too Long,” Go Flex” — onto August 26. However, those songs are also all better than anything on August 26 and the world that created it. There’s plenty of stuff that I suppose you could call “signatures” of Post Malone’s work; although he doesnt mouth it himself, when Lil Yachty shows up to say I feel like Monte Ellis/ I got more hoes than Elvis which is a turn of phrase that isn’t even a head-turner on a recording like August 26. On Hollywood Dreams / Come Down,” Post attempts a sonic suite that simulates coming down from a serious (I’m guessing coke or ecstasy) high. It succeeds insofar as now I feel like I’m going to swallow 2,000 ZzzQuils.

You seem to be deeply emotionally disturbed by the song “Hollywood Dreams / Come Down,” which is a legitimately unbelievable song. Can you go into that a little bit?

WC: “I’m bumpin’ Fleetwood/She tryina turn off my song is one of the first lines of that song. So you get this sordid image of Post mansplaining Rumours to some poor woman while cruising around L.A. That’s disturbing from the jump. At first, I was surprised that Post chose to just wholesale steal the actual chorus of “Dreams” for the song. Then again, of course some rapper was bound to play on Stevie’s ahead-of-its-time use of “player” at some point (I don’t know how we’ve lasted this long), and of course it was going to be someone like Post Malone. I’m surprised, like, Boondox hasn’t tried it already.

Then you get that hazy, chorally-backed ending section and sure, it’s supposed to be the come-down after the party (“I can’t feel my heaaaarrrt”), but to me it’s the aural event of a sleepless night tripped out on wisdom teeth medication, too drowsy to get up to go to the bathroom or even turn off The Green Mile rerun you’re watching.

I’m bumping Fleetwood, she tryna turn off my song

Maybe it was in one of these moods that Post started choking Bieber as a joke, or they got to putting cigarettes out on each other. What do these two talk about? Does Bieber fuck with Tusk? Will Post Malone endorse Trump? Did Post Malone ever get his wisdom teeth out, or was he born with his grills in that Cheshire Cat-looking mouth?

Corban, just wondering: Do you fear death?

CG: When I was a boy, we’d often go play by the creek near our ranch — this was long before the drought. Anyway, one day we straddled the banks, me and older sister McKenzie (we all called her “Mickey) and Mickey spotted the slightest gleam underneath the lightly rippling water of the creekbed. Our childlike curiousities stretched to their extreme, my sister and I moved nearer the glare. I could hear the crickets moving in the grass above the bank.

So, we pulled off our shoes and waded a few yards into the water — it was only a few feet deep and the water only came up to our waists. Mickey asked me to hold her hand while she reached down into the gravel, she was a hog’s head taller and a surer shot to reach the bottom unencumbered.

She ducked her head underneath the surface, and moments later she hoisted what she had found into the air. It was a finger, severed at the second knuckle of the ring finger, with a silver ring affixed to its purpling digit. The blood was still red, the brightest I had seen. And that’s when I first thought about Post Malone.

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WCW: I recall a moment just before the first storm came, and the locusts with it. What started as a faint murmur became a deafening, pulsating roar. We turned our bowls down at the dinner table, stowed away all the food we could, and made quickly for the cellar.

My younger sister — strangely enough, we also called her Mickey, though she was born Annadene — lay in the dust, coughing, and my mother didn’t withstand the storm. In that moment, holding her in my arms, I wished they could have taken me instead. I screamed aloud, even before my father, and listened as the echoes mingled with the faint, hellish buzz of those locusts, and the sound of the cicadas in the dead thicket of trees by the outhouse.

Of course, the pests had been long gone; I was just imagining it all. Perhaps they were still hovering somewhere near by — a few farms away, perhaps. Their memory, I can only assume, will be saucin’ on me until I draw my final breath.