Art by The Come Up Show
Son Raw listened to Post rap so you don’t have to go through that.
You’ve got a better chance of convincing me that Kanye West’s Twitter antics are a net positive for the universe than convincing me that Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys is any good. To recap what you can find literally anywhere else on the Internet: It’s a derivative take on the singing-rap style perfected by names like Future, Ty Dolla $ign, and Rae Sremmurd, grafted onto the typical white bro aesthetic promulgated by meat and potatoes rock bands like Nickelback or Creed. Even if the guy occasionally stumbles or buys his way into a good song, it’s going to be unpalatable to virtually everyone reading this blog.
But here’s the rub: You’re also not going to convince me that Post Malone is a cancerous reflection of everything that’s wrong with America, either. He’s a middling hack who clearly owes his position to the fact that a large number of white Americans want to listen to white Americans, and that needs to be discussed and addressed, but the compulsion to make his success into proxy war for American politics isn’t a helpful one.
Yes, he’s the perfect target for performative outrage—just look at his asshole face—but the success of someone like him is also completely inevitable. Guys like Post Malone are going to listen to someone like Post Malone and there’s a hell of a lot of people like that in America. Bitching about it does nothing to stop it. Instead, here’s a thought experiment: Where would Post Malone be if you removed hip-hop from his equation?
Would Post Malone be any better if instead of 808 hi hat rolls and woozy synths, he substituted standard rock drumming? Would black music be better? Would his spot go to a black artist? Would he get as many streams?
I’m going to wager the answer is “No” for all of the above. Hard rock outside of the spheres of extreme metal has calcified and even the untrendiest of listeners knows it—ain’t nobody trying to hear that shit, even as everyone wants singers that reflect their identity. Blaming Post’s audience for his success is like blaming white girls for Spotify’s endless stream of faceless EDM pop fly-by-nights. Beyond that, is Post Malone even a rapper? Even calling him that feels like a concession that outside of pop, the only way to market a male act for mainstream success through rap.
Its signifiers and sonic trademarks are just about the only game left in town for mainstream music. With that in mind, it’s hard for me to believe that his very presence hurts the melodic mainstream side of hip-hop when he’s basically just copying what’s hot and doing it wrong. I’m sure there’s a hypothetical bro out there who COULD listen to Future instead of Post, but Super Fyutch is gonna be fine. It all adds up to inevitability: If you were Post, you’d probably drop this shitty derivative but very-of-the-moment album too. I’ll never listen to Beerbongs & Bentleys beyond the two times I suffered through it to write this, but I understand the benefits of being the bro who made it.
So let’s ignore the part of the critical apparatus that wants something to hate on because it allows for public self-flagellation re: America’s collective guilt about everything white. Let’s accept that there are going to be bros like Post Malone who will inevitably listen to someone like Post Malone. Let’s ask the question that will solve this problem: How the fuck do we get rid of Moist Baloney? Well, we’re going to have replace him with something better. And to do that, we need to have a discussion about critically endorsed white musicians’ complete impotence and inability to do so.
This inability to do better means there’s no way we’re NOT going to end up with some douche dropping the rawk guitars and doing that warbly emotional white guy thing through autotune over 808s. It’s happening en masse. I checked out some “bro country” for this thinkpiece and my face almost melted off Ark of the Covenant style. This shit is so bad, it makes Post Malone look like Rakim in comparison. And yet, the critically adored side of rock pretends like the solution to this shit is overly precious angular rock songs repeating the same 70s-90s underground tropes. It sounds like it’s stuck in the stone age.
Not since the ’90s when bands treaded water with looped breakbeats and samples has critically acclaimed rock felt comfortable engaging with new ideas developed by hip-hop or R&B—the overwhelming source of innovation in American music in our lifetime.
There were tentative steps towards “Tumblr&B” singers to grab from contemporary R&B, but their takes were so pastel colored, so watered down, that the result was a pale copy of their source material rather than a genuine engagement. The Bandcamp underground is full of interesting Vaporwave, but that’s beyond removed from the mainstream with no star stepping up to take the movement to a more visible level.
Instead, the aging indie dinos—think Fleet Foxes, The National, Arcade Fire—dominate a scene with music so fossilized it should be trapped in amber. Worse, this is the only critically tenable position. Almost any real engagement with contemporary sounds and mores is tagged as appropriation. The result? Well, dickheads like Post Malone who don’t care about being branded as culture vultures reap the benefits.
Point blank, if you want to get rid of Post Malone, someone better is going to need to beat him at his own game instead of clutching his/her pearls about his very existence while making warmed up post punk to diminishing returns.
I said it was ridiculous to slot Post Malone’s existence into the culture war, but here’s a thought: The critical apparatus wants you to be snide about this boorish, buffoonish white dude with red state appeal, to ignore what he’s succeeding at because he’s ultimately too gross to take seriously. You tell me how that strategy served you for the past few years.