Can We Be Post-Post Malone?
The first time I heard the song "White Iverson," I thought Post Malone was black.
This is a really big deal because I basically majored in Vocal Negroid Identification. As someone who has spent much of their life code-switching between the Pretty White Voice™ and my Natural Voice™, I've always been pretty gifted at identifying if a voice was coming from a speaker of color. Keeping that in mind, you can imagine not only my surprise but also my supreme disappointment when a Google search revealed that Post Malone was, in fact, white. He looked like he smelled of Pabst Blue Ribbon and had experience with using the "N word" (at least one of these assumptions would go on to be confirmed as fact).
Still, like many Black people, I swallowed my initial inklings to distrust him and his cornrows because the music was litty and I liked what he was doing for the hip-hop and rap game.
Y'all, we gotta stop silencing our inner Appropriation Alarms. Nine times out of ten, it rings true, and this time, Post Malone has (unfortunately) proven us all right: he isn't really here for the culture. In a recent interview with NewOnce, Post Malone says: “If you’re looking for lyrics, if you’re looking to cry, if you’re looking to think about life, don’t listen to hip-hop." He attempts to backtrack a bit, adding: “There’s great hip-hop songs where they talk about life and they spit that real s**t, but right now, there’s not a lot of people talking about real s**t.”
Y'all, this statement dehydrated me.
After replaying it several times (and downing a Smart Water), I have come to two possible conclusions; either Post Malone doesn't actually listen to hip-hop or Post Malone is anti-Black.
Option 1: Post Malone doesn't actually listen to the genre he profits from. Honestly, this wouldn't be a major surprise. White people have been appropriating and gentrifying Black and POC music ever since they learned there was life outside the lute. Hip-hop is no exception. Post Malone's comments are eerily reminiscent of those of Miley Cyrus, another famous culture vulture who ran away to hip-hop as a means of stacking coin and exploring her own sexual liberation before denouncing the whole genre and softly retreating back to country music.
Post Malone stating "If you're looking to think about life, don't listen to hip-hop... There’s not a lot of people talking about real s**t" is basically an admission of ignorance of the culture he's contributing to. Even if we push aside all the late and great artists like Tupac, Biggie, and Eazy-E, and only focus on currently active artists, I'm left with hella questions: Do Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Logic not count as contributors to the hip-hop and rap genres? These are artists who have consistently released bodies of work dedicated to "real shit." Are topics including systemic racism, black family dynamics, and suicide not "real" enough? How about Jay Z? Are we going to completely disregard the lyrical and emotional gift that was "4:44," both the album and accompanying music videos?
Is it that Post Malone doesn't listen to these artists (and other influential ones unnamed) and just somehow missed all the "real" hip-hop? Or is it that he does, and the true issue is not that the music isn't "real," it's just not about his reality?
This brings us to option 2; Post Malone, either actively or unwittingly, is anti-Black. It isn't that there's a shortage of "real" rap, it's that the music currently out there doesn't apply to him. Perhaps Post Malone is unmoved because to him, systemic racism isn't a reality. He is a white man with an appropriated hairstyle, absolved of having said "nigga," profiting off of traditionally Black music. Perhaps songs about the Black struggle don't phase him because he comfortably lives on the other side of it.
The most problematic part of Post Malone's statement, though, is when he says “If you’re looking for lyrics, if you’re looking to cry, if you’re looking to think about life, don’t listen to hip-hop."
Our current hip-hop scene is potent with lyrical ambrosia, and to say anything otherwise is intrinsically false. The amount of lyricism and literary references in Kendrick Lamar's "To Pimp a Butterfly" is nothing short of genius. But what's worse is the latter half of the statement.
Post Malone asserts that hip-hop is not a place to go to if you're looking to cry or think about life. This can only be because Post Malone doesn't find the Black experience in America to be one that, when examined, is something to cry over. By no means am I saying that being Black is a pity party, but when I hear J. Cole rap during "Lost Ones" about his internal conflict as he finds himself trapped in the position of being "no different from them other niggas" who knock women up and leave, I can't help but connect emotionally. There are countless artists producing music critically and honestly examining the Black experience. These songs, by design, not only make one introspective about their place in the machine that is America, but can also elicit extreme emotional reactions. To say that hip-hop, a genre founded in rebellion and expression of blackness, is devoid of material that could make one cry or think about life is to completely dismiss and disregard the Black joy, grief, and struggles imbedded within so much of the music.
You can view the full interview here. For the most part, Post Malone says some pretty okay things. But how much longer will we continue to give white people passes because they're okay "for the most part?" The time is coming in which we need to hold our white allies accountable for their actions. In this case, either Post Malone is an uninformed ally or not an ally at all.
In either case, it's time someone calls him out.