Photo by Jason Favreau
When I first hear that Post Malone is coming to New York City, and I might get a chance to talk to him, I feel a devilish delight. He’s gotten very famous very quickly off of two songs—“White Iverson” and the follow-up, “Too Young,” hazy trap numbers that exchange the guttural grit of a Future or Young Thug for a clean-voiced, questioning, musical theater grade earnestness—leading many to suspicions of record label gerrymandering. I take a peculiar interest in Post Malone’s exploits after New York rap radio personality Charlemagne the God has the Texas singer on his confrontational show The Breakfast Club and spends the majority of it trying to goad him into ill-advised racial remarks. The best Charlemagne gets is a flustered non-answer to a question about what the artist is doing for the Black Lives Matter movement. I smell a jig, and I figure it won’t be long before he trips up.
I find what I’m looking for when a two-year-old Vine surfaces with the artist sliding the word “nigga” into a remark about the cable TV adorable pet showcase Too Cute. I decide he’s just another problematic white rapper whose sudden, rampant popularity is indicative of a culture that likes its hip-hop served in neat, unthreatening packages, one of the thousands enjoying aspects of blackness without the secondary perks like trouble catching cabs, natural suspicion from passersby on the street, itchy police trigger fingers, etc. Post apologizes, and people don’t seem very bothered by the incident. He releases a song about soldiering on in spite of adversity. I begin to feel like an astronaut in my anger.
Now, there are elements of personhood that do not transmit through radio waves and YouTube streams. There are concrete reasons famous people are famous. You can luck into renown, but expanding on it is only achieved by force of drive and personal magnetism. I walk into VICE headquarters the afternoon after Post Malone plays a sold out show at Manhattan’s SOB’s—a popular room for up-and-coming out-of-town hip-hop artists and established stars looking to drop in on a smaller audience—prepared to grill him on how he got from making home recordings in a city with a criminally underrated rap scene to featuring on a song played at a Kanye West fashion show. What I am not prepared for is liking the kid.
In person, Post Malone is affable and fairly goofy, Southern but also vaguely not. We share conflicting home states—he moved from Syracuse to Dallas as a kid, and I, from central Texas to New York City—and dueling interests in country and rap. He’s genteel and unrehearsed. “Unroastable,” as I’d tell a friend after our meeting. Post Malone absolutely benefits from a climate that creates and commodifies Iggy Azaleas and the like, but at the very least, sitting across the room from him, I don’t sense a capacity for bullshit.
Post Malone grew up in the twilight of juggernaut record labels and genre boundaries fooling around with sounds he liked until one stuck, and he’s just as confused as you or me as to how this hip-hop thing got as big as it has. Stream the brand new video for “Too Young” below and stick around for a lightly edited account of our absurd convo about Kanye, Future, George Strait, and Chuck Liddell.
Noisey: What did you grow up listening to? A lot of people have heard your songs but we don’t necessarily know what your musical background is.
Post Malone: My dad put me onto a lot of stuff when I was a little kid. Like everything. A very wide range. Like Metallica and Pantera and all that good stuff. But he also put me onto Biggie and Pac and Outkast and Big Tuck and all that good stuff. It was very lit growing with the culmination of everything that’s popping.
How did you get into recording hip-hop? As I understand it you were in a hardcore band before, and you’ve done some folk stuff. I’m wondering what the process of you starting to making that kind of music was.
It started off when I was like 15 when I got Audacity and started making beats. I got Audacity and started just messing around over my own beats. When I was 16 I released a mixtape that I recorded at my friend’s house. I recorded it myself and made all the beats. That’s when the hip-hop started. I got better, and then the quality got better, and I started working with [hip-hop production duo FKi co-founder] 1st, and it went crazy.
And you guys met how?
I met 1st at Stevie B’s studio in LA whenever I first moved out there. We linked and worked ever since, and we moved into a house and everybody was just the culmination of creativity.
A lot of people feel like it took off too fast, and they’re making accusations. How do you feel about that?
No, it did take off way too fast. I think it took off way too fast. It’s just the way it goes sometimes. You gotta go with the flow. I don’t know about industry plants and all that stuff. I don’t even know what that is, but… you know...
He said it, not me!
Sure, I mean… y’all can call me whatever. Shout out to the industry plants.
You worked with Kanye. How was that? Y’all recorded in the studio together?
The song that we have right now, I recorded one night when a guy named Che came over from G.O.O.D. Music and we recorded a song, but then we linked in LA at Rick Rubin’s house, and we’re just making some other stuff right now.
Is there a crazy Kanye story?
No, he’s quiet. It was cool whenever I met him at Kylie Jenner’s birthday party, how he never smiles but he always does when I see him...
“Kylie Jenner’s birthday party”?
Yeah it was very lit. I met Chuck Liddell and James Harden.
Chuck Liddell was at Kylie Jenner’s birthday party?
Yeah, Chuck Liddell looked like he could crush my soul. He just looked like if at any moment you say one wrong word, he’d just reach into your chest, pull out your soul, and eat it.
Is there an album coming?
There is an album coming. There is an album coming, and it will be very cool.
Who are you looking to work with?
Me and [Young] Thug just did something. That’s cool. So Ye and Thug... I worked with Makonnen and Ferg. I wanna do a song with Fetty. That would be very cool. Um, Future. Um... George Strait.
George Strait and Future on the same album!
That would be fire. Put ‘em on the same song! George Strait on the hook, Future on a verse? And me? That would be very popping.
When do you have a project coming out? Are you dropping anything before the album? Is there, like, an EP?
Hopefully I’ll get to drop some more music before the album, but hopefully the album will come out next... year sometime.
Cause I feel like you have, like… five songs out.
I mean, I have seven, but it’s all the same. I’m a one-hit wonder, so… [laughs]
Thanks for the headline! This guy’s good. How’d you like performing in the city?
It’s very lit. Everybody comes up to support. Everybody knows all the words to all the songs.
Does that feel weird?
It was weird at the beginning but it got better as I got more accustomed. Now I try to be as low key as I can. Ski mask or something.
Talk to me about your writing process. When you hear a beat, what goes on? Do you have stuff bouncing around your head beforehand or do you just start vibing with it?
If I make the beat, I usually have some words for it, but if somebody plays me a beat I’ve never heard before, I usually get ideas for it and then get drunk, go in the booth, and do melodies and mumbles and all that good stuff, then write to it afterwards.
So, after all the controversy you’ve had recently, how do you respond to the impression that you’re just a gimmicky white rapper?
All I can say is that I’m not. I’m just making music. Everybody’s gonna have their own opinion. Everybody’s always gonna have something to say. You can’t let it get to you. You just gotta keep doing you. I know what’s up, and they will soon. If they wanna hate, then let em hate. If you don’t like me, I like me! Kanye said that.
So what’s next, you have another show?
Where are we going? Rhode Island... Is Quahog real?
You know what, it’s not, but everything else next to it is. I went to school in Massachusetts, and all the towns they mention as they drive further out—Framingham, Natick—are actual towns in Eastern Mass.
I wanna go to Family Guy town.
Craig Jenkins is an industry plant. Follow him on Twitter.