Post Malone — the ink not yet dry on the foreword to his career — is quick to rebuff the label “rapper,” but at times he seems to play the part.
Sonically, stylistically, culturally, he isn’t overly concerned with defying or matching hip-hop truisms; on “Go Flex,” he spits “It’s never enough / Blunt after blunt” over a Mumford & Sons-style chord progression played on acoustic guitar. It all makes a bit more sense when he lists his influences — Metallica, 50 Cent and Johnny Cash among them — a cover of Bob Dylan’s 1962 single “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” is even floating around on YouTube, and in many ways Malone is the closest thing hip-hop has to the iconic folk artist. Just as reappropriation was a theme through Dylan’s career (many accused the American artist of being a rock ’n’ roll actor), during Post’s visit to New York radio program The Breakfast Club, Charlemagne the God wasted no time in posing the question: “What are you doing for #BlackLivesMatters?
But Malone doesn’t seem to be thinking twice at all, and it’s paying off for him. To be sure, no other artist has quite honed in on Malone’s signature mixture of melodic, R&B underpinnings with country and folk footnotes, and so describing his musical output as strictly hip-hop seems very half-baked, although much of his lyrical content seems tailored for hip-hop fans. Even Kanye West has been taking notice, enlisting the 20-year-old for “Fade” on The Life of Pablo. Malone has tapped into a compelling mixture, and certainly a localized sound, but it’s music that he makes for only himself.
How do you see these influences — country, R&B, folk — creating a modern sound?
Right now, I haven’t fully created the sound that I want to. I haven’t had the opportunity to incorporate guitar into a song yet. Whenever all of that comes into play, that will make my sound unique and different. It’s going to be a cool experiment, to see how people gravitate to it. But I’m always going to make music that I like. I’m always going to love folk and rock, so I’m always going to bring that kind of flavor.
Who were some of your favorite artists growing up?
I was really into rock, like Metallica and Megadeth. But also Ice T, N.W.A, Ice Cube, all that good stuff. I’m thankful that my dad put me onto music, and that he showed me a lot of music growing up. I was into everything. As I grew up, I got more into the folk vibe with Johnny Cash, Hank Sr., Charlie Feathers. I love every type of music. Whatever is on, I’ll rock with it.
How do drugs and alcohol affect your creative process?
Definitely alcohol, I love to drink, I love to get funky. That’s where it all comes from. You know, I’m a shy guy, so I’ll drink a bottle of champagne and get in the booth, then see where it goes from there. Get the layers down. Get the freestyle woo-wap, get the melodies. After that, I come back and write over it. That’s a big part of my process, because I’m a quiet, shy type of guy.
Live performances also?
Most definitely, I can’t get on stage if I ain’t feeling funky. I’m just nervous. It helps me out, it helps me get lit with my fans.
Do you see that changing in the future?
Maybe. I might get tired of it. It’s tough waking up. You know what I mean?
Talk about your philosophy when it comes to style. Do you follow fashion?
Yeah. most definitely. I like Saint Laurent, Margiela and Acne Studios. That’s me right now. Ksubi jeans, Balmain jeans. I like what I like. You never know what it could be tomorrow.
But I’ve also seen you wearing gear from Harley Davidson, or NBA jerseys.
A lot of big ass T-shirts. I love the Americana of Harley Davidson, of denim. I think it’s a super cool look.
Is the NBA sort of a theme in your music, and the way you dress?
I love sports, I love the Dallas Cowboys. I love the Mavericks, I love New York, it’s the shittiest team in the NBA. I love Melo, I love Iman Shumpert, I know he plays for the Cavs now. I love the whole thing about balling. You gotta ball. You gotta stunt. Basketball and hip-hop are closely related. They listen to hip-hop at the games. They have all the swag, athletes and rappers. It’s all the same thing, they’re entertainers. They have personalities. Like LeBron wouldn’t be LeBron if he didn’t do the powder clap. It’s entertainment.
How would you rate a Grammy against underground success? Which is more important?
Neither is more important. I think it’s more important that I’m making music that I enjoy. At the end of the day, I think my music is good enough to win a Grammy and keep an underground following. I think my music is good. What’s most important to me is that I’m making music that I enjoy listening to.
Are you a rapper? No.
Are you a sneakerhead? Yeah! Relatively, yeah.
How has it been being a white artist on the urban, hip-hop radio circuit?
It’s always going to be different being white, because there aren’t many white “hip-hop” artists. I came into the whole game with a bit of a handicap, I feel like the odds are stacked against me. Everyone wants to take you down and say this or that. They don’t know me though. I got braids because I like the way braids look. I got gold teeth because I like the way gold teeth look. It’s really just about what I like, I can’t let nobody tell me nothing, because they don’t know what’s going on with me. Coming into the game is a little difficult, but you have to stick with it and keep going. Stay strong and keep on rocking.
Read the full story in Highsnobiety Magazine Issue 12, now available for purchase through our online shop as well as at fine retailers worldwide.