The street-wear clad kids clinging to the wall of Electric Brixton, are abuzz with excitement. As they trail along the perimeter of Lambeth Town Hall and invade Acre Lane it’s still three hours until Post Malone will take the stage, but - despite their Instagram-primed attire - this crowd isn’t too cool to show out early.
Backstage, cramped around a narrow wooden staircase straight out of Diagon Alley, there is a celebratory feeling, as 21-year-old Malone, real name Austin Post, parties with a bunch of his London peers including British export Danny Seth and last minute support act TE dness. Label personnel, venue operatives and photographers push back and forth, and Post greets them all warmly, making it difficult to distinguish whether they’re life long friends or people he just met at soundcheck.
When the time comes for the Dallas singer to be whisked away from his gathering, into a quiet room for our interview, he’s particularly gracious about it. Grinning from ear-to-ear he introduces himself and takes a seat on a vintage leather sofa, a nice match for the comfortable moccasin slippers he’s currently sporting. There’s no hint at any irritation after having to leave the festivities. On the contrary, he seems eager to talk about the debut album, ‘Stoney’, that he dropped just days prior.
In the short time since its release he’s witnessed a Marmite-like reaction from listeners, which he seems to have taken as a compliment. “I feel like it’s pretty polarising,” he says, still smiling. “Everybody either says ‘You know what? this is a really good album.’ Or ‘This sucks!!!’ But I’ve seen more people that seem to like it. It feels good.”
At eighteen tracks in length (including bonus cuts), it could be criticised for feeling a little lengthy, but it provides a good balance of familiar material - including 2015’s viral hit ‘White Iverson’ and A$AP Yams tribute ‘Too Young’ to more recent singles ‘Go Flex’ and the Justin Bieber-assisted ‘Deja Vu’ - with the new music that existing fans have been patiently waiting for, including collaborations with Kehlani, Pharrell Williams and DJ Mustard.
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It’s the result of a sound that he’s been working to actualise - a melting pot of the country, grunge, hip-hop and R&B that he’s grown up on - and every move closer to fully executing the sounds that exist in his head make him happy, while he undeniably has love for his fans, it feels like Post himself is the main audience. “I like the music that I make,” he states simply. “And if you enjoy it we can rock out together and get weird!” Rather than focussing on the subjective matter of listeners opinions, the thing that Post is most concerned with articulating through his debut is the fluidity of genre-hopping comprised in his songs. “You can’t pigeonhole my music,” he states. “I have an appreciation for so much different stuff, that you really can’t say that I don’t love music. Genres suck. Music should just be music.”
While this is the feeling of many a musician, as a Caucasian man sporting gold grills and Allen Iverson-inspired braids, singing R&B songs on Justin Bieber’s ‘Purpose’ world tour, it’s no surprise that Post Malone’s mix-and-match approach to genres has been met with some controversy. “It’s very easy when you’re an artist these days to dabble in hip-hop and then pull back,” XXL editor Vanessa Satten told Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club after his team chose to turn down an appearance on the hip-hop magazine’s annual “Freshmen” cover.
But among a slew of rising African American rappers that take as many cues from Kurt Cobain as they do Jay Z, it feels more likely that Post Malone is another product of the same Internet melting pot, rather than some evil appropriating culture vulture. His enthusiasm for the music that raised him is nothing less than authentic and any race-related acceleration is down to society and the industry, than Post himself. “I’m just making music that I like and trying to express myself in the best way possible,” he explains. “I feel like my music can touch the deepest hip-hop heads, but also someone that doesn’t even like hip-hop. It walks the line almost perfectly but there’s always room to hone my skills and make it better.”
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I’m just making music that I like and trying to express myself in the best way possible...
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Although the majority of ‘Stoney’’s production was handled by regular collaborators Fki, Rex Kudo and Charlie Handsome, Post cites his own beginnings as a beat maker as very influential in the way his songs come together. After starting out learning guitar because he’d completed ‘Guitar Hero 3’ on expert mode, he soon advanced to producing and recording his own mixtape using FL Studios and open source sound editor Audacity which he distributed around his high school. “Getting on FL Studios was the best thing I’ve done in my career,” he says. “When you make your own beats it becomes super easy to make melodies and write lyrics, because you understand what’s going on.”
Post finds his most emotional material, from his aspirational viral hit ‘White Iverson’ to the heart-wrenching ‘I Fall Apart’, to be the easiest to write. “That stuff just comes out. You’ll be sad and you’ll just start singing something in the car and it’ll turn into a song.” Instead it’s the more technical songs that have him putting in the hours, the wordy stunting anthem ‘No Option’ - which name drops Mercedes, Rolex and Aston Martin in the hook alone - was a particularly difficult addition to ‘Stoney’. “There’s a lot off syllables in that song,” he laughs. “It’s tough.”
The most important aspect of Post’s music is that it’s all drawn from his real life experiences. “I’m not going to sing about nothing I ain’t done,” he says. “That’s why it’s important for me too be out there doing stuff. As much as I’m a homebody, I gotta get out there and have fun because I never know what I’m going to be able to rap about. The emotional stuff is all things that happened to me in my life, things that I went through.”
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Letting people down is the worst feeling...
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The past few days have seen Post figuratively sighing with relief as he comes to the end of the lengthy business of releasing a debut record. For Post the journey has been scattered with dead ends, twists and turns, delayed release dates, false promises; and while he’s not dwelling on these or pointing the finger, he’s pleased to be through it. “The fact that it’s actually done makes me feel like I just gave birth to a child!” he admits, his grin fading as he reflects on the four months that have passed since the August 26th release date he’d initially announced. “Letting people down is the worst feeling. Especially people that you know love you. I worked so hard but it was just not in the cards at that time for it to be out. Now everything is dealt with it’s never going to happen again.”
When he hits the stage of Electric Brixton at 10pm, it’s clear that the audience that love him have all but forgotten the four month wait. They respond to mixtape cuts, like the Jeremiah collab ‘F*ck’, with equal enthusiasm as they do his latest single ‘Congratulations’, a Metro Boomin-produced victory lap featuring Migos’ breakout star Quavo. “It’s terrifying,” Post had told us before stepping out in front of the fans. “20,000 people [on Justin Bieber’s Purpose Tour] is way different to 2000, but that feeling never goes away. You don’t know how they're going to react. You don’t know who’s going to know your words…”
Observing from the crowd you’d never pick up on these pre-show jitters. Post performs with confidence - admittedly his lengthy backstage drinking session might have helped - and his audience certainly know the words, often managing to drown out his own vocals. As he pauses to take in the atmosphere around him, it’s clear that any negative online commentary or delayed release dates sink away into the shadows and it’s in the midst of the music that Post Malone is truly able to be himself.
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'Stoney' is out now.
Words: Grant Brydon