Austin Richard Post, known by his stage name of Post Malone, is listed as an American hip-hop artist and guitarist. Despite the efforts of musicians like Machine Gun Kelly to eliminate the topic of race when discussing a hip-hop artist, Post Malone is mostly known for being a white rapper.
There are different types of white rappers, ranging anywhere from Eminem (the real Slim Shady) to the infamous neon king Riff Raff. Certain artists, such as Eminem, have received respect for years and used their platform to acknowledge social issues, such as white privilege and classism, but many white rappers do not get the same reception from the public.
While some of them claim they have to work harder than their black peers under the constant pressure of appealing to audiences of both sides, many critics in the black community feel that, at times, white rappers don’t take the craft seriously enough.
Recently, Post Malone came under fire for his allegedly “drunk” comments in a recent interview (the interviewers later claimed that Post Malone hadn’t had much to drink at all).
Malone allegedly said, “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.” This statement understandably offended many people: those who are passionate about hip-hop, those who create meaningful hip-hop music and those whose life was changed by rap. To them, hip-hop represents their life, their hardships and familial bonds.
Malone’s interview sparked outcry and public accusations of cultural appropriation. It angered the black community over the belief that white people used black culture and their music to get ahead without actual understanding of what it is about, which, in this case, is Post Malone’s leaching off his black fan base in order to become famous and then casting them aside after he had made a name for himself.
Post Malone is not the first white musician to come under fire for distasteful comments about black music. Miley Cyrus, after making almost an entire album with hip-hop-esque lyrics and scenery in collaboration with hip-hop producer Mike Will Made It, claimed that she “so wasn’t” hip-hop and implied that hip-hop music was degrading to women and that she couldn’t get behind it.
She later responded to critics that she was discussing a certain type of rap (this is what Post Malone claimed also), but it only baffled the public even more: Cyrus decided to share negative comments about the music after spending years twerking and fueled the stereotypes about rap music as well as the black community. Cyrus is guilty of trying on the warm coat of black culture but making sure to keep its tag on.
While Malone doesn’t seem to have a prejudiced bone in his body, he seems not to fully absorb to the criticism that the black community can offer. He jokes about his race all the time, using his ethnic background as the butt of his jokes. He plays on many white rapper tropes to show he is comfortable with who he is and where he stands in the hip-hop community. In the same interview, Malone claims he has a lot of emotions because he’s white and he enjoys having a good cry to Bob Dylan.
While his comments didn’t mean any harm, he portrays rap music as fun, party music. In reality, many of the rap songs that paved the way for the “trap music” so many people hear now were full of raw and painful memories, such as the creative lyrics that are filled with double meanings by Kendrick Lamar. It reminds us that Malone may make great party music out of the rap genre, but there are other types of rappers who seek something with depth.
Post Malone isn’t just some white guy who is misguided on why he should not wear cornrows. Malone is a talented, intelligent musician who succeeds where most other white rappers fail. He has been able to craft a stage persona that doesn’t mimic Eminem or other black rappers of a similar style, develop his rock star rapper brand by embracing his Caucasian side and playing with less traditional sounds in his traditionally hip-hop music.
Many other white rappers have gone this route, mixing looks and sounds to appeal to all ethnic groups, but Malone has been able to do it better than many others. He is talented in rapping, writing lyrics and mastering the instruments. With his background in non-hip-hop music and his mastery of instruments, such as the guitar, he can give out Prince vibes in the post Prince era.
To clarify, he is nowhere near Prince — Prince is a legit legend — but Malone is taking his creativity to new levels every time he produces a new album or plays for millions of people. His ability to stop in the middle of his rap set to play Nirvana, Green Day, Fleetwood Mac or Alice in Chains, just to name a few, makes him not only versatile but also likable across a huge demographic.
While Post Malone fails to understand that rap music is more than beat drops and intricately crafted lyrics, and that it is an invention of a culture of oppressed people struggling to live in America, he still has the ability to make damn good music for a diverse group of people. I don’t think we should give up on Post Malone. These are teaching moments and with anything as in depth as hip-hop, some ignorance is to be expected.
Post Malone isn’t another white rapper or a wannabe slim shady. Malone is a personality that can be related to by anyone. He is someone’s best friend or brother, or the white kid someone grew up with. His concerts and performances are where Compton and Portland meet. With a little education, Malone can become a hall of famer in the hip-hop community. And while being labeled as a white rapper isn’t a bad thing, Malone has so many more labels to him. There is delay for his new album, but until it hits shelves, we can just play “Congratulations” on repeat to celebrate the upcoming end to finals.