Who is Post Malone?

Dec 7, 2018 | Features, Opinion

Since its inception in the late 70s, hip-hop has been a popular way to spread a message and stand up to an oppressive power. It was popular because listeners could relate to songs’ messages, messages that they couldn’t say. That was then. Today, with its mass appeal to white audiences, it has moved further from its social justice roots. White artists have become successful in a black art form, resulting in the whitewashing of the industry and fan base. White rappers have pushed black artists out of their own art form, and young white people have supported them in doing this.

In sophomore year, I attended a Lil Yachty concert with a friend. At the venue, I found myself the sole black face in an overwhelmingly white audience. I am not sure what I should have expected in the Bay Area, where black communities are now far and few between, but I found it frustrating how there were so few black people attending an exhibition of black art.

Days after the concert, I contemplated the concert audience and concluded that Lil Yachty’s music is a surface-level minstrelsy that reduces the cultural significance as well as artistic aspect of hip-hop to a negro stereotype, hence its appeal to a white audience. This made a lot of sense to me at the time, considering Lil Yachty’s constant materialism and stereotypical performance that seemed to appease white people.

The same is true for countless other black artists. White audiences marvel at the mere mention of Kanye and show up in droves to trap concerts. It perplexes me why white audiences are so fascinated by musty, Xanax-addicted mumble rappers with face tattoos or a narcissistic black guy with a Messiah complex and provocative tweets. It saddens me how white audiences are in a perpetual state of obliviousness to how black narratives of gun violence, drug dealing, and poverty are created, let alone the history of hip-hop and why black people chose hip-hop to express their pain.

Post Malone is designed to be a caricature of black people as a whole, the same way that Blackface is, where one doesn’t have to act intelligent or moral or even human if they are playing “black.”

Quincy A.

Whatever the reason white audiences came to appreciate artists like Lil Yachty, the question of why white men have been so successful in the industry remains. This is described perfectly in the case of Post Malone.

Post Malone is a white man from suburban Dallas who pursued a country music career before hip-hop. He rarely rhymes or uses any lyrics that demonstrate brain activity in his music. His songs are generic and written by ghostwriters. For a style of music that places so much weight on being genuine, it seems like Post Malone should fail in hip-hop—but that is not the case. Scrolling through Instagram in the days after any Post Malone concert, I’m flooded with posts about the concert and swaths of wealthy white kids who seldom know the history and meaning behind the art of rap.

I thought to myself: Maybe the reason Post Malone is so popular amongst white kids is because they can relate to him. How different is Post Malone from the people who idolize him?

How can I expect white kids to relate to the struggles that many black artists describe in their music? Is rap even about relating to the struggle anymore? Post Malone is not afraid to sport grills, cornrows, a “blaccent,” and appropriate traditionally black hip-hop culture—something that many white kids would be afraid of being called out to do. Post Malone is blatantly materialistic in a way unbecoming of his upbringing and still celebrated and profitable.

Post Malone is not the only white male to has succeeded in the rap industry. Rappers like G-Eazy, Eminem, and Macklemore have excelled in hip-hop. Not all of them have an upper- or middle-class upbringing, but the important thing is that they are relatable to a white audience. G-Eazy grew up in our very own Bay Area and has procured a following for his semi-vulnerable yet fake ghetto personality, something I imagine would be appealing and relatable for the wealthy white Bay Area population. G-Eazy is often given a pass because he grew up relatively poor with a single mother. Eminem is loved by white and black audiences alike and is given a similar pass for his humble Detroit roots. While Eminem’s early struggles with poverty are valid and worth discussing, classism isn’t the same as institutionalized racism. Meanwhile, Macklemore is a special case.

As a country with a history of silencing the voices of black people, we as a society need to be careful about how people participate in traditionally black art which is too often the only way black people can express themselves.

Quincy A.

He seldom uses ebonics or channels blatantly gangster wannabe lyrics, though he is guilty of materialism. Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” took hip-hop fans by storm, earning him multiple Grammys and gaining him recognition in white pop audiences. Macklemore appropriates hip-hop to sell his often materialistic, surface-level ditties of black mimicry to white audiences. His countless songs about his “first pair of kicks” and thrift shopping create a mismatched narrative with his songs about carefree club partying and something about being glorious. Macklemore emulates the same issues and interests that white audiences experience through his music. While these white rappers are probably ignorant—a problem in and of itself—to the effects of what they are doing on the black community, it is important to think about these issues in a country where race is still why some people lose their lives, and where race politics lead to great social divide.

As successful white male rappers are dominating the hip-hop industry, white male success is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

White men control the hip-hop industry at all levels. From the very beginning of hip-hop they have been profiteering from the toxic stereotyping of black men and women. They own the production, they own the distribution, and they own the dissemination of not just black hip-hop but black music in general. However empowering rap music may be to the black community, it’s all subject to the agendas of powerful white men.

In many cases black artists must fight in court for the control and rights to their own music, a phenomenon very eloquently described in Kendrick Lamar’s album To Pimp a Butterfly. The album’s name is a metaphor where black people are the butterflies and they are being pimped by the music industry. In the album, Lamar describes his own experience being fresh to the music industry, oblivious to the dangers of fame, and how he is handled by his managers and label owners and later thrown away.

The same thing happened to Prince, who had to sue Warner Bros for the right to release music when he wanted to and ended up having to change his name for trademark reasons.

As a country with a history of silencing the voices of black people, we as a society need to be careful about how people participate in traditionally black art which is too often the only way black people can express themselves.

Quincy A.

Then there’s Ice Cube from N.W.A., who left the group after his manager withheld thousands from him by tricking him into outrageous contracts as a young and vulnerable artist. These are just a few examples, indicative of a larger problem in the music industry. Rap is corrupt, and no matter who the artist is, the industry is set up to profit white men first.

At face value, the white rapper is a single white face in a sea of black; when you really think about it, the problem is black faces in seas of white—white success in the hip-hop industry seems to be a new phenomena, but when you examine the issue, you see that white men have been succeeding by exploiting black artists while pushing them out of the industry and replacing them with white ones. My intent in writing this article is not to make you feel guilty the next time you hear “Rockstar” or to make you feel self-conscious at your next Migos concert; my intent is to make you think about why you like these artists so much. Of course, you could just like the music, but even then, it is valuable to think about the effect that this music has on the larger world.

Who is Post Malone? Post Malone is every white man who gets handed to him something that a black man has to fight for every inch of. Post Malone is an example of someone who can adopt a black narrative without having to actually experience the realities of living a black narrative. This is music for white people, by white people, at the detriment of black artists.