I can’t remember who to attribute it to, but earlier this year I remember a tweet coming across my timeline that read something along the lines of “You can gauge how big a star a new artist will be by the length of their Breakfast Club interview”. The Tweeter then went on to throw out examples such as Chance the Rapper having a nearly hour long interview in contrast to Bobby Shmurda clocking in at just over 14 minutes. That puts Post Malone’s 17-minute interview in August of 2015 in the category usually correlated with one hit wonders or artists that just sort of fade away into a forgotten abyss. It’s an absurd metric to base an artist’s future trajectory on, but it’s alarmingly accurate if you scroll through the years and years of interviews they’ve conducted. Post Malone’s is hardly as cut and dry as some of the other artists who have entered the gauntlet that Charlamagne and his crew have created at Power 105.1. Post has seen success: A debut single that peaked just outside of the top ten on Billboard’s Hot 100, an opening slot on Justin Bieber’s Purpose Tour, a feature on a Kanye West album, and a record deal with Republic. He’s also gone through some of the obvious trials and tribulations of a new artist; album delays, culture vulture claims, and a hard time releasing a follow up single that caught on. The latter which could explain the former. After a little over a three-month delay, his debut album has finally arrived in the form of Stoney, which spans 18 tracks and just over an hour in length. Post Malone has been called many things, and he’s denied being many of them; one of which is a rapper as he prefers the term artist just as many rappers who came before him have. Whatever he is, Stoney is his formal introduction to the world.
He begins that introduction with ‘Broken Whiskey Glass’, a track that’s opening chords could be a villain’s entrance music in a 50s western film. The hazy vocals sit under the beat in the slow burning intro until it builds and begins to sound like he is rallying from a rough hangover. It is one of many moments that you can hear him trying to make good on his intentions to be more than a rapper. ‘Glass’ still ventures into heavy Hip-Hop influences by the track’s conclusion and is one of his weaker non-rap attempts on the album. Other experiments have varying levels of success. ‘Leave’ is similarly disappointing, dragging on far too long and meandering to a place that loses listeners before the halfway point. That’s not to say that every time Post picks up a guitar he crashes and burns. ‘Feeling Whitney’ is a genuinely honest attempt at an acoustic ballad that frankly, I’m not sure anyone knew he was capable of. His voice is less Whitney and more drunk-guy-picks-up-a-guitar-at-a-bar-and-sings-about-his-ex, but here, it works. Malone’s voice strains often as he attempts notes out of his range, but like many artists that came before him, he can take those imperfections and turn them into various emotions. Another example of him doing this and doing it well is ‘I Fall Apart’. His voice reverberates over the instrumental until it verges on cracking as he croons about a female friend. ‘Apart’ is an instant standout and shows that he may in fact have the potential to branch out past the genre he’s been boxed in since his breakout hit.
Speaking of his breakout hit, it’d be hard not to mention the inclusion of a few songs on Stoney. ’White Iverson’, a song from over a year and a half ago is included on the LP. Whether an attempt by the label to garner more streams for sales purposes or to simply just have those two words included on the sticker they put on the packaging of physical CDs, it feels out of place at this point. The same goes for ‘Too Young’, a song almost as dated as ‘Iverson’. Former mixtape cut ‘Money Made Me Do It’ is included as well due to it being one of the more memorable moments from his mixtape earlier this year. Despite being available for months, these songs still shine as some of the brighter moments throughout the course of the LP. Prior single ‘Go Flex’ could be included in this pile of songs too and if any track out of the aforementioned deserved to be a smash hit, it was this one. With its perfect combination of guitar strums and earworm melodies, one can only wonder why this song was not properly pushed by Republic.
Other radio hit attempts are sprinkled throughout the album with guest spots to further their reach. The obvious eye-grabber is the Justin Bieber assisted ‘Déjà vu’. Any hard feelings the two may have had from their altercation earlier this year are mended with the collaboration. Taking melody and instrumental cues from Bieber’s north of the border friend’s ‘Hotline Bling’, it tries to pick up where its chart success left off. Kehlani lends her sultry vocals to ‘Feel’ and is a welcome female voice but no collaboration ends up standing out more than the celebratory ‘Congratulations’ that finds help from 1/3 of the Migos in Quavo. By the album’s natural conclusion, Malone sends a farewell to listeners in the form of ‘Yours Truly, Austin Post’. It’s a reflective closer to the standard edition of the album and sees an artist who experienced overnight success and is still figuring out how to handle it.
So where does Stoney leave Post Malone’s trajectory as a new artist? Is he more Chance the Rapper or Bobby Shmurda? There was a moment in that Breakfast Club last year where Charlamagne Tha God asked Post Malone what he was doing for the Black Lives Matter movement. The then 20-year-old artist proceeded to go on a tangent that had nothing to do with the question. The ten minutes that ensued saw a flustered Malone and his girlfriend being lectured by Charlamagne about the realistic things Post could expect with his new-found fame. He told him that he would end up cheating on his girlfriend, and that they should go ahead and talk about it now, among other topics. The interview ended fairly abruptly after this exchange and the radio personality left him with a few pieces of advice. He assured him that he was “just trying to prepare you for what’s to come”. He harkened back to the Black Lives Matter question and told him that he’s going to receive a ton of hard questions in the future and that the best response would be to say “I don’t know. That’s a good answer for everything”. The advice appropriately applies to the question posed earlier: So where does Stoney leave Post Malone’s trajectory as a new artist? Will he be relevant this time next year? Will he ever be bigger than his first hit? The short answer to these? We don’t know, but Stoney leaves listeners with enough interesting moments to care.
Repeatable: ‘Go Flex’, ‘Feeling Whitney’, ‘I Fall Apart’, ‘Congratulations’ (Feat. Quavo)
Skippable: ‘Broken Whiskey Glass’, ‘Leave’, ‘Hit This Hard’
By Scott Evans