Post Malone’s breakout single, “White Iverson,” turns three years old in August. Where did the time go? “White Iverson” is one of the rare, recent hits that I can still recall hearing for the first time. DJBooth’s former managing editor Nathan Slavik sent me the SoundCloud link along with a message teetering between enjoyment and disapproval.
He wasn’t sure if this new artist in his inbox should be sent sailing into the recycle bin or destined to soar high above the charts. I found his uncertain skepticism amusing, but after four listens, I stood at a similar crossroads. We couldn’t decide, yet, we also couldn’t stop playing it.
Our initial reaction was true to the contrast that has revolved around Post for the last few years―he’s either loved or hated; there’s little ambivalence to how the public perceives him. To some, he’s the rock star hitmaker, and to the less enthused an overhyped culture vulture. However you may feel, it doesn’t change the unbelievable progress that took Malone from SoundCloud mystery to world-renowned starboy. The leap didn’t happen overnight, but it was still quick by conventional standards.
There’s no questioning if Malone’s sophomore album, beerbongs & bentleys, will be a commercial success. Two of his three singles (“rockstar” and “Psycho”) premiered at No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100. It's reportedly already become eligible for Platinum certification upon release. He’s an enormous star and will continue to be one. But what kind of star will he be? Will he continue to snuggle close to the modern era of melodic trap rap, or will he craft an album of pop-centric crossover records? He has always been careful with labels, specifically in regards to being considered rap or hip-hop. Post isn’t exactly a rapper, but he’s close enough to dive into trap and also far away enough to go entirely left.
Will beerbongs & bentleys see him depart from the safe sound that brought him prominence, or will he continue to lean on trap producers and pink Starburst melodies?
Per usual, the 1 Listen review rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
Woozy synths. Nice little drum. A lot of honesty about family and anxiety. Post Malone being afraid of flashing lights makes me wonder what it must be like to be pulled over as Post Malone? Probably whatever it was like to be Aaron Carter in 1999. A lot more singing than melodic rap to start. Not super in love thus far and I’m usually here for a good song about paranoia. The second verse is much better. All Post wants is peace. I feel you, Stoney. Did Post Malone ask what’s the point in picking political sides? Someone, please keep his thumbs away from Twitter. Man, for an album called beerbongs & bentleys this isn't very fun. I want to make a list of rappers who got famous and didn’t complain about the cost of fame afterward. It will be a short read. Fame isn’t fun kids.
2. "Spoil My Night" ft. Swae Lee
I like these keys. They’re a nice shade of violet. Hmm. These vocals are not it, sir. Swae Lee! Not too enthused by his falsetto, though. Boy, do I miss The-Dream. I'm feeling very underwhelmed by this collaboration. There’s a pop element that will appease a crossover audience, but it’s too cotton candy for me. Mike Will could’ve contributed drums with personality. I do like the melody more than the vocal performance. Rapping Post. It’s funny to hear someone say "beautiful boobies" in 2018. I feel like I’m listening to the audio version of Spring Breakers without Gucci Mane. Yes! Post Malone makes music for people who wish every day was spring break. I have successfully uncovered his demographic. Only took me three years.
3. "Rich & Sad"
Judging by the title I might be wrong about his target audience. So far the most rap-esque record. Nice little bounce for a song about being sad. “I just keep on wishing the money made you stay." He might be the first rapper who encouraged an old flame to be a gold digger. Did no one give him a copy of Late Registration? Eh, not a big fan of the production so far. A bit bland. These are the pop-trap type beats that have the liveliness of watching ice melt. Where is FKi? Where is 1st? I'm rather bored three songs in. I need the hits, Post! Where are the anthems?
4. "Zack and Codeine"
R.I.P. Pimp C. For all the obvious reasons. No Auto-Tune on his voice. The raw vocals. This is the voice he uses when going to karaoke bars to perform Daughtry songs with the squad. We got some strong trap drums on this one. Triplet flow with the Southern thump. I might’ve been spot-on about the crossroads. He really does sound like he’s caught between the rock influence and his trap aesthetic. On his worst day, Post makes me wonder what would happen if Billy Ray Cyrus was interested in rap. He just mentioned all rappers sounding the same. “My life so sweet I feel like Codeine,” okay. Wait. Is this title a play on Zack and Cody? I’m laughing at myself.
5. "Takin' Shots"
We might have finally got one. Some sweet bass. He’s rolling his tongue like a Grand Theft Auto semi-automatic and I’m uncomfortable. I’m far too sober for this album. It should’ve come with at least three shots and a pair of beer goggles. T-Pain would be so disappointed that someone with Post's melodic promise failed to make a radio-winning alcohol anthem. Does Tory Lanez have any songs with Post? I feel like they would be good together. Is mixing vodka and champagne a good idea? I haven’t been this bored since that time I was on track 37 of Culture II.
6. "rockstar" ft. 21 Savage
I have to say, after five fairly lackluster records, I’m happy to have “rockstar” here to bring me back to life. This is the Post Malone I’m interested in hearing. The darker production texture fits him. I'm hoping the songs to come lean harder into the sing-songy melody that’s too infectious to hate. “rockstar” is a fun song despite the cliché subject matter. 21 arrives on this song so suddenly it’s borderline breaking-and-entering. He’s such an odd, but perfect fit. He has the swagger that works on almost any record. The 12-car garage line is classic. I could’ve done without him trying to hit that last note on his verse. I love Post’s harmonies and how it has the fade out at the end. Early favorite.
7. "Over Now"
Got some guitar. Slow buildup. A love song? Sounds like it. Some cool vocals being showcased. A lot more attitude. This has blossomed into a full rock song. These drums are LIVE. I was worried Post wouldn’t be able to hang, but he sounds strong. Very much in his element. Almost certain Post is going through the Omarion “Icebox” phase in his pursuit of love. Did he said he’s going... I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear what I think I heard. Petty Post is a very scorned lover. Give the drummer some!
8. "Psycho" ft. Ty Dolla $ign
Interesting buildup. Now, this is a melody sweet enough to be considered a pink Starburst. Yep. Pure caramel. He’s really reaching for the clouds with some of these notes. When he’s sitting in the pocket with the melodic flow is when Post is a true killer. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ty wrote this. Dolla $ign just walked in with the suave presence of Hugh Hefner (R.I.P.) walking through the Playboy Mansion. There are not too many artists I’ll accept rhyming “thot thot” with “top top” that aren’t in Migos. The best thing about Ty Dolla’s voice is how its a mix of church choir soul and a Hennessy and Backwoods rasp. I hope he ends up working with Smino in the future. Very obvious why “Psycho” was almost a Billboard chart-topper. I guess it wasn’t in… God’s plan. Don’t worry, I’ll see myself out.
9. "Better Now"
At least we have arrived at the portion of the album where the hits are placed. 90% of his flow sounds like it was taken from Starrah’s playbook, but I think this about most rappers who lean heavily on melodic rap. Starrah would be a nice fit here, her bubblegum voice would be the cherry on top. Also, another song about a former lover. Some hit potential with this one. It has all the components of a heartache hit. I'm also noticing a pattern of Post Malone admitting he would openly give up everything for this woman(en). I would love to hear the other side. Imagine if every song about a former lover came with their story? We would have fewer songs about relationships.
10. "Ball For Me" ft. Nicki Minaj
The top is heavy, but I’m liking this middle section. It’s stuffed with all the club and radio records. Infectious production with a slick flow. If the label doesn’t push “Ball For Me” as a single it’s at least going to be huge at shows. This bounce is going to send arenas to the moon. Nicki! Seamstress/slack bar could only be pulled off by Minaj. She’s all personality and swag. I love the switch-up. Buffy/Slayer bar [laughs]. I appreciate how she’s able to easily go from rapping to her singing without missing a step.
A bit more ominous than the rest of the album. Stripped down. Vocals. The drums just dropped and it sounds like Diplo’s drum kit got caught in a garbage disposal. There are some very strange production choices made. Everything was better before the percussion came in and destroyed the vibe. Currently cringing. I’m getting the sensation of walking in wet socks. Did Stoney have so many songs about longing? Lost love? Most of this album has been a cry for companionship.
The acoustic guitar has arrived to save our souls. My dream acoustic guitar collaboration is Raury, Post Malone, and Ed Sheeran. I can’t tell if this album is boring, or if Post Malone is bored with his life. Some very good campfire chords are being played. Drinking game: take a shot every time Post sings about being heartbroken. I’m not 100% sure, but there is no FKi on this album, and it’s causing me much distress. Not the worst song on the album. The guitar playing has grown on me tremendously. A standout for being different. I might really grow to like this one.
13. "Blame It On Me"
More sad Malone. He’s really not enjoying the famous side of things. Some of his most interesting songwriting by far. This is The Weeknd’s brand of emo, heartbreak bop. Vocals on the hook are growing on me. Singing all the pain out. Not bad at all. I like the internal turmoil being displayed. Going back and forth from being at fault and not wanting to be blamed for how things are. You can feel the passion and a hint of pain. I like the idea of the song more than I like how it was executed. Still, a promising one. Drum breakdown at the end is the best instrumental switch-up so far.
14. "Same Bitches" ft. G-Eazy & YG
I want a best friend reality show with G-Eazy and YG. WOO! Finally! Now, this is a beat! We got some authentic West Coast funk. This is the lowrider bounce that will make you buy hydraulics in 2018. Post sounds like he’s been hanging out with YG in Bompton. Eazy! He just disrespected a young woman’s Dodge Durango. So rude. That was… a verse. YG! He’s right at home. This song turned into a straight house party. Fam said the girl slept with the head of his record label and I’m going to laugh for a thousand years at the thought of label heads having groupies. How many times are rappers going to remake Tupac’s “All About U”? We should retire rap concepts the way NBA players retire jersey numbers. YG can’t save this one. I wish him and Pac had a chance to make music, though.
15. “Jonestown” (Interlude)
A slow, very quiet buildup. It’s one of those melancholy interludes that reminds you of dead flowers and broken dreams. A voice. Doesn’t sound like Post. Just mentioned suicide. Something about drinking the Kool-Aid once again. Uh. Skip.
16. “92 Explorer”
Sounds like Ty Dolla, but that’s definitely Post. London On Da Track's producer tag followed by Post's best flow of the entire album. Loving this London instrumental. I'm currently having flashbacks of The Weeknd’s “Tell Your Friends” verse. Their rapping sounds very similar, and now I want London to produce for Abel. A lot of L.A. references. Not a single lyric even sounded remotely interesting but the delivery and melody were a very dangerous combination. I would have loved if Post Malone guest starred on Fuller House as Danny Tanner’s rebellious rapping neighbor. Don’t ask why.
17. “Candy Paint”
Where is Post Malone from? Texas? I don’t know if I ever asked. “Candy Paint” is reminiscent of early SoundCloud Post. Easy on the ears. Basketball reference. This is very “White Iverson”-esque. Michael Scott bar. Some journalist asked Post his favorite season of The Office. I have a feeling his favorite character was Andy. Or Jim. This is loose, lighthearted, and fun. I’m not mad at it. Hearing some Tory Lanez mixed in with this flow. I’m pretty sure this is my favorite. Easily the song that would get the most play.
18. “Sugar Wraith”
I feel like I've been listening to this album for a lifetime. My hair is gray, my soul is old. Was that an R.I.P. for Yams? Honest lyrics, I like the second half of the second verse. This is supposed to be a celebratory ending. It’s pretty cool but doesn’t send me quite to the moon. Admittedly, I don’t hate this as a closing track. It’s not strong, but not necessarily weak. But after 17 songs of Post, I’m just happy for it to be over.
beerbongs & bentleys (first listen) closing thoughts:
Interesting isn’t the first word that comes to mind when I think of Post Malone’s music, but neither was boring. He’s never been the most technical practitioner, nor would I consider him a genius songwriter, but his music had a way of burning hooks and melodies into your brain. It was easy and catchy, music for the background of cookouts or the forefront of house parties. On first listen, beerbongs & bentleys is a familiar destination but arrives there through a much longer, less scenic route.
If Malone’s debut album was safe and comfortable, his sophomore opus puts more emphasis on diversity, but the earnest attempts at inventive ideas fall short of their intent. These are not huge risks, but noticeable compared to past efforts. Unfortunately, there are few rewards to be found throughout the album's 18 tracks.
Post will ride into the summer with a handful of anthems, but a bulk of the album’s deeper cuts lack the range, heart, or soul for them to leave a lasting impression.
The Post Malone that got my attention was someone hard to forget. I couldn’t get “White Iverson,” “Congratulations,” and a laundry list of other records out of my head. For better or worse, he sticks with you. The Post Malone who appears on beerbongs & bentleys is someone I’m struggling to remember. At the height of his celebrity, on an album where he tries to get more personal, the biggest issue is how humdrum it all sounds.
By Yoh, aka WakeUpMr.Yoh, aka @Yoh31.