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This is Chapter One of a series called “White Chocolate” which will discuss and critique the modern impact and historical consequences of the white rapper in hip-hop culture through an intersectional lens.
I really want to like Austin Post, the 20-year-old from some suburb in Dallas, Texas. I like how nice he seemed even when Charlamagne dogged him and his girlfriend out in his first real full-court press on the radio. I like how he can take the products of his old MySpace in stride, from a bygone era where everyone thought they could be Soulja Boy or Seth Rogan if they uploaded enough. Hell, I’ve even come to accept the fact that he apologized for saying “nigga” on his couch like four score - more like a mere four - years ago once someone exposed him for it, probably in an effort to remove him from the proverbial paint of SoundCloud fame.
This is not about Austin Post, the human being. Not completely.
His first hit single, “White Iverson,” presented itself as an inversion I more than welcomed on a record: a newfangled digital white boy going full-blown idol worship of a pride of Philadelphia, with enough NBA references to warrant James Harden dancing alongside Post Malone in a club to live on Instagram forever. In the context of hip-hop as pop, Post wedged himself into the perfect pocket between niche and crossover; not reinventing the wheel, while remaining enough of an anomaly to permeate that niche underground and go full platinum-plaque almost a year after the initial “White Iverson” push.
I’m a liar if I say I didn’t sauce my way through over half of 2015 with Post Malone in the backdrop. I toted his seven songs like a tastemaker, clenching the self-satisfaction of being “up on that new shit” until I salivated with millennial glee. “What’s Up” glistened from the aux cord as I rode through metro Atlanta in search of baked chicken with Yoh from DJBooth. “That’s It” slapped out of a Toyota Avalon as my friend Coby drove me back to South Madison, me forcing the high note as we skrrrrrrrrrrt past the next few blocks to meet gentrified palms. I even cranked “Too Young” with the windows down as I showed Malik where to get cheap burritos on that very same block, just a few weeks after my big homie Andrew peaced from Earth much too soon.
For whatever reason, Post Malone possesses the ability to charm his listeners into a seductive lull to the point where we’re warped into a post-racial wormhole where we can forgive his whiteness if only for three minutes at a time. (This wormhole will be very important later...). SoundCloud seduction is one thing-- I had no default face to put to the Auto-Tune sorcery-- but upon the release of the super-underwhelming “White Iverson” video, I felt as if I duped myself into the racial rigmarole that we go through thrice a year. This white boy really took the Iverson look to the heart; so much so, he braided his hair, put fronts in his mouth, and opened that very mouth somewhere at the intersection between southern twang and blaccent. No. Not this shit again. Not this millennium.
I liked Post Malone’s music until I realized it was just the musings of another white nigga who sports all the customizable chocolate parts without the trappings of being a whole Black person. What is a “white nigga,” you ask? Webster’s (e.g. ya boy) defines the white nigga as a person of Caucasian/European descent who selectively commandeers traits and characteristics associated with Blackness and Black identity in the context of the United States of America, mostly rooted in the contrived and stereotypical. Traits include, but aren’t limited to: hairstyle, clothing, choice of vernacular, accent, body movement, political alignment, etc. White niggas operate on a spectrum; one that encompasses everyone from the blonde girl you went to high school with who smokes reggie on her Snapchat with Bryson Tiller in the background, to the Polo-donning frat boys who put Chief Keef on the boombox and Donald Trump in the ballot box.
Post Malone is a white nigga with really skimpy Iverson braids who may never have to take them out for a white employer to take him seriously. A white nigga wearing a gold grill that may never earn him the privilege of having his asscheeks spread open in a stop-and-frisk before being beaten in front of his parents for existing that way. The entire shtick is a diluted relic of white men in blackface telling nigger jokes, and I spent months condoning it because it’s poppy.
Perhaps these convictions weigh much too heavy on the shoulders of a 20-year-old, but rest assured they could never compare to the struggle of those who wear the skin. Besides, Post Malone is merely another beneficiary of rap affirmative action; a post-racial practitioner who seems much more focused on becoming the white Ginuwine than turning shit up at the protest by putting his body on the frontline so the riot cops won’t hit someone’s grandmother as quickly. I say “seems” because I only know the actions displayed through Post Malone as a character, through pop-rap as a medium.
In critiquing art like Post Malone, we forget we know not of the full humanity behind these images. Oftentimes, we see the mainstream artist as a near-finished product on a platform long after the developmental periods of ironing out the flaws. Anything past critiquing the art is mere speculation; with that said, I am more than willing to speculate that we have championed Post Malone in a deep developmental period with several key exploits still on display. I know around ten songs of Post Malone’s oeuvre, but I do not know Austin Post as a human being.
What do we know of Austin Post with the information presented? He’s a 20-year-old white male from somewhere around Dallas, Texas. He grew up heavily influenced by country and began to teach himself guitar through the controller that came with the Guitar Hero video game. His father is the Head of Concessions for the Dallas Cowboys, thus granting the Post family many weekends of free chicken strips and even a snapshot with Austin and Jerry Jones at a Christmas party.
The official Post Malone narrative states that Austin moved to L.A. and linked up with 1st (of production duo FKi) and began making the necessary slaps to propel him to SoundCloud stardom before inking a deal with Republic Records around six months down the line. Post Malone does not consider himself a rapper, nor does he make rap music. He wears gold chains and gold grills because he likes to do so. He got the braids in tribute to Allen Iverson. Some days he pulls the throwback jersey out, sometimes he can throw the high fashion on. His gut came forth from poor dietary choices, but his girlfriend Ashlyn loves him regardless.
Post Malone fits the criteria of a “white nigga” because white niggas will always have their niche in the mainstream Black spectrum, not to be confused with the larger-scale illusion of grandeur that is white supremacy in the United States and worldwide. Post Malone can dip his teeth in the Coloreds Only pool because society designated him that privilege. His success epitomizes the functionality of a post-racial America that is equally post-hip-hop; only rendering the name increasingly more ironic. Post Malone is popular simply because he mirrors the trends of today in a digestible skin tone: white kids are onto Timberlands two decades too late, white kids keep renaming Black hairstyles that already exist, white kids think art is “just art” without race or class or gender brought into it, and white kids say “nigga” on their couches. Maybe they even have a Black friend that doesn’t care.
Speaking of the Black friend, Post Malone has plenty: he’s earned cosigns from every Black man under the sun. 50 Cent featured him on a mixtape, Jaden Smith was dancing on stage during Post’s Fool’s Gold Day Out set, Raekwon posed with him, Shaq posed with him, KEY! is like a brother to him, Snoop put him on GGN, Kanye put him on “Fade” and teased it countless times. The white nigga can self-sustain because whiteness equals mainstream approval, but Blackness and Black cool can still provide the co-sign to give an extra inch. Black artists co-sign white artists in predominantly-Black mediums the way educated white men used to write attestations before slave novels to prove to the white world that the Negro writing the book was credible and intelligent. Post can maneuver without it, but it must feel amazing to bring Ferrari F50 out in New York City to write in white icing on the chocolate cake:
Perhaps the most fundamental characteristic of the white nigga is a sheer obliviousness to the societal implications and consequences of one’s actions. Lyrically, Post Malone has yet to break new ground; he raps about fucking our bitches, he likes the finer things, wash, rinse, repeat. But not reinventing the snare does not equate to how quality your music is or how well it connects with the listener; Post Malone exemplifies this from the striking similarities in his melodies to the stage show where he lets the crowd hit every note while he sauces across stage and doesn’t sing very much of what he pulled off in the studio. From a marketability standpoint, he’s the nimbus floating above a perfect post-racial storm: he looks like the white boy who kept his Air Force Ones cleaner than you and fucked with Nate Dogg as hard as your crew did. He’s a refined, modernized Brad Gluckman or maybe even that white dude from Barbershop who cut Derek Luke’s hair really well in light of all that pro-Black shit Derek Luke was on in that movie.
just heard the song "white iverson" who mans is this lol, who let this slide
It’s difficult to wrestle with the gravity of the Charlamagne confrontation - he cross-examines Post Malone about what his music is doing for the Black Lives Matter movement and doesn’t let him go unscathed with half-answers - but it is nowhere near unrealistic for Austin Post to be oblivious to the struggle when he’s said nigga countless times on his couch in Texas somewhere. That doesn’t make him racist, doesn’t even make him evil, but white oblivion is a side effect of white supremacy like a running nose accompanies the common cold. It is doubtful that Austin Post has seen a lynching postcard before. I doubt he can quote any Langston Hughes or Zora Neale Hurston. Maybe the obligatory Eyes on the Prize VHS screening didn’t resonate with him. I doubt he’s ever seen Bamboozled where Spike Lee presents the outro montage of mammy cartoons and blackface jokes in near-Cliffsnotes fashion. I’d be as hard pressed to find a black or brown public-school child in these United States who has been exposed to this information, these damning footnotes of a country history left untold by the victors.
But the above is mere speculation once more; the reality is either which way, the consequences are much more dire than an 808 and an aux cord. These consequences are why I see a white man jigging in tap shoes when I see Post Malone’s golden smile. They explain why I can see charred Black men swinging from his dreads if I look close enough.
They explain why I watch him pour liquor out on the block in the “Too Young” video - a video he dedicated to Christian Taylor, who tweeted the song’s refrain a week before he was slain by police in Arlington, TX - and I get fucking infuriated when I hear him spend half the song rapping about fucking bitches and getting his nut off and getting his nuts washed off. The same song that soundtracked me thinking about my fallen big homie on the run for a cheap burrito, pondering my Black-ass mortality for the umpteenth time this millennium.
Austin Post has much to learn. Post Malone is dancing with corpses he can’t even name.
But there is always hope. That’s the thing about these white niggas: they can shed their skin and grow anew. They can even turn allies if they confront their comforts and get on the road with us. No one is born “woke” or “conscious” or whatever strange terminology is placed upon knowing your surroundings and aiming to kill the evils around you. Two decades are a long time to be white, find yourself through a medium unintended for you, then unlearn the methodology behind perpetuating the supremacy constantly reinforced by people with your skin tone. The same skin tone that owns a hood Black man’s music, and possibly owns part of the prison complex that lets that same rapper sit for a year-and-a-half with no bail and no trial.
Whether or not Austin Post - the human behind Post Malone - is down for that challenge is anyone’s guess. Despite the legacy he bears - of humiliation, degradation, making Black people look like animals - folks will listen for as long as they care to. Even if Post Malone is not here that long, we’re bound to get at least two more white niggas like him on the conveyor belt every calendar year. Austin may not want this burden, but he’s elected something bigger than all of us… what is a rapper white boy with an audience but an opportunity to subvert the supremacy that clings to his skin?
He doesn’t even have to go full Macklemore to shed the coon from his caucasity. But chopping the braids would be damn good place to start.
Michael Penn II (aka CRASHprez) is a rapper and a former VMP staff writer. He's known for his Twitter fingers.