Post Malone Changed What It Means To Be A Fan
Like most people, I knew nothing about Post Malone upon hearing his viral upstart hit “White Iverson” for the first time. After premiering in August, 2015, the airy trap ballad has since been certified platinum, garnering upwards of 90 million Spotify plays.
Despite this vertical stride, however, there’s still very little information out there about the 20-year-old Dallas native. That’s not to say he hasn’t done any interviews; he just doesn’t talk about himself much in them.
My working theory is that Post is probably still too caught up in the throes of his virality to care about opening up more at this point.
Wouldn’t you? Imagine randomly recording a song for fun and waking up a few days later to the tune of being one of the most poppin’ kids on the planet because of it. That’s essentially what happened to Post Malone in Summer Fifteen: a millennial nirvana.
The thought percolated as I made way through the bustling Hollywood Palladium to see Post Malone perform as opener for Fetty Wap on his Welcome to the Zoo tour. Ducking out of passerby Snapchat stories, I questioned to what extent we all are building personal utopias through technology. I approach a concession stand where I hear a young girl telling her friend that they had to make it to the front of the stage so she could get Post to Snap a video on her phone. Mind you, I hear this just seconds after hearing that friend explain to her who Post Malone was in the first place: “The guy that sings that ‘When I Started Ballin I Was Youuunggg’ song,” she explained, in painful harmony. Clearly, neither of them were exactly sure who the White Iverson MC was, yet they were fully aware that being oblivious was tantamount to neglecting something cool, which wasn’t acceptable.
Many music aficionados have argued that the digitalization of the live show has sullied the concert-going experience. That the meta gesture of recording one’s live show experience while experiencing the live show somehow curses the asylum itself. For the most part, I disagree. Given the neurotic pace at which music is disseminated today, social content technologies actually keep us in close proximity to the artists making our favorite songs, while the impersonal streaming platforms that house these songs are perhaps what’s actually drifting us apart. I mean, what real investment is there to get to know the artist of some loose track you brushstroked into an ever-growing SoundCloud playlist of similar vibes? Perhaps Post himself would say that there isn’t one. His music is still selling, though. He had Hollywood booming.
Whether it’s making easily palatable, low-carb trap music for wider audiences or taking Snap videos with fans at his shows (which he ended up doing throughout the night), Post’s career arc can be used as a prism for a new school of artists who understand that content is truly king. Buzz acts don’t need fans – in the traditional, shrine-on-the-wall sense – as much as they need people who are curious enough about their product to engage with it, even if it’s just Instagramming pics from the artist’s show because the hashtag can potentially be worth a flood of likes.
To illustrate just how buzzy: the name “Post Malone” currently has three times as many monthly Google searches as the word “kanye,” at 305,000 per month. This is still unbelievably healthy when compared to 1.5 million searches for “kanye west,” arguably the most famous rapper in the world.
Old guard fandom seems too bogged-down a concept for today’s frantic music landscape, where a hot artist can flame out and will be replaced by two others. To this end, artist investment becomes an increasingly delusional concept, which is why I believe the term “stan”—adapted from the intense Eminem song about an obsessed fan named Stanley—is used so much in internet media when describing the flock of the immortal few: The Beyonce’s (#BeyHive); the Rihanna’s (#Navy), the Bieber’s (#Beliebers); Future (#FutureHive).
So, while Post certainly has the metrics to back his right to a true fan base– and standout vocals on Kanye West’s highly acclaimed The Life of Pablo to boot (“Fade”)—I’d argue that such isn’t as clear-cut an assertion for an artist born in internet suburbia, where fame can swell—and disappear—quickly. You have to know how to capitalize on your moment, though, and despite any looming questions one may have about him personally or as an artist, Post Malone seems to have that part mastered.
Maybe it’ll take a full-length project before one can truly isolate the curiosity around the rapper/singer from any true investment in him as a marquee rookie talent. On New Years Eve, he tweeted that his debut album would be dropping this month, but no official date has been announced since. And now that Post has ditched a string of shows with Fetty to accompany Justin Bieber on his Purpose tour, we might be in for a longer wait than expected.
Image: Dez Porter