Post Malone’s grip on the mainstream hip-hop sphere has become increasingly tighter over the last three years. His debut album, “Stoney” (2016), backed by lead singles “Congratulations” and “Go Flex,” went double platinum. “Rockstar” and “Psycho,” the singles for his latest album, “Beerbongs & Bentleys,” peaked at number one and two, respectively, on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in the months leading up to the album’s release. But “Beerbongs & Bentleys” is both a capitalization of Malone’s recent success and a capitalization on hip-hop’s current trends.
Malone first garnered attention for being a unique songwriter who, in addition to producing his own beats, was able to expertly flirt with the boundaries of singing and rapping.. His brand of electric, soulful loops and progressions superimposed on common trap kits has become a standard, even if he’s not the originator. Yet, his near-inimitable image, favoring the quirky as much as the serious, allow is music to stand-out among contemporaries, though still containing the underpinnings that usually hinder this style among critics.
Besides the occasional nuance in his flow or tone, which can at times be impressive, Malone’s lyrics on “Beerbongs & Bentleys” fail to conjure any of the deeper sentiments he so often attempts to land. After the first song or two, his emotional sweet nothings grow redundant. The record idolizes wealth to a fault, fixing monetary value as Malone’s only barometer of self-worth, self-potential and capacity to empathize. When describing a tough situation with a loved one on “Better Now,” Malone can only imagine fixing the problem with material possessions. “I just wonder what it’s gonna take / Another foreign or a bigger chain?”
But at the same time, Malone is a fine writer when utilizing plug-and-use references. It’s apparent that he keeps a close eye on surrounding culture, using references to connect with the listener. He namedrops Nirvana, Michael Scott and Anthony Fantano to name a few; and “Zack and Codeine” and “Sugar Wraith” play off the show “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” and the band Sugar Ray, respectively.
Listening to Malone and “Beerbongs & Bentleys,” a question of authenticity arises. Not because he’s white in a black-dominated industry, but because it seems that he panders to any trend making waves in hip-hop. This seems like a common occurrence for major rappers, but Malone shows capabilities of more compelling and challenging styles, making his perpetration stand out.
The beat and energy in “Paranoid” sounds suspiciously similar to Kendrick and SZA’s “All The Stars.” On “Zack and Codeine,” he uncharacteristically takes on the triplet flow, the most commonly used cadence system among rappers both in the mainstream elite and the amateurs in the annals of SoundCloud.
“Beerbongs and Bentleys” is a collage of mainstream hip-hop. But the fact that Malone is so inclined towards other genres, even describing himself as genreless, suggests that the record may not have been made with the intent of sincere, personal expression. Instead, the record is a capitalization of the hip-hop trends Malone has observed and internalized. In some ways, his natural aptitude for taking a culture reference then casting it back for his own use is mirrored in what he does to the music he listens to.
To further position “Beerbongs and Bentleys” as an impersonal grab-bag of sorts, the track, “Stay,” the only non-hip-hop track in the catalogue, is a great example of Malone and collaborator Watt’s capabilities for thoughtful songwriting and composing. Here, even Malone’s surface level, emotional bars strike with more passion over the song’s lofty acoustic guitar.
“Beerbongs and Bentleys” is a set of tracks perfect for late-nights of fun and parties. Its hour-plus runtime offers all the 808 bass hits one can take. As an artist, though, besides building Malone into an even grander icon of radio-rap, the album does nothing more than adding a few more plaques and commas to Malone’s studio and bank account. Considering Malone’s tone on the record, the goal likely had never been anything different.
Follow Jordan on Twitter @montero_jor.