Post Malone’s emergence onto the pop music scene reads almost like a fairy tale. During his improbable rise to the mainstream, he navigated all the hurdles before him while the universe aligned in his favor, making his debut album, Stoney, one of the most highly anticipated releases of 2016.
Refusing to conform
Austin Richard Post has never been just a rapper or a singer. He is a musician with the rare ability to move in and out of various musical styles. His superpower as an artist is that he refuses to conform his vision of music to fit labels or definitions. He’s not beholden to any of it – and that stance, while controversial in some circles, allowed him to reach the masses.
After grinding it out in relative obscurity, Malone was discovered by the FKi production team and, in August 2015, released “White Iverson,” which went viral and catapulted him from SoundCloud rapper to a bona fide star. As his profile began to grow, so did the status of his collaborators. He worked with Kanye West, landed a coveted spot as Justin Bieber’s tour opener, and dropped his well-received August 26th mixtape, with guest appearances from Larry June, 2 Chainz, FKi 1st, Jeremih, Lil Yachty, Jaden Smith, and Teo. After making a name for himself and getting co-signed from the crème de la crème of the music industry, Post Malone prepared Stoney. Released on December 9, 2016, it solidified him as a star.
Spanning 18 tracks and clocking in at just over an hour in length, Stoney introduces Post Malone as a versatile artist who’s not afraid to be brutally honest about his demons. From the outset, his artistic fluidity refuses to be boxed in by critical perceptions: he integrates all his influences, from hip-hop, pop, and even country music, to create a unique sound.
Throughout the album, Malone addresses his struggle with drugs and alcohol addiction, and how his newfound fame has magnified those issues. But he also knows how to break out of his melancholy shell and enjoy the fruits of his labor. Stoney taps into the full emotional range of the human experience.
Though released a year before the album’s release, “White Iverson,” even in its more polished album version, remains magical. An ode to the basketball Hall Of Famer, it set the tone for Stoney, launched Malone’s career, and was eventually certified five-times platinum for sales of over five million digital copies.
Deploying Quavo of Migos, “Congratulations” is a celebratory anthem that encapsulated the life-changing successes both artists were experiencing. Produced by the trio of Metro Boomin, Frank Dukes, and Louis Bell, “Congratulations” surpassed even “White Iverson,” peaking at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 to become Malone’s highest-charting single at the time.
Malone invites his friends to contribute to the atmosphere he creates on Stoney. Guest co-stars include R&B star Kehlani (“Feel”), Pharrell Williams (contributing sleek, soulful production to “Up There”), Justin Bieber (“Cha-Cha”), and the minimalist motif of River Tiber (“Cold”), all helping to round out Stoney’s diversity. Through it all, Malone delivers heartfelt lyrics and vocals over a variety of styles that make the album a unique listen.
A promising debut
All and all, Stoney was a promising debut album that foreshadowed the enormous success Malone would achieve. It debuted at No. 6 on the US Billboard 200 – an extremely strong showing for a new artist in the mid-2010s. On June 6, 2018, the album was certified triple-platinum by the RIAA, proving Malone’s assertion that the new wave of music could be genre-blind and still commercially viable.
It’s Malone’s penchant for melodic hooks combined with lush trap production that make Stoney a notable debut from a burgeoning superstar. Still finding himself as an artist, it was evidence that the best was yet to come.