Post Malone's 'Stoney' Defied Logic & Expectations, Just Like The Artist Behind It

A year after its release, his debut album hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hip-Hop charts.

Dan Holmes

In an interview with Billboard this year, Post Malone said that Allen Iverson personally told him he is a fan of Post's 2015 debut single, “White Iverson.” Iverson liked the song so much he suggested to get Jadakiss on the remix. It's hard not to imagine a better scenario, one where Iverson, Jada, and Post are the unlikeliest of friends—violently arguing over the commonalities between Bob Dylan’s Electric Dylan phase and Future’s HNDRXX era.

Malone, born Austin Richard Post, is the millennial rock star that throws around ridiculous stories during interviews at a relentless clip. But they almost feel like an afterthought. Over the last two years, he's become one of the streaming era's most improbable, baffling, and successful stars—and his rapid ascent to fame proves that. But sidestepping all of his recent controversies, it’s evident his ambitious and polarizing debut album Stoney is what got him to this point, more than anything else.

It's been out for one year and is already 2x certified Platinum; some of the album's singles have gone quintuple and sextuple Platinum, too. Looking back it’s hard to imagine “White Iverson” becoming the blueprint for Post’s eventual chart dominance. However sticking to that formula resulted in an album that bends rap-rock, country, and pop, but never breaks. Stoney is an album as inscrutable, captivating, and unexpected as the man who created it.

The ubiquity of Post's own sound makes him his only real primary competition. That sound is cultivated by frequent collaborators like Rex Kudo, FKI 1st, Cashio, and Charlie Handsome, who all worked on his August 26th mixtape. FKI, the production duo behind “White Iverson,” told Complex that they "knew that Post was going to blow up, in general. It didn’t matter which song it was.” It's a claim that's hard to argue with considering that Post's follow-up singles like “Congratulations” peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, surpassing “White Iverson’s” peak chart performance at No. 14.

Stoney’s omnipresence on the charts seems almost preordained, but in reality, it took a record 51 weeks for the album to climb to No. 1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album faced an uphill battle like most albums in the streaming era, with critics from Charlamagne the God to Lil B to Complex trying to figure out whether Malone’s place in hip-hop was exploitative or just an insignificant blip on the radar.

In a vacuum, Post Malone’s debut album is filled with melodies, production, and songwriting that usually takes years of talent and patience to cultivate. In reality, interviews with Malone often veer into honest questions about his role in a mostly black dominated art form. The controversy surrounding Post predictably did as much to fuel his rise up the charts as the songs did.

Post’s ability to keep one foot firmly planted in his signature sound while branching out into new territory is what surprised fans on Stoney. Justin Bieber and Kehlani show up for the keyed-down "Déjà Vu" and the R&B-inspired "Feel," respectively. But then there's features from Quavo and 2 Chainz to help ground Post in the Atlanta-inspired sound he’s become known for. On bonus track “Money Made Me Do It,” Post and Chainz shout out Bankroll Fresh on the chorus, an ode to the Atlanta rapper who was shot down in 2016 after an altercation at a local recording studio. It's in small moments like this or the acoustic ballad, “Feeling Whitney,” that the album's surprising sincerity and depth come through.

This all begs the question: What exactly was the formula behind Post Malone’s rise to fame? There's no one definitive answer but a common question in interviews is what genre he considers his music to be. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he said “genre is stupid.” His manager Dre London elaborated on the the question of genre during an interview on Billboard’s Chart Beat Podcast. "He’s a multi-genre artist, you can’t put him in one bracket. And why should you?” Whether one agrees with London or not, it's clear that Malone’s ability to blend disparate genres while balancing the intricacies of hip-hop, rock, and pop has impressed fans. There's a little bit for everyone in Post Malone’s music, a strategy that rarely pays dividends but that his team has seemed to crack.

The first single Post released after Stoney is “Rockstar,” his biggest song to date. It eventually reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 Charts and broke Apple Music’s single-week streaming record. And he's stacking up some different ideas for his next album. According to his interview on the H3 podcast, John Mayer, Ty Dolla $ign, and Nicki Minaj are set to appear on his sophomore project. He's also promised more guitar, live drums, and production, too. Until his next project arrives, Stoney will represent the pinnacle of Post’s achievements and will always be the catalyst that rocketed Post to stardom. It's a perfect starting point for a career that has defied expectations and logic, something that seems like it was Post’s plan all along.

You can stream Post Malone's entire discography here.