In roughly five minutes, I see three teenage girls sneak past security. The first catches me by surprise. I watch the other two carry out a more cautious approach. There’s a recon person making sure the venue’s employees aren’t watching, and the young invaders even have a signal. The trespasser launches into a sprint and hops a steel barricade that closes off a large smoker’s pit and patio. The sprint morphs into an inconspicuous stroll, the walk of someone who has definitely done something wrong and is trying way too hard to act naturally. The last step is easier: enter the venue, enjoy yourself, don’t get caught without a wristband.
Post Malone’s homecoming show on Saturday, May 30, was the occasion that inspired these desperate acts of amateur espionage. The “White Iverson” singer had never played a proper show in his hometown of Dallas since moving out to Los Angeles, and this one had been sold out for weeks. It took place at Trees, a venue in Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood. Trees may be the most storied music venue in Dallas. It’s where Nirvana played a sold out show in 1991, and where Kendrick Lamar did the same twenty years later, right before he would embark on a stadium tour opening for Drake.
There was so much hype around the show that a few promoters, marketers, and managers threw together a slate of local rap-focused events and shows to lead up to Post Malone’s show, called “Dallas Week.” The crux of Dallas Week was to shed light on Dallas, a city with an overlooked scene, a chip on its shoulder, and a hip-hop culture worth celebrating.
And that’s exactly what they did. One of Dallas’ most revered DJs, bemyfriend, turned the place out during an hour-long set. Somebody crowd surfed while he played “I Don’t Like.” Tum Tum, a member of the newly reunited Dirty South Rydaz, came through and performed “Caprice Musik,” which is a classic in the Dallas rap canon. Burgeoning local acts Devy Stonez and G.U.N. blew the roof off of the place. The tone was emphatically set by the time they were joined onstage by about 30 people—31 if you count a blow-up doll—going insane to “Faneto.”
Finally, Post Malone made his way on the stage, accompanied by the heavy guitars from Stone Cold Steve Austin’s entrance music. Decked out in a Dirk Nowitzki jersey and a Cowboys hat, Post went straight into “White Iverson,” which he ended up playing once again to close out his 30-minute set. A half-hour set for a headlining act is damn near robbery in Jesse James’ book, but almost everybody in the venue knew the words and sang along with gusto. By the end of the set, there was no doubt: in Dallas, the kid’s already a star. He loves his city and they love him back.
Post Malone, born Austin Post, was born in Syracuse, New York. At nine years old, he moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex when his father got a job with the Dallas Cowboys. Post is a sports fan, mostly of Dallas-based teams, and a superfan of America’s team. When asked if he thought Dez Bryant caught the ball in the divisional round of the playoffs this year during a crucial fourth quarter drive against the Green Bay Packers that ultimately ended the Cowboys’ season, Post responded instantly: “He caught it 100 percent. We got it and they just took it all away from us. It was heartbreaking.”
Post grew up in Grapevine, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. To accurately understand North Texas, one must know that it feels like there are six billion suburbs in the area. Consequently, a shit ton of people tend to live in these suburbs, which in turn operate like identical miniature cities. To an outsider trying to differentiate one Dallas suburb from the next, it’s like taking a can of beans and trying to tell which lentil is which.
Like many kids in these suburbs, Post spent nights in Dallas getting into trouble and having some fun. “Dallas is where I always went. Dallas is where I did drugs for the first time,” he says. His introduction to music was hereditary, the way a rite of passage is handed down from generation to generation. He acquired a taste for music through his father. “My dad raised me just to love music,” Post says. He grew up listening to a smorgasbord of artists from all genres—from Ice Cube and Biggie to Metallica, from Whitesnake to Merle Haggard.
As for how he got into playing music, Post’s first attempts came about in a classically millennial way: “Guitar Hero.” He remembers getting good at the video game, getting a guitar for Christmas at 12, and eventually hopping around dive bars and open mics to perform acoustic covers of country music legends like George Strait, Hank Williams Sr., and Johnny Cash. His first proper set was playing lead guitar in a hardcore band at a venue called Fat Daddy’s when he was 15.
After graduating from Grapevine High School, Post enrolled in Tarrant County College, and attended for a few months before dropping out and heading west to Los Angeles. “That’s when I really figured out what I wanted to do and that it’s possible,” he says. “In Dallas it was kind of myself, making mixtapes at home and shit. In L.A. I realized what could be possible.”
While in L.A., Post met 1st and Rich of FKi through mutual friends and they started to record together. “We just clicked,” Post said of his relationship with FKi. Out of those sessions came “That’s It,” “Tears,” and of course, “White Iverson.” When “That’s It” first appeared on Soundcloud, it got about 7,000 plays, mostly thanks to FKi posting it on their page. “White Iverson” followed soon after, then a Mac Miller retweet, and the blogosphere started to take note. The song took off. In about four months, it racked up 11 million plays on SoundCloud. It was later added to Spotify, where it has another few million streams. This website named it the best song of 2015 so far.
It’s the type of meteoric rise that always attracts rumors and speculation. Naysyaers called him an industry plant and whispers of a record deal with 300 started getting louder. The rumors however, have a little bit of truth to them, as they are essentially a game of telephone gone wrong.
“It’s completely independent. I’m not signed to a label. Everybody says I’m signed to 300, but I’m not.” He is, however, currently managed by three people: Dre London, Zeke Hirschberg (an A&R with 300), and Az Cohen, Lyor Cohen’s son. “Unless [signing to a label] changes your life, you can make that money from shows,” he says. “So far there hasn’t been anything that’s right. If it’s millions of dollars I might do it.”
Rap fans are a fickle and rabid bunch. There’s probably a correlation between fans who have uttered the term “industry plant” and people who believe in chemtrails. Concern over whether or not an artist has industry push behind them is, for whatever reason, a staple of climbing rap’s industry ladder. But that line of questioning is moot. In order to break into music, an artist usually has to be two out of the following three: hard-working, lucky, or connected.
“I really don’t give a fuck. I’m doing what I wanna do and they’re sitting on the computer talking shit,” Post says about detractors. “There’s haters out there, but I don’t pay that much attention. Straight up.”
And while “White Iverson” is undoubtedly a viral sensation, it’s no fluke. Post has already had two other instances of tapping into the internet’s thirst for something to talk about for one day and forget the next. There was the video (now deleted) of him singing an ’80s synth-pop love song called “Why Don’t You,” an introduction to his inherent silliness and jocular nature. “My look was inspired by Stone Cold, with the shorts,” he says, laughing. “It was a joke, of course. I’ve always been that type of guy to just have fun and be goofy with it, I don’t give a fuck really what people think.”
I really don’t give a f*ck. I’m doing what I wanna do and they’re sitting on the computer talking sh*t.
There was also a video of Post performing a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” The cover showcases Post’s range as a musician and hints at another side of Austin Post that the world of “White Iverson” fans hasn’t been introduced to yet.
“I kind of wanna make a folk project right now, after I release my project, just a folk project by myself,” he says. It would make sense: Post is unabashedly country. You hear it in his slight but prominent Southern drawl, and in his emphatic praise of country artists. Southern folk doesn’t seem like a reach at all.
His upcoming project is tentatively scheduled to be released around July 4, Post’s 20th birthday. It will feature production from a gaggle of all-stars, including Metro Boomin, FKi, Sonny Digital, and himself. Vocally, he plans to have 1st as the only feature for now. “I really made all of these songs before ‘White Iverson’ came out, and it was just me.”
Regardless of the industry plant rumbles, Post Malone has done what few Dallas artists have been able to do since Dorrough: find a wide audience outside of the local scene. There’s an avalanche of talented rappers in the Metroplex, and some of them are on the cusp of gaining a national audience. The futuristic Texas twang of The Outfit and the forward-thinking rap of former TDE producer Blue, the Misfit immediately come to mind.
But if Post Malone is any indication, it seems like the only way to pop is pack up your things and move west. “Dallas has an incredible music scene,” Post says. “I feel like in Dallas there’s so much talent, but no real way to get it out there. There’s no outlet. There’s no platform.”
Post has done quite a bit in a short amount of time. That Saturday night wasn’t the first time he’d done “White Iverson” live in Dallas though. In late February, he was in town with Key!, who was performing at a DIY show in a dank industrial space. Key! let Post bookend his set that night, and he performed “White Iverson” for the second time ever. “[Key!]’s one of my best friends. He’s super dope and super crazy. I think he’s gonna be a legend too.” Post laughs, catching the unintentional boast. He pauses before reiterating the last bit: “A legend too.”