Post Malone's first mixtape has been a long-time coming. It's hard to believe, but after everything the Grapevine native has accomplished since his song, "White Iverson", went viral early in 2015 — working with Kanye West, touring with Fetty Wap and Justin Bieber, and making stops at festivals like Coachella — he still hasn't released more than a single at any one time. So the release of August 26 last Friday was a big deal.
While the mixtape is ultimately a warm-up for Malone's debut full-length album — originally mooted to be released in March but now expected to drop later this year — it's winning over critics who have been hesitant of the white rapper-turnt-singer. Here are the five key things we've learned from August 26:
1. He’s weathered the storms and seems to have remained every bit himself .
Malone has been the subject of a great deal of scrutiny in the past year. From criticism on Twitter to getting grilled by HOt 97's Ebro and Power 105.1's Charlamagne the God; from video of him saying the N-word to video of him wearing way-too-short jorts performing Myspace-era electronica, he's come under fire on several occasions. But none of it has dampened his happy-go-lucky spirit. On opening track “Never Understand,” Malone explains that he’s still living the same life he always has only he’s making more money than he ever has. Everybody wants to be his friend, but as he writes in the last line of the hook, “I’m just trying to be who I am/It’s just something they will never understand.”
2. It’s hard to recreate a smash-hit like “White Iverson,” and that’s OK.
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A lot of the songs that followed "White Iverson" — “Too Young,” “What’s Up” and “Tear$" — felt a little too similar to that breakout hit. But Malone has found more range since then, experimenting with a bouncy, upbeat track in the form of “40 Funk” and taking on more aggressive vocals on “Monta,” where he ditches the soulful harmonies to drop some bars. The real gem of the tape is “Hollywood Dreams/Come Down,” which samples Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams." Malone sings his heart out on a cruising fantasy to a mansion party. It paints the picture of an awful comedown from heavy drug use, something familiar from Malone at this point, but it also shows off his voice, allowing him to break out of the rapping-singer pigeonhole.
3. He’s working with some heavy hitters.
Malone's feature on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo and his stint on tour with Justin Bieber are old news by now, but when it came down to who would actually be featured on his upcoming projects, the tracklist for August 26 did not disappoint. Contributions from the likes of 2 Chainz, Jeremih, Jaden Smith, ILoveMakkonen, Larry June and Lil Yachty is pretty impressive for a debut mixtape. Now just imagine what that could mean for that debut full-length. His executive producer and right-hand man, FKi, said in an interview that he was forbidden from mentioning who will be on the album, but said, “He definitely made some amazing music with some amazing people.”
4. He’s still really obsessed with basketball.
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The “White Iverson” title came about when Malone braided his hair a la Allen Iverson, but the song itself was full of basketball allusions, name checking Kevin Durant, Michael Jordan, Anthony Davis, Shaq and James Harden. So “Monta,” another song about basketball, comes as no surprise from the sports-obsessed artist. Monta Ellis, the veteran NBA guard and former Dallas Maverick, gives no fucks. He’s a cocky, high-volume shooter who’s going to shoot his shot and has no interest in hamming it up for the media — although, “Monta have it all,” is one of the greatest player quotes of all time. It was clearly written a while ago, though, since it references players from the 2014-15 Mavs roster, like Rajon Rondo and Tyson Chandler.
5. Post Malone is too big to fail .
The biggest takeaway from August 26 may be that Malone is here to stay. A lot of critics took joy in tossing out the one-hit-wonder label on the 20-year-old last year. He could’ve been a Trinidad James or a K Camp, but he’s nestled himself into some good company and made some great decisions with his career. Luck has undoubtedly played its part. But at the end of the day, Malone offers something that’s just a little different than everyone else, has a great, versatile voice, a hell of an ear for music and the right persona to make it in an unforgiving industry.