Emerging artists who score viral hits can often pinpoint the source of their success, like a Vine dance craze or a superstar’s Twitter co-sign. But for Syracuse, N.Y.-raised Post Malone, whose breakthrough hit “White Iverson” flooded radio in 2015 with its gentle singsong topline and floating backbeat, the reason for going viral is still confounding.
“I guess I just got lucky,” says the 20-year-old born Austin Post, who uploaded the track to SoundCloud last February, when it exploded, accruing 2.7 million listens in three months. “Iverson,” which reached No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100, is odd but broadly appealing: Malone harnesses hip-hop and pop alike by crooning in a rap flow, chanting new slang like “saucin’ ” (a term for having swagger) and referencing NBA star Allen Iverson — Malone named the song after he got cornrows (he’s white), Iverson’s signature look.
Malone’s output since “Iverson” has been slow — he has released only one official single, “Too Young” — because he has been steadily recording his untitled debut album, scheduled for March on Republic, which signed him in August 2015. He has worked with Issues frontman Tyler Carter, Illangelo (The Weeknd) and 1st, who helped produce “Iverson,” but he already landed his dream collaboration when Kanye West invited him to appear on the song “Fade,” possibly included on his repeatedly delayed Swish.
“He’s really intimidating and intense, and recording music with him is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life,” admits Malone.
It hasn’t all been a fairy tale. New York radio DJ Charlamagne Tha God grilled him during an on-air interview for appropriating black culture. Malone shrugs off the criticism. “A lot of people don’t want to see you be happy,” he says. “I try to stay off the Internet unless I’m drunk, it’s late and I have some funny stuff to say. You can’t pay attention to it.”
This story originally appeared in the Jan. 16 issue of Billboard.