Rap purists were livid after seeing white hip-hop chart-topper Post Malone singing “America the Beautiful” at the 2024 Super Bowl. They claimed he was code-switching, abandoning Black culture that put him on the map and aligning himself with white mainstream America.
During the live broadcast, The Roots founder Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson took to the X platform to ask if other hip-hop lovers were as outraged as he was to see Post Malone’s seamless transition into a country singer.
“I also wanna talk about what we just witnessed——one of the best finesse moves ever,” the producer responsible for hits for artists like Common, Jay-Z, and more tweeted, “That was Usual Suspects level code switchin’ he now has his new pivot. I can’t believe we didn’t see this ‘comin’. Aight, lemme stop.”
Code-switching is when someone changes up one way of being to be accepted in or by another community. For people of color, this is often a tool to navigate leaving one cultural playground to hang out in the mainstream.
Post Malone comfortably goes back and forth from rapper to country to folk star. Earlier during the weekend, he wore his rap hat as performed his song “Congratulations” with Quavo.
I also wanna talk about what we just witnessed——one of the best finesse moves ever. That was Usual Suspects level code switchin he now has his new pivot. I can’t believe we didn’t see this comin. Aight lemme stop
— ?st (@questlove) February 11, 2024
The Oscar-winner, who produced Best Documentary “Summer of Soul” at the 2021 Academy Awards, was not the only one who took issue with how the “Circles” artist switched up.
“It’s giving Pink and Kidd Rock. Everybody wanna use Black culture to get on then once they’re household names, they run fast to making music for white supremacists,” one person replied.
Pink was once heavily assoicated with hip-hop with early songs titles such as “You Make Me Sick,” “There You Go,” and “Most Girls,” and her aestheic of wearing hot pink hair with dark makeup.
Am I the only one that thought Pink, in her early days, was Black? Like Most Girls, You Make Me Sick, Pink with the pixie cut? 🧐🧐
— Mik (@Mik_filA) October 4, 2022
Country rap star Kidd Rock stressed that, “I love Black people” after being awarded the Detroit NAACP branch chapters Great Expectations Award in May 2011. That same year, the “All Summer Long” musician defended his reasoning for displaying Confederate flags at his shows despite its complex meaning.
Others said rap fans should have seen this coming. One fan posted a Vlad TV video from four years ago where Brand Nubians’ Lord Jamar tried to tell the rap community years ago about the poseur.
DJ Vlad posed a question to the “Slow Down” rapper, asking what would happen if a country singer tried to come into hip-hop, stake a claim, assume the “stereotypical” persona of a rapper, and “starts to chart.” He wondered if people would accept the outsider.
“You’ve described Post Malone, right there,” Lord Jamar blasted. “Post Malone used to do folk music, bro. Post Malone admittedly sits around with a guitar and comes up with his melodies on the f—ing floor with his him and his brother… He did everything that you’re talking about right there.”
Here is Lord Jamar on DJ Vlad 4 years ago pic.twitter.com/f01FIDGZMt
— Kalief Browder(War Baby) (@TilWeOverdoze) February 12, 2024
Post Malone’s folky and hippy ways translated to some rappers like Swae Lee, who produced the hit song “Sunflower” for the “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” or his single “Livin It Up” with Young Thug and A$AP Rocky, which both have overwhelming vibey overtone.
No longer iced up and swagged out like when he performed hit songs like “Rock Star” with 21 Savage, or other artists like trap rapper Gucci Mane, the celebrity who once called himself the “White Iverson” says he considers himself an artist rather than a rapper.
His diehard supporters like that and disagree with the rigid confines that rap stakeholders like Questlove and Lord Jamar have mandated. For years his fans have expressed that he should be able to explore different genres if he wants to without criticism.
“Post Malone is an amazing artist not just a rapper. Yet still boy band fake ‘country’ singers w/ sparkly jeans, remain the face of country music,” one fan tweeted. “Hats off to Post Malone, & any other artists who play real country…f—k you Luke Bryan, and your boyfriend Kane Brown y’all suck.”
Post Malone is an amazing artist not just a rapper. Yet still boy band fake “country” singers w/ sparkly jeans, remain the face of country music. Hats off to Post Malone, & any other artists who play real country…fuck you Luke Bryan, and your boyfriend Kane Brown y’all suck.
— El Guero® (@DrunkRodeoBum) March 23, 2021
Expanding one’s horizons, as demonstrated by Nelly when he ventured into the country market as a featured artist on “Lil Bit” with Florida Georgia Line, K. Michelle with her country single “Tennessee” and feature on “Country Love Song” with Justin Champagne, or Beyoncé with her recent project “Renaissance: ACT II,” can be viewed as a positive endeavor.
However, many question Post Malone’s efforts — believing he used Black culture to become famous as a white rapper and now is distancing himself.
The rapper whose 2018 album “Beerbongs & Bentleys” won Favorite Hip Hop Album at the American Music Awards and was nominated for Top Rap Album at the Billboard Music Awards, once seemed to diss the integrity of contemporary rap music saying, “If you’re looking for lyrics, if you’re looking to cry, if you’re looking to think about life, don’t listen to hip-hop.”
The artist further told Poland media outlet NewOnce that when he wants to get deep he listens to Bob Dylan and turn to rap music when wants to turn up and have fun.
Post Malone isn’t the only white rapper who transitioned to country music, citing it as offering greater creative freedom. Two-time Grammy-nominated country music artist Jelly Roll similarly began as a rapper but found significant success after changing genres.
Despite his background in drug dealing, Jelly Roll attained acclaim, winning three CMT Music Awards and being named CMA’s New Artist of the Year in 2023. His journey included distributing mixtapes of his rap songs alongside cocaine sales before his arrest prompted a life change. In 2013, his album “No Filter” yielded his first rap hit, followed by “Waylon & Willie” in 2017, paying homage to country legends.
By 2020, his transition to country music solidified with “Save Me,” altering both his musical trajectory and personal life. A distinguishing factor is that Jelly Roll hails from Tennessee, contrasting with Post Malone’s New York origins, a whole region removed from country music’s birthplace.