Establishing identity through the lens of cultural appropriation can be tricky business. On Post Malone's studio debut Stoney, the Dallas-raised musician with gold grills and braids does his best to sing-rap his way through an album's worth of woozy R&B-inflected hip-hop. As a fan of rap and its associated culture, Post delivers with moderate respect, careful not to toe the precarious line over which others like Iggy Azalea and Riff Raff have stumbled. Yet, there still seems to be something missing in the calculated white-guy-does-hip-hop formula. Although he plays guitar and is influenced by Tim McGraw as much as Kanye West, Stoney is mostly devoid of that country twang, save for some outlaw grit on "Broken Whiskey Glass" and faint strumming on "Go Flex" (bonus track "Leave" actually captures his true cross-genre nature better than anything here). Mostly, that part of his background only comes through when he chooses to sing. Those tracks -- notably "No Option" and "I Fall Apart" -- work best, featuring strong vocals that quiver when he pushes it to the limit. Guest vocalists and producers like Kehlani ("Feel"), River Tiber ("Cold"), Pharrell Williams ("Up There"), and Quavo and Metro Boomin ("Congratulations") bolster Stoney with both atmosphere and credibility, while tourmate Justin Bieber increases the star power on the sweet "Cha-Cha"/"Hotline Bling"-esque "Deja Vu." Even though most of the songs bleed indistinguishably into one another, the aptly titled album provides an appropriate soundtrack for a certain type of recreational rest and relaxation (even occasionally threatening to sedate the listener). It's competent and listenable, but many others have tread this same path already. Post Malone has a way to go before standing out with his own unique voice, but there are signs on Stoney that it could happen.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung