THE NUMBERS don’t lie, but they can be dizzying.

Post Malone, the singer raised in Grapevine, Texas, became the most streamed artist in the world after the April 2018 release of his album Beerbongs & Bentleys, which opened atop the Billboard 200 chart and was the most streamed album on Apple Music and Spotify. Two of his songs, “Rockstar,” from Beerbongs, and “I Fall Apart,” from his previous album, Stoney, were No. 1 and 2, respectively, among streamed songs.

Those are his U.S. stats, but around the world, his streaming power was even stronger. According to Spotify, global numbers for “Rockstar” alone surpassed 6 million plays per day, easily holding down its top spot. Billboard and Apple Music reported similar stats for the record-breaking artist.

But what kind of music does he play? That’s clearly open for debate, and perhaps a reason for his success. His first single, 2015’s “White Iverson,” was variously described as emo, rap and folk, while the follow-up, “Go Flex,” was termed country, R&B and pop. The musical lines have only become more blurred over time, though he’s most often referred to as a rapper, a label he rejects.

“It should just be music, you know?” Malone argues. He says his aim is to eliminate genre entirely, “because I’ve met so many people who’ll say, ‘I listen to everything except for this … or this.’ And I think that’s stupid. If you like it, you should listen to it.”

Well, as the story goes, Malone’s success has been thoroughly modern. He uploaded “White Iverson” to his SoundCloud page on the night of Feb. 4, 2015. When he went to sleep, he was anonymous and broke. Within a day, the song had changed his life. Like many viral hits, “White Iverson” succeeded in part because it was divisive, inspiring awe and annoyance, bewilderment and mild scorn. The cavernous, slightly melancholy beat conjured both R&B and New Age meditation music. Malone sang with a conviction that seemed strange and unearned, even a bit ridiculous — a white teenager invoking the legendarily tough basketball player Allen Iverson to describe his own triumphs over adversity. It was the sound of a profoundly unlikely victory lap, “swaggin’ ” and “ballin’ ” against all odds. But it worked, and just about everything he’s done since has worked as well.

Even Malone is unsure how to put his success into context. “I don’t understand how I got where I am and how I did it,” he allows. “It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

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