Pop Smoke’s First And Last Album Leaves Us Wondering What Could’ve Been

It’s been five months since Pop Smoke’s death and almost a year since the club hits, “Dior” and “Welcome To The Party”, graced our speakers. The rapper then released his debut mixtape, Meet The Woo, and followed up in early February 2020 with, Meet The Woo 2. That was met with heavy criticism from many as his records from both projects tend to stay within the same mold as most drill rappers are known to do. Many wondered if the Brooklyn born rapper was just a one-trick pony but, before Pop Smoke was shot and killed he looked to prove the doubter wrong with this debut album titled, “ Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon”. It looks like from the afterlife the rapper continues to cement his growing status as a legend in New York and the music industry.

In early March rapper, 50 Cent announced plans to produce and finish Pop Smoke’s album. Pushing Pop’s manager Steven Victor to continue the legacy that he was already building. With that, a date was set to release the album in July but was a setback to June due to the Black Lives Matter movement storming the globe. The initial album artwork was to be designed by Virgil Abloh but was scrapped due to backlash from fans for it being not up to par with what is to be expected from the creative director of Louis Vuitton. As well as it being plagiarized from graphic designer Ryder Ripps who has previously worked with Pop Smoke. Changes had to be made quickly and the artwork itself was given to the record label by Ripps on July 2nd only hours before the album’s release.

Now the album itself is filled with features from rap’s biggest names including; Future, Quavo, Swae Lee, Roddy Rich, DaBaby, Lil Baby, and Pop’s mentor 50 Cent. Pop Smoke was able to project his emotion as few artists could at his young age- he could be ruthless and charming the next with a voice that ran deep and reminded you of a classic movie villain. Although Pop had all these features with bigger artists planned he did not forget his roots and the album maintains ties with early collaborations, like British producer 808Melo being featured on the album.

The album is a good mix of classic Pop Smoke joints that are heavy-hitting tracks with aggressive lyrics such as tracks like, “For the Night”, “Got It on Me” and “44 BullDog” but, as the album progresses Pop Smoke seems to be switching his sound with tracks like, “Something Special” and “What You Know Bout Love”, that are odes to 2000s RnB which was surprising to hear from Pop Smoke. It's quite interesting to think about what the rapper could’ve done with his career as the experimenting in new sounds gave a versatility that most rappers do not have. Pop Smoke could get in his R&B bag and this album is the last and only time we’ll be able to listen to Smoke on a record like that. All while keeping that hard-hitting flavor that we have come to know Pop Smoke with, let me know any other artist with that type of range at the age of 20. 

What is special about this album is that Pop Smoke is like a ghost haunting bis own music. On “Creature”, he gets a lone verse as Swae Lee holds down the rest of the track. Future seems to imitate Pop Smoke on “Snitchin”, Quavo raps over adlibs from the Brooklyn rapper on “Aim for the Moon” and DaBaby pays homage to Pop on “For The Night”. These moments only magnify the tragedy behind the album as it is almost like Pop Smoke is there but not really and by the time “Dior” rolls around as a bonus track that is the closest we get to the resurrection.

Pop Smoke is not only set to debut at #1 on the Billboard Top 100, but the late rapper is also putting up astronomical streaming numbers. All tracks from the album debuted with over 1 million streams globally, Pop Smoke was the #1 streamed artist globally on July 3rd with over 40 million listens and not only are 9 of the top 10 songs on the global Apple Music chart every song on the album is on the top 25. 

Yes these numbers are great and the album is a very great album but the thing we’ll always remember this project for is the snapshots of Pop Smoke’s potential that were possibly redone by other vision. It may never be enough, but it’ll have to do. RIP Pop Smoke

Rating: 4/5

Favourite Track: 44 BullDog

Written by Hector Nilo