The idea of a posthumous debut album sounds like a bad joke, but that’s what Pop Smoke has just released. Pop Smoke, the 20-year-old Brooklyn drill phenom, had just released Meet The Woo 2, his second mixtape, when he was murdered in Los Angeles earlier this year. At the time, Pop Smoke was at an exciting stage in his career — a local superstar who was just starting to find a global audience. Since his death, Pop Smoke has become something of an icon, and his music has gained more resonance. Today, Pop Smoke’s managers have released Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon, his first proper album.
It’s not entirely clear how much of Shoot For The Stars was finished when Pop died. His manager Steven Victor was tweeting about getting guest-verse recordings earlier this year, and there was also a whole controversy about the cover art. Virgil Abloh, the famed fashion designer who’d gotten to know Pop shortly before his death, designed a stunningly lazy cover, and after a fan outcry, Victor claimed that the cover art would be changed. It has been; Shoot For The Stars now has the stark and simple image of a rose that you see above.
On first listen Shoot For The Stars is a glimpse at the kind of crossover artist that Pop could’ve been if he’d survived. The album’s basic sound mostly relies on the kind of Brooklyn and London drill that Pop made during his short career, with London producer 808Melo, one of Pop’s most frequent collaborators, handling most of the tracks. But the album also includes work with bigger, more mainstream rap producers like DJ Mustard and Buddah Bless. It also features a ton of guest verses from many of the current biggest names in rap music: Lil Baby, DaBaby, Roddy Ricch, Future, Tyga, Swae Lee, a whole lot of Quavo. None of the guests come from the Brooklyn drill scene that Pop represented. Only a few of them, including exec producer 50 Cent, even come from New York. (The new single “Got It On Me” is also heavily based on the 50 classic “Many Men.”)
We’ve already posted first single “Make It Rain,” which features a literally phoned-in verse from incarcerated Brooklyn rapper Rowdy Rebel, who’s been in prison for Pop Smoke’s entire career. Right now, you can hear the whole album. Stream it below.
Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon is out now on Republic.