Hello everyone! This piece discusses my reaction & analysis to Pop Smoke’s posthumous, debut studio album “Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon.” Enjoy, and please share it with your friends.
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Right before writing this piece, I received news that five arrests were made in connection to Pop Smoke’s murder.
When I heard that, I was ecstatic.
His killers deserve the hate, retaliation, & prison time they have coming.
They managed to take away a talented artist, one with a tremendous impact in hip-hop, as well as an amazing human being who was beloved by many.
And even though these arrests won’t bring Pop back, finding his killers and handing them the punishment they deserve, is the next best thing.
Now, let’s take a trip down memory lane.
About a year ago, I attended my summer college program at SUNY Oswego. One late Thursday night, I found myself in my residence hall, anticipating the release of Pop Smoke’s first mixtape “Meet The Woo, Vol 1.”
A few months later, again at SUNY Oswego, there I was, eager to listen to Pop’s second mixtape “Meet The Woo, Vol 2”, ahead of its release.
Those two mixtapes share something in common, for me: that raw & gritty Pop Smoke aura. You feel the darkness, toughness, and aggression in his music. You notice his distinctive sound & voice throughout the tracks. And, I had the mixtapes on repeat for weeks.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with his latest & final project.
Let’s be clear, my opinion is in no way, disrespect towards the album’s executive producer, 50 Cent. After all, he has much more experience in the music industry than I.
This is simply MY opinion of the album, from a fan’s perspective, with a few other people’s sprinkled in.
With that being said, let’s begin with the album’s cover art.
The Brooklyn rapper mentioned that his life story felt like “the metaphor of a rose & thorns growing from the concrete of his hood in Canarsie, Brooklyn.”
Given the detailed description shared with Virgil, he significantly underwhelmed with the album’s original cover art.
It felt lazy, rushed, and completed without any passion.
Roki, a high school friend of mine, mentioned how the cover art should’ve told a story, & should’ve had more meaning behind it, highlighting A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie’s “Artist 2.0” as a prime example of that claim.
It felt as if Virgil missed the chance to further tell Pop’s story with both the original cover, and the current one.
The current one is difficult to decipher. From my perspective, the art is merely a rose with Pop’s hands around it.
The all-black background doesn’t make it any easier to understand.
It felt like a missed opportunity to make a statement. And to add insult to injury, there were hundreds of artists that shared their own version of a potential album cover.
And frankly, many of these versions were just plain BETTER than the current one.
As for the actual album, it left a lot to be desired.
For starters, the lack of New York City artist representation was stunning.
But, as I dove deeper into the track-list, I grew a bit bored of listening. Tracks like “Gangstas”, “Creatures”, “Snitching”, & “West Coast Shit” featured a mixture of lackluster features and tracks without substance.
The project underperformed from a feature, & production standpoint. Personally, a handful of the beats utilized, didn’t fit Pop’s style. And, it felt like Pop was overshadowed on some of the tracks.
As mentioned before, “Meet the Woo Vol 1 & 2” included dark and aggressive instrumentals which propelled Pop to stardom, & elevated Brooklyn drill rap to the mainstream.
This album lacked that sound & originality.
However, the project welcomed a few positives.
Despite the lack of a drill sound throughout the project, 50 Cent introduced listeners to a new flow, cadence, & rhythm from Pop.
It was apparent that he was beginning to evolve as an artist.
Those tracks revealed a sweet, melodic flow that catered to his female audience, one we haven’t previously witnessed from Pop.
It was refreshing to see him divert from his typical sound.
It’s a noticeable difference in sound, from the Pop that debuted on the rap scene over a year ago.
Lastly, the project concludes with the standout record, “Got It on Me”.
Now, imagine listening to this song at a concert. It would be crazy right?
“Got It on Me” is a hard-hitting track, & and one of the most-played songs on the album. Despite its drill beat, it’s still ear-friendly to his mainstream audience.
And, you can hear 50 Cent’s influence, as the song draws inspiration from his classic record, “Many Men”.
To wrap up this review, “Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon” was a solid project.
The album experienced its fair shares of hits and misses, which in all reality, is completely fine.
In spite of many being dissatisfied with the project, for numerous reasons, take it as a compliment to Pop’s talent.
When you drop catchy, hit records like Pop did in the past, you expect nothing but excellence with each coinciding project.
Therefore, we expected an album that further cemented Pop’s legacy, as one of the best in the game.
And unfortunately, 50 Cent didn’t deliver.
It doesn’t mean that the album was terrible. After all, it did sell 225 million copies in its first week.
It just means that it fell below it’s reasonably high expectations.
And it’s a bit disappointing, given the fact that this will be the last Pop Smoke album ever released.
Personally, I feel like as a fan, we deserved a more complete project, one to provide us with the proper “goodbye” to the Brooklyn rapper.
To conclude, it’s no question that Pop Smoke was an outstanding talent, who passed too soon.
He was destined to become a star, even outside of music. Before his death, he had auditions in television shows, movies, & much more lined up for him.
Wouldn’t Pop be perfect acting as a villain in a film, similar to Tupac Shakur in the movie “Juice”?. Have you heard his deep voice?
I know I can see it.
It’s a shame that we never got to see his true potential. Unfortunately, we’ll be left wondering, what could’ve been.
Nonetheless, let’s be thankful to have some Pop Smoke music to enjoy.
And with the “Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon” deluxe expected to release soon, it presents 50 Cent, and Pop’s camp the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, and provide fans with more exceptional music.
Because that’s all we asked for.
If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece. And please, share this with your friends!
*Special shoutout to Imani, Kiara, Summer, Raymond, & Moustapha