Pop Smoke’s posthumous album “Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon” has arrived, revealing the scope of the young rapper’s versatility.
Pop Smoke might not have been known for his cutting edge bars, but his presence on wax imbued even his simplest lines with gravitas. His gravelly baritone played a pivotal role in that regard, his voice immediately standing out as one of hip-hop’s most distinctive. It also proved surprisingly versatile, capable of uttering a threat in one moment and crooning with surprising emotional depth in another. Perhaps that’s why Pop Smoke was held in such high esteem; considering the fact he was only twenty when he passed away, it’s almost impossible not to dwell on his lost potential.
Today, 50 Cent and Steven Victor put forth Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon, Pop Smoke’s first posthumous album and newest release since Meet The Woo 2 dropped on February 7th. As is often the case, lyrics seemingly predicting a rapper’s own death take on deeper significance when that fateful day actually occurs. Though introductory cut “Bad Bitch From Tokyo” might suggest a different picture, Pop’s verse does feature one of the album’s heavier lines, all things considered. While he doesn’t exactly reflect any further on this encounter, it remains evocative in the mental images it conjures.
I looked my killer in his eyes, yeah, I’m talkin’ face-to-face
My n***a killer caught a body, took it to trial and beat the case
My n***a walked out of court, ha, then hopped in a Wraith
Joseph Okpako/WireImage/Getty Images
In life, Pop Smoke was a man who knew what he wanted. He had vices, to be sure, but he enjoyed unapologetically reveling in them. Women are kept at an arm’s length emotionally speaking, but like any young bachelor in the rap game, Pop Smoke makes sure to keep himself satiated. As he proves on both “Aim For The Moon” and the following track “For The Night,” the fantasies he’s willing to provide have an expiration date.
She wanna Netflix and chill, fuck off the pill
Go in the store, shop at Dior
Come to my crib, take all my shirts
Pop all my Percs and sleep in my drawers
You talkin’ too much, baby, pour up a four
We both bust a nut, now leave me alone
If I call you bae, you bae for the day
Or a bae for the night, you not my wife
She want a killer to fuck all night
Never one to let his guard down, Pop Smoke made sure to keep his enemies on their toes, often taking to dark and brooding drill bangers like “Gangstas” to emphasize his point. Tending to take a direct approach, Pop shrugs off his opposition as simply less than, confident in his prowess in the booth, the streets, and to use his appropriate lingo, wooing the damsels.
Ni**as talkin’ bout they guns, but never shot shit
Might as well put a cap on it, all over with a chopstick
Run up and I’m branding them, take a n*** shoppin’
Reach and I’m branching it ’cause I don’t know who watchin’
It’s a Ginger Ale and Henny day, eased up on the crème brûlée
Johnny Nunez/WireImage/Getty Images
Being that he was only twenty when he passed away, Pop Smoke was far more inclined to live in the present than he was to reminisce on the come-up days. Yet on the Swae Lee-assisted “Creature,” Pop Smoke takes a moment to lift the curtain on his origin story, detailing his hustler’s mentality and the speedbumps that occasionally littered his road to hip-hop stardom.
I remember them days in the trap house
Yeah, it got real in the trap house
I went and did some time in the jail
Because I’d rather take the fast route
Never one to let a little jail time veer him off course, Pop Smoke quickly found pleasure in draping himself in expensive gab. Remember, it’s all about who you know — and though Virgil Abloh may have fallen out of favor with Pop’s fans following the whole album artwork debacle, the man himself seemed to enjoy the benefits of his friendship on “West Coast Shit.”
Gang ties in my tat, .22’s in the shed
Shotgun in my bag, knock off a n***a dreads
Thirty-six karats on my wrist
That mean there’s thirty-six karats on my bitch
Shit, how Virgil got me drippin’
And it’s straight from the faucet in the kitchen
It’s only as the album nears its conclusion that Pop Smoke lets his guard down, taking a page outta his fellow Brooklynite Fabolous and laying down a full-blown love song. At the end of the day it doesn’t take long to veer into x-rated trilogy, but Pop Smoke seems sincere in his efforts to make a strong impression on his potential partner. What’s truly impressive here is his versatility, a quality that would have likely bolstered his crossover potential; perhaps that’s what helped him catch the eye of 50 Cent to begin with, who previously found success tapping into the romance market. Look no further than “What You Know Bout Love.”
Look, baby, I said I ain’t gon’ front
You got my heart beating so fast to words I can’t pronounce
And I be getting the chills every time I feel your touch
I be looking at the top and girl, it’s only us
All I need is your trust, and girl I told you once, don’t make me tell you twice
Last but not least, things come full circle on the album’s outro “Tunnel Vision,” where one particular line takes on an added layer of profundity. What’s left for us to interpret is Pop’s own feelings toward his mortality; it seems as if he understood the possibility that everything he earned could be taken away, but he never quite opened up about how it made him feel. Instead, he chose to cut a formidable cloth, an imposing figure in the booth and beyond. Yet through his music, the full extent of Pop Smoke’s character came to realize itself — even if it is through a posthumous release. Rest in peace to Pop Smoke, and go stream Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon right here.
And it’s all out of nowhere, push me and I’ma go there
All in a second, gun kickin’ like it’s Tekken
I’m a force to be reckoned, I’m God’s perfection
Look, God gave me a lot in some months, but it could go in a second
Joseph Okpako/WireImage/Getty Images