To be honest, I really don’t feel comfortable doing reviews of albums that came out after the artist has passed away. I did make an exception for the Mac Miller record that came out this year because it was supposed to be a sister album(and was written in conjunction with) to the last album released while he was alive. I don’t think I’m going to be doing any other posthumous album reviews, though, because I can’t be confident the artist who has passed would be 100% okay with the final tracklist and final cuts from the record. Instead of doing an actual review, I’m going to talk about my favorite tracks from Pop Smoke’s new posthumous release Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon. It would honestly probably be easier to just do a normal review of this project than pick my favorite songs; this album is honestly so good, and there are so many great songs. For those who don’t know, Pop Smoke was one of the hottest rising Hip Hop artists in the game. He was the leader of the fast-rising Drill Music movement that has been becoming big in New York; this sound is a derivative of the UK Grime music scene. Pop Smoke may have actually been bigger in the UK than he was in the United States at the time of his passing. Unfortunately, back in February, Pop Smoke was shot and killed during a home invasion by four men at his residence in the Hollywood Hills. He was only 20 years old. Pop Smoke was one of the most fun and unique up and coming artists in Hip Hop, and it is a real tragedy that he can’t continue to live on and contribute to the culture. I really think he was going to be one of the biggest artists in the next 10 years. He just had it. With all of that being said, here is a list of my favorite songs from Pop Smoke’s Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon. One caveat is that I did not include his smash hit ‘Dior’ on this list even though it is a bonus track; ‘Dior’ is a total banger, and it definitely is one of my favorite Pop Smoke songs still to this day. One more caveat is that I really could have written about more songs because like I said there are so many great ones. My three biggest Honorable Mentions would probably be ‘What You Know About Love'(which samples Ginuwine’s ‘Differences’), ‘Gangstas,’ and ‘Creature’ featuring Swae Lee. RIP Pop Smoke.
AIM FOR THE MOON FEAT. QUAVO
Ever since the Migos popped off in the early 2010s and became the blueprint for Pop-Trap music, Quavo has been one of the biggest certified tastemakers in the game. Everything he seems to touch when it comes from the music industry turns to gold, and anyone with his co-signing is usually the next big thing in Trap music. Considering Quavo is actually featured on three songs from this project, I would say he and Pop had awesome chemistry and that he thought Pop Smoke was great. ‘Aim For the Moon’ is my favorite out of the songs including Quavo from this project. This track has an undeniable NY Drill sound to it that is obviously an ode of you will to the UK Grime sound. I could see UK legends like Wiley or Stormzy killing this instrumental just as easily as Pop Smoke and Quavo do. This Drill sound is so intense yet so intricate; although the instrumental sounds like the theme song to a horrible gang war, it is easy to hear how complicated the layering of this instrumental is, which is super cool. Pop Smoke used with so much emphasis and force on this track that it obvious who was the king of his castle. The chorus of this song is so nice and catchy yet so forceful in your face. I love hearing Pop Smoke and Quavo growl: Shoot for the stars, aim for the moon. You ain’t cool ‘til I say you cool… If you have never heard Pop Smoke before and need an intro into Drill music, this song is a great place to start.
FOR THE NIGHT FEAT. LIL BABY AND DABABY
‘For The Night’ is a song that I am very confident will be a hit. Out of everything on this record, this song probably has the greatest amount of longevity for the Pop-Trap world. Considering this song’s quality and its features, it would actually surprise me if this track does not make it to number one. Neither Dababy nor Lil Baby seem like they are able to do any wrong in 2020. These two have been dominating the charts this year, both with singles and with features. The fact that they are both on the same track makes it pretty much certain that this song will blow up. I love the funky guitar riffs that provide the melody for this simple Trap beat. Nothing about the instrumental is overly exciting, but it does accentuate the talents of all three artists very nicely. Neither Dababy nor Lil Baby really do anything special in this song to make it special, but they both do contribute what they are best at to this song to make it bang. In other words, Dababy provides overt smoothness and confidence with nasty flows and Lil Baby provides crooning vocals with hard bars. One thing that is special to note about this song is Pop Smoke’s singing performance. His voice sounds great on this track, it is another example of how diverse of an artist he was. ‘For The Night’ is a song I expect to be singing along in clubs to for a long time.
’44 Bulldog’ is a song that is meant for people that are already big fans of Pop Smoke or people that love Drill and Grime music. This track is easily one of the toughest, gruffest, dirty, and hard-hitting songs on this record. There are not many songs(besides maybe ‘Gangstas’ and ‘Dior’) that can compare to the levels of dirtiness and forcefulness that ’44 Bulldog’ provides. At only 2 minutes and 30 seconds, this track provides a hell of a punch. Besides the super dark and heavy and foreboding Drill production, another thing that adds to the weight of the track is all of the ad-libs, which are all various gun noises. When you hear this beat hear these ad-libs and become immersed in Pop Smoke’s flow, it is easy to feel the rising levels of dark emotions that permeate through this song. This section of the chorus makes the meaning of this song very apparent: 44 Bulldog, make ’em get back. I ain’t with the talk or the chit chat. All you hatin’ ass n****s better sit back or you gon’ be the next one to get they shit snatched… 44 Bulldog is a song that is mainly for fans of Pop Smoke’s or fans of drill rap in general. It is not a song for the faint of heart, but if you like some of Pop Smoke’s other harder songs I highly recommend this one.
‘Yea Yea’ is the first song on this record that takes a complete left turn from what would be expected of Pop Smoke. The melody and overall feeling of this song actually have a mid-1990s R&B sound to it. In fact, apart from the underlying heavy bass and Trap beat, the sound of ‘Yea Yea’ reminds me a lot of 90s artists like TLC or En Vogue. This is the type of song where I can see a lot of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s influence in Pop Smoke. ODB was known for trying all kinds of new sounds as well as embracing Pop and R&B tendencies, always keeping a gruff and dirty demeanor to remind you that even though he could be soft, he was still a killer. Pop Smoke is very similar to ODB in this way. Even though he can excel in replying over any kind of instrumental, he will always let you know who he is through his presence on the track. Even though ‘Yea Yea’ sounds like it should be sweeter and softer, this track is still very gruff and tough. The meaning of this song is expressed very well through the chorus: It’s a whole lotta Glocks. Mops, TECs. Shots, dots. Knots, rocks. Ooters, ooters. Shooters, shooters. Rugers, Rugers. Know a nigga cooler than a cooler…Lyrically, this track is hard as hell, even if the melody makes it seem otherwise. ‘Yea Yea’ is easily one of my favorite songs from this record. In fact, it may turn into a huge hit just because of how much I personally have been listening to it.
MAKE IT RAIN FEAT. ROWDY REBEL
Similar to the song ’44 Bulldog,’ if you’re a fan of Pop Smoke’s “Woo” NY Drill sound that is inspired by UK Grime, ‘Make It Rain’ is a song you will love as well. This song is so hard-hitting and so tough that they even got Rowdy Rebel to contribute a verse via prison to give it that extra kick and amount of pressure. ‘Make It Rain’ is not a song for the faint of heart; if you do not know about and have not listened to much NY Drill or Grime music, this song would probably sound way too intense for you. The intensity and energy of this track are what make it so great, though. It gives the listener a feeling of aggression that they didn’t know they needed. This would be a perfect song to listen to before getting into a big fight because it will fill you with energy in a way you didn’t know was possible. The melody of this song is perfectly low key and just foreboding enough to make this track sound extra grand and large. ‘Make It Rain’ is another song with multiple kinds of gun noises used for the ad-libs. Like I keep saying, everything about ‘Make It Rain’ is tough and mean and fun and high energy. ‘ Make It Rain’ is probably not the kind of song for the casual Hip Hop listener, but fans of Drill music or super hard Trap music should love it for sure.
THE WOO FEAT. 50 CENT AND RODDY RICCH
I’m not going to lie, as with a lot of posthumous albums, some of the features on this album seem a bit forced. When a rapper dies and has an album on the way, a lot of artists who never got the chance to work with that deceased rapper will try to jump on the album. You can debate whether or not the artists do this out of respect for the deceased or if they do it to capitalize off of someone who’s name is in the news. Regardless of intention, these kinds of features usually turn out sloppy and end up hurting the record’s quality. ‘The Woo’ which features Roddy Ricch and 50 Cent, does not fit into that mold at all. This whole track was almost certainly recorded before Pop Smoke passed because the chemistry of these three artists and the way they flow together makes it seem like that has to be so. The melody of this song almost has a West Coast G-Funk feeling, albeit with a bass-heavy and dirty Drill undertone. This is definitely ironic, because there is an actual song on this project called ‘West Coast Shit,’ and this song is better. It is really cool to hear 50 and Pop Smoke on the same song together because Pop obviously got a ton of inspiration from 50. Of course, Roddy Ricch does his thing on this song as well, with his clean vocals being a nice palette cleanser from how gruff 50 Cent and Pop Smoke are. ‘The Woo’ is one of the biggest “can’t miss” songs from this record.
GOT IT ON ME
The last track on my list of the best songs from Aim For The Stars, Shoot For The Moon is an ode to one of Pop Smoke’s biggest inspirations, the aforementioned 50 Cent. ‘Got It On Me’ is a sample of one of 50 Cent’s greatest hits, ‘Many Men.’ in fact, the chorus of this track takes some if the lyrics from the chorus of ‘Many Men.’ He even actually go 50 to sing on the chorus of this song. If you think about it, ‘Got It On Me’ is sort like an updated drill version of ‘Many Men.’ This track is almost certain to be a smash hit. It is super catchy and has a nice Pop appeal to it, it samples a very popular and classic song, and Pop Smoke was absolutely in his bag while rapping on this instrumental. Pop Smoke would definitely excel in the kind of production that came out if New York in the early 2000s. His voice and demeanor were so rough but so smooth, just like the instrumentals from this era. ‘Got It On Me’ is an excellent example of this. All in all, it is a straight up smash hit and highlights a lot of the best elements of Pop Smoke’s artistry. There’s nothing more to say about ‘Got It On Me’ besides reiterating that it is awesome. This track will go down as one of the most popular songs from this project, and it will be one that I will be listening to consistently for a long time.
A couple of the best things about this album are all of the phenomenal samples and Pop Smoke’s ability to rap over these old school instrumentals. As much as Pop Smoke was made for modern Trap and Drill beats through this larger than life and super gritty demeanor and vocal style, he seems to have been able to excel over old school beats just as easily. His ability really was very timeless and he had potential to do so many great and so many different things. ‘Something Special’ is an awesome example of Pop Smoke killing it on a style of instrumental that one would not expect him to rap on. This song uses a sample from the timeless track ‘So Into You’ by Tamia and Fabolous, which is one of my favorite songs from the 2000s(and maybe one of my favorite songs of any era). If you somehow don’t know it, ‘So Into You’ is a sweet and soft R&B song that is very cute and very loving. It is the kind of song that you would throw on if you’re trying to set the mood with your lady or man. ‘Something Special’ follows the formula of the original to a T, as this song is also a love song by a gangster to his boo. Pop Smoke shows on this song that he had a sweet side to him and wasn’t always in the mood to be a cold-blooded killer. I mean, every killer needs someone to hold them down and keep them sane. ‘Something Special’ is not the kind of song one would expect from Pop Smoke, but it is excellent for what it is and so necessary.