The influential artist Pop Smoke, who acted as the face and tastemaker of Brooklyn drill rap, was just twenty years old when a fatal home invasion and shooting ended his life. This was just a few months ago, in February of this year. Although Pop Smoke was just on the rise when he was killed, his debut and posthumous album “Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon” shows just how noticed, loved, and respected Pop Smoke already was in the music industry.
Bashar Jackson, known as Pop Smoke, was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised on those same streets that he channeled artistic energy from. For anyone from the hood of a major city like New York or Chicago, there is a type of energy only they can understand and relate to. Pop Smoke embodied and released this energy into every song, performance, and video. That is both the meaning and the point of drill rap. It is organic, it is provocative, and it gives listeners a look into a world that a lot of people do not truly understand. It flips a world of struggle, gangbang, gun wars, drug dealing, and more into an upbeat and energetic sound. After originating and reigning for years in Chicago, Illinois, the drill rap scene shifted to Brooklyn, and Pop Smoke ruled the scene with charm, cockiness, and good vibes.
Most people’s first time hearing Pop Smoke was in his hit songs “Welcome to the Party,” and “Dior,” both off of his first mixtape “Meet the Woo.” Fans everywhere can remember the first time that they heard one of these songs; the sound on these songs has an instant effect on hip-hop lovers that makes them literally feel the energy in Pop’s voice. This funneling of energy is what turned Pop Smoke into the world-renowned artist that sold out shows in London, and hung out with some of hip-hop’s biggest names like Migos, Travis Scott, and A-Boogie. His connections and growth led him to his second mixtape that released right before his death. As fans partied and did the signature Brooklyn leg-kicking dance to the lines “Bitch I’m a thot, get me lit” and “Christian Dior, Dior,” they never thought that it would end so soon.
“Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon” is more than a typical posthumous album that is just to profit off of the unreleased music that the artist left. Executive produced by Pop Smoke’s mentor 50 Cent, the album’s sound is versatile and highly polished. One song like “44 BullDog” may be provocative, grimy, and truly a taste of how Pop Smoke’s music started out, another song like “West Coast Shit” may have a laid-back and party-ready West Coast infused sound, and another song like “Enjoy Yourself” may be melodic and make listeners instantly get in their feelings. This variety of sound was something that Pop Smoke did not get to fully dive into yet. Therefore, 50 Cent’s production really shows vision, care, and guidance, and most importantly, knowledge of what Pop would have wanted. The sound receives a 10/10 on our Intersect 1-10 rating scale.
On top of its versatile and polished sound, “Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon” features Pop Smoke rapping about things that you would not hear him rapping out before. For example, for the longest, Pop Smoke truly only rapped about guns, shoot outs, and money, which is typical for a drill-rapper. But, this shift to more melodic songs where he raps about girls, falling in love, and sex is truly a development that reflects where Pop Smoke was in his career. Before he passed, Pop was crossing into a different chapter where he was hanging out and working with bigger names, traveling a lot, and even spent way more time in Los Angeles than New York. Because of this change in topics, “Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon” gives a taste of where Pop Smoke was heading and where he could have eventually been as an artist. The rapping receives a 10/10 on our Intersect 1-10 rating scale.
THE ART BEHIND THE ALBUM
“Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon” is not just feature-packed, but packed with features from artists that Pop genuinely grew close to and earned respect from later in his career. A recurring feature on the album is Quavo, the most well-known rapper out of the rap group Migos. Quavo became a big brother to Pop as he grew bigger. They spent a lot of time in the studio together, and Pop said in multiple interviews that he learned a lot from Quavo. Along with Quavo, we see features from Pop’s mentor 50 Cent (who does not even rap anymore typically), Diddy’s son King Combs, and other huge artists that respect Pop like Lil Baby, Dababy, Swae Lee, Future, Tyga, Lil Tjay, and more. The fact that these huge names showed up and worked on this album shows how highly-respected Pop was and are also the biggest reasons why “Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon” doubles as both a posthumous album and a tribute album to the life and accomplishments of Pop Smoke. The art behind the album receives a 10/10 on our Intersect 1-10 rating scale.
MY FAVORITE TRACKS ON THE ALBUM
44BullDog, Make It Rain, West Coast Shit
APPLE MUSIC'S TOP TRACKS ON THE ALBUM
Aim for the Moon, For the Night, Gangstas, The Woo, Something Special, Got It On Me
Pop’s music and energy will carry on forever, and “Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon” makes this even more possible because it taps into where he was headed in his music career. Overall, “Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon” receives a 10/10 on our Intersect 1-10 rating scale. Listen to the album below.