A year after the release of Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, we received the second posthumous album from Pop Smoke. The first one was a smash hit, proving to be some of his biggest songs to date. Even though they didn’t keep the sound he was known for, it showcased his other talents. A bittersweet victory, but a strong one. So the question became, what other material could possibly be left?
The previous album also had a deluxe attached to it. The deluxe focused more on the drill sound he was known for, having a handful of features from the likes of Dafi Woo & Fivio Foreign. Even on this deluxe however, it really felt like the bottom of the barrel was being scraped. None of the tracks held a candle to his earlier material, and the heavy use of features felt like there were there to fill to full tracks. Some tracks held up to original material like “Iced Out Audemars,” but not many did.
So then comes Faith, which feels like a bastardization of his sound. 50 Cent wasn’t involved in this one, so his influence is absent. Instead it is handled by his manager Steven Victor. You would assume that having a previous personal relationship with Pop would create a more genuine product, yet what he brings is strictly business. All the tracks here sound like they were created in a factory instead of having an authentic sound.
No song here feels finished. “More Time” is a decent intro, but its over quickly. There was clearly only enough material for one verse, so that’s all we get. Leading into “Tell The Vision” is even stranger, the Kanye seems to have an unfinished verse and Pusha tries to flex on Tyler the Creator’s album to promote his own. An album that didn’t even come out that same year.
That song would see another sloppy version on Kanye’s DONDA, where the Pop Smoke verse is mixed awfully. It is actually the same verse, just a worse sounding version. Neither Kanye or Pusha return, it is just a spot for an interlude. To make matters worse, the label clearly meddled in the production side of things. 808Melo revealed the original version, which sounds infinitely better than the version we got.
Many involved in the original songs from the album expressed their concerns, from producers to features. The more that came out about the album, the less of a Pop Smoke it felt. However, that was already clear from the tone of the album itself. Like the song “Manslaughter,” it features this over polished intro from The-Dream & a lush Rick Ross verse. Yet it doesn’t feel like a Pop Smoke song, Pop’s hook is shaky and clearly a reference. The verse he drops sounds like it was recorded to a completely different instrumental.
The bright spots that still feel like original Pop Smoke tracks are the drill tracks. “Brush Em” is one of Pop’s most aggressive songs, supported by Rah Swish trading verses with him. “30” is another with rapper Bizzy Banks, both of them displaying a plethora of gun talk. While these tracks are exceptional, its a shame they ended up this album.
Probably the worst song comes in the form of “Demeanor.” The Pop Smoke hook is his worst to date, which is not his fault due to his death. Its on the fault of the label, this state is not one fans of Pop want to hear him in. While the story from the label is that its one of the last instrumentals he recorded to, which might be true for his hook, the verse had leaked prior to a completely different instrumental. The verse we receive on this song feels like its sped up too, feeling all the more disappointing.
This album is a record label at their worst, completely exploiting any material possible to Frankenstein a release together. The only hope is that Pop Smoke’s mom & family made money, because anything else just feels like slimy business motives. It goes down in history as one of the worst posthumous to grace hip hop, feeling like a mockery rather than a memoriam. While we have some phenomenal albums that will stand the test of time in his discography, this one will unfortunately remain a stain.