Pop Smoke, Brooklyn’s favorite son and leader of the new wave of Brooklyn drill, was tragically murdered during a home invasion on February 20th, 2020. He leaves behind two extended mixtapes ‘Meet the Woo’ and ‘Meet the Woo 2’ as well as a posthumous album Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon whose deluxe version was released on July 20th for what would have been the rapper’s 21st birthday. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, a first in hip hop for a posthumous album debut and joins the likes of 2Pac, Biggie and more recently, XXXTentacion and Juice WRLD.
While Pop Smoke may have embodied the subgenre superstar, garnering the undivided love and appreciation of his locale, the artist was poised for international stardom. Steadily climbing the hip hop charts and driven by his unmistakable baritone, Pop Smoke was a fearless importer of the drill sound; a subgenre of hip hop originating in Chicago’s West side and further embraced by East London. His knack for introducing these foreign sounds to the New York scene was a rarity for the city, which, since hip hop’s creation, remained hyper insular. This rarified combination broke custom and produced a star the likes of which the city hasn’t seen since 50 Cent.
Sadly, Pop Smoke, wouldn’t witness the cultural significance of his music, including his super-maximalist track “Dior” which became an anthem for the recent George Floyd protests, entering the modern canon of protest songs.
The deluxe version of Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon includes 15 new tracks including two collaborations with Nigerian superstars Davido and Burna Boy. These features are a further testament to Pop Smoke’s unabashed importation of sounds into the New York scene and his global ambitions.
’Tsunami’’ featuring Davido, could very well have been a Pop Smoke feature. The song is all highlife and Pop Smoke sits comfortably in the pocket, embracing his softer side that had multiple appearances on the new project.
‘Enjoy Yourself’ featuring Burna Boy closes out the 34 track deluxe which originally featured Colombia’s KAROL G. Here, Burna Boy, known for his sonic flexibility, is the one who brings his Afro sound to the Brooklyn crockpot.
Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon is well earned but tragic reminder of a superstar’s career cut short by violence. Fans who are inspired by the continued flirtations between African musicians and American hip-hop will surely be disappointed that we won’t get to see what would have been with the outgoing Pop Smoke and artists off the continent.
R.I.P. Pop Smoke and thank you for the short lived but massive legacy of music.