Updated: Dec 28, 2020
Pop Smokes new posthumous album 'Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon' is finally here. After unfortunately earlier in the year being shot dead in a home invasion, the young rapper's career was cut short. A drill rapper with tonnes of potential joined a list of those taken too soon, so 50 Cent took it upon himself to executively produce this album and get it out there for his fans - and after in my opinion dropping one of the worst projects of 2020 earlier on in the year, could he redeem himself here?
Firstly, the production on this album is pretty great - it bangs and at times creates the right atmosphere. The beats are also more versatile on this album than previous beats with some being darker such as '44 BullDog', which has this hard piano and a hard trap style which sounds pretty good but other than the hook (which I like because of his flow), there isn't much else I enjoy - it just sounds like a standard, generic Pop Smoke song you'd find on his last 2 projects. Other beats are also lighter, like the 50 Cent & Roddy Ricch assisted 'The Woo' which has this tropical guitar as the rappers talk on sex, girls and flexing. Roddy's classic melody sounds amazing over this beat as 50 gives us a great verse with an on point melodic flow and some solid lines, "Like, "When you gon' fly me in private, so I can land on that dick? // "She said, "Tricks is for kids", she don't fall for the tricks // She can handle her own, she just want some dick". Pop's melodic delivery is great on the hook, and the whole song is amazing and just such a vibe. The key elements of the production includes synth/guitar bass', sliding 808s, guitars and trap elements. The beat on 'Something Special' contains this catchy, deep guitar bass with a loved up atmosphere which is captured perfectly by Pop Smoke, as he sings a love song for a girl. The lyrics are alright on this track, and the song is great due to Pop's vocals and his smooth flow which really go towards capturing the correct mood. Another great beat is on the track 'Got It on Me', which has this dramatic, dark and suspenseful beat that goes hard as Pop Smoke flips 50 Cent's 'Many Men' hook to ask God for mercy on those trying to kill him as he looks for revenge. I love the hook and it's a good song overall.
Pop Smoke himself tends to recycle lyrics and re-word a lot of the same phrases a lot. He's quite bland, basic and generic lyrically with average punchlines throughout - but that's not where the attention is for Pop Smoke's music. The appeal is in his husky, deep delivery which has always been something I'm a fan of - it sounds good over every beat he's selected and even if I wasn't a fan of his old projects - I always loved his delivery. "Shoot for the stars (Shoot, shoot, shoot) // Aim for the moon (For the moon) // You ain't cool (You ain't cool), 'til I say you cool", he says on 'Aim for the Moon' which is kind of hard I suppose, as Quavo partners him with a decent enough feature over these sliding 808s and crazy beats. The beats fire, the hook is catchy, the feature's nice and the verses are mean - it's a good song. An example of his basic punchlines comes from the track 'Mood Swings' as he says "She taste like candy // She a queen, like Nefertiti". The beat on this track is pretty bland as Pop Smoke & Lil Tjay rap about a girl they like. Tjay's verse is decent but nothing crazy with pretty shallow lyrics too, so yeah while it isn't bad it also isn't memorable. It's a very bland track with tasteless melodies throughout. Average doesn't always mean it can't make you laugh though, as Pop Smoke proves with the line "Somebody call Batman, I'm robbin' (Brrt)" on 'West Coast Shit'. The party, West Coast vibe of this track and piano contrast well for a great beat as they talk on West Coast topics of girls and money. Tyga provides a solid verse as Quavo again demonstrates his chemistry with Pop Smoke and is a great addition to the hook - which is so addicting and it's a fun, great song.
This album is jam packed with features as most posthumous albums are, and the majority of these are decent and well fitted, like I could see them being on a Pop Smoke album. Future and Quavo both turn up on the track 'Snitching' over these heavenly synths, twinkling bells and a catchy guitar melody. Quavo matched the beat so well while Future's flow was catchy and he even tries a Pop Smoke impression at some point during his verse. The tracks just about their hate for snitches, as the whole song is enjoyable and catchy and everybody really puts a shift in. Swae Lee's feature on 'Creature' is also decent, he mumbled his hook but it sounded alright. His lyrics were a bit basic at times, "I put plates on my whip, it's a rocket ship (Rocket)". Pop Smoke had some funny lines in this track, "I put plates on my neck, like tectonics (Ooh) // I back out and nut on her titty", overall it was a decent song but just a bit passive. There was also some forgettable features, such as Lil Baby & DaBaby on 'For the Night'. Lil Baby was mixed a little too quiet again just like on a few features now, and his feature was just a typical Baby feature while DaBaby sounded alright but once again it was a typical DaBaby guest verse. The flute/guitar based beat suited both artists featured, as well as the heavy synth bass and sliding 808s (even if I found the flute a little bit generic), it was a decent enough song overall but just a bit forgettable. KAROL G's feature on 'Enjoy Yourself' is nice, she has enjoyable vocals despite me not understanding a word she says, but again this track is pretty average - not as good as the previous or even the love songs following this one. 'Diana' features King Combs (Diddy's son) and he provides great charisma in his verse as it's another track about a girl he likes, but despite an alright hook, once again it's just not as good or as catchy or even as heart warming as other love songs on here.
Content wise it's what you expect from Pop Smoke - guns, shooting people up and flexing - and it isn't really interesting, one example being the track 'Make It Rain'. It doesn't make the track bad though, as Pop Smoke reverts to his usual style over this heavy drill beat - and despite following the generic formula of a Pop Smoke song it bangs so what can I say. Rowdy Rebel also gives us a verse from prison phoned in and it actually sounds good, his flow was nice and pronunciation was appealing so yeah, a great song. There are also a lot more love songs on this album which was a nice switch up to see, such as the song 'What You Know Bout Love', which has a loved up beat, as well as that Pop Smoke gives a great melodic performance giving it a catchy sound and a groovy vibe.
Other tracks to look at include the opener 'Bad Bitch from Tokyo (Intro)', where he flexes his wealth over this heavy synth bass and banging trap beat - it seemed a bit unfinished and seemed very pointless though despite the fact it sounded good. 'Gangstas' is arguably my least favourite track, because it's meant to be lowkey over this piano beat but the lack of energy he gives over this generic instrumental just makes it extremely forgettable and boring. 'Tunnel Vision (Outro)' shows us this classic Pop Smoke drill beat, as he reflects on the success he's grown to have, it also comes with some eerie lyrics with all considered "Look, God gave me a lot in some months, but it could go in a second". There's not enough energy to the track however and it's a bit tame. The outro at the end was a nice touch as Pop Smoke talked about wanting to change the rap game (which he may end up just doing with his unique style). The finale in 'Dior' has been on Pop Smoke's previous two mixtapes, it has definitely grown on me but there's no point talking on it again (even if my feelings have changed).
To conclude, Pop Smoke shows a lot more versatility on this project - compared to his other tapes which all sounded the same hence why I didn't really like them. There's more melodic ballads here, and not as many drill tracks which tend to use this repetitive formula. I was actually surprised that I enjoyed this, it was just full of great songs as well as some songs that fall flat too (if it was trimmed down it probably would be in my top 10 favourite of the year). He proved he wasn't so one dimensional - and that R&B style I also like better (mainly found in the second half which I enjoy more). All I can say is RIP to a young man taken too soon, this album showed he had so much more to give and so much potential, it's just sad the way it all had to end.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: For the Night, Yea Yea, Creature, Snitching, Make It Rain, The Woo, West Coast Shit, Enjoy Yourself, Mood Swings, Something Special, What You Know Bout Love, Diana, Got It on Me, Dior
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: Gangstas
OVERALL RATING: Solid 8/10
*REVISED SCORE: Review may not match favourite tracks and overall rating because I've since re-listened and changed my score.*