Have you ever seen a shooting star?
It stays in the sky for a fleeting moment, and you can’t help but watch it as it blazes through the heavens, only to disappear, leaving mystery in its wake.
Pop Smoke was a shooting star. His career was brief, but so dazzling that every single song on his posthumously released debut album charted on the Billboard Hot 100.
Smoke was an alchemist, fusing UK Drill with Canarsie Charisma which lead him to Paris with Virgil, and into Bugattis with Travis Scott.
Stars is a versatile album. It has trap anthems, melodically focused tomes, and even love songs sampling legendary tracks such as Genuwines Difference’s. Though unnecessary features make it a claustrophobic experience, it was seemingly made for playlists.
Inherently, posthumous albums are dicey undertakings. What would the artist have included? What would they have left out? Would they agree with the artistic direction (see the Virgil Abloh album cover fiasco).
What we are left with here is a series of projections. Had Smoke lived past 20 and completed his album, this is what it ~might~ have sounded like.
It’s fitting that 50 cent was the executive producer. Pop Smoke was his logical predecessor, his protege. They both came from New York, both have hulking voices which lend themselves neatly to emotional ballads. Both were ensnared in rap’s underworld. One survived.
Pop Smoke’s album is a study of duality. Smoke broke down barriers, and brought UK Drill to Brooklyn, and Brooklyn to the world. Tragically, the same forces he was trying to escape are the ones that lead to his demise. Recall that the NYPD pulled Pop Smoke from the line up of Rolling Loud because of his affiliations with Brooklyn gangs. That same affiliation was the likely cause of his death.
On stars, raps brightest star aimed for the moon and created his own constellation.