Posthumous albums reside heavily in the realm of what-ifs and could’ve beens. Like art in a museum, they are presented to the world to enjoy, but unfortunately, without the artist’s presence to proudly stand by their work. Upon their arrival, these albums leave fans wondering a number of things: the heights their beloved artist could have reached, whether or not certain songs were altered, and if the body of work itself is what the artist wanted the world to hear. Pop Smoke’s debut album Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon is riddled with such questions.
Pop Smoke shot like a rocket onto the music scene thanks to his 2019 hit “Welcome To The Party,” which became one of the summer’s most popular releases. His summer 2019 takeover is accentuated by his debut project Meet The Woo and its standout track, “Dior.” Following his 2020 project Meet The Woo 2, Pop Smoke began the process towards his latest release and ensuring another summer takeover, but his death tragically seized that opportunity from him and left fans to grieve and explore the potential the Brooklyn rapper had in store.
With the release of Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon, fans of Pop Smoke were granted the opportunity to put their grieving on pause and celebrate the potential of the blossoming star. Unearthing eighteen new songs, and the aforementioned “Dior” single, Pop Smoke’s posthumous debut album proves the Brooklyn rapper was en route towards another belt buckle-grabbing, hip-swinging summer takeover driven by the drill rap that he helped elevate to mainstream popularity.
Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon welcomes a notable amount of artists into Pop Smoke’s playground to run amuck. Lil Baby and DaBaby join him to fantasize about nighttime occurrences on the sinister track, “For The Night,” while Quavo and Future bring awareness to the traitors of the world on “Snitchin.” Nearly doubling the number of features since his last project, Pop Smoke stands beside some of music’s most popular acts and welcomes them to take part in the demeanor he looks to enforce, even when he doesn’t need the help. “44 Bulldog” and “Gangstas” present hard-nosed efforts that creep around the alleyways under the moon unfazed by the danger that lays ahead.
The hardest pill to swallow that Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon presents is the inability for fans to see Pop Smoke live out his growth as an artist. Meet The Woo 2 failed to exemplify his range and teetered into repetitive territory, a critique that his posthumous debut album solves. Nearing the end of the album, Pop Smoke fulfills a wish to venture into the R&B world with well-executed stabs at love that stays true to Pop Smoke’s sound while bringing in new variety and range. He obsesses over his new partner and their newfound love on “Something Special” before delicately diving into the more intimate sides of his relationship on “What You Know About Love.” Ending the R&B sample trifecta with a confident shot at love on “Diana,” Pop Smoke showcases an ambitious aspiration to give listeners something new and expand his once-narrow lane.
Most posthumous albums aim to bring closure to an unexpected end like pages ripped out of a chapter before it was read. However, Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon seeks to produce something else. Pop Smoke’s posthumous debut album attempts to bring the Brooklyn rapper’s name, sound, and presence to previously untouched corners and uncharted roads once and for all. In addition to catering to the ’90s R&B fan, Pop Smoke looks to appeal to the West Coast and Latin ears respectively with “West Coast Sh*t” and “Enjoy Yourself” while the hip-hop of old is saluted with “Got It On Me” which interpolates 50 Cent’s “Many Men.”
Shooting for the stars is only possible through leaving one’s world and that’s exactly what Pop Smoke did. Avoiding the trappings that come with posthumous albums, this feels like the album Pop aimed to make and wanted the world to receive. While an attempt at a critical favorite may have been expected, Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon focuses more on commercial expansion, making Pop Smoke larger than the life he lived.
Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon is out now via Victor Victor Worldwide and Republic Records. Get it here.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group