Not even three weeks after his well-received “Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon“, Pop Smoke’s management has decided to release 12 brand new songs to celebrate the late rapper’s 21st birthday. While the standard version of the project was satisfying, adding a whole other album’s length worth of songs can be detrimental. Knowing the circumstances of its creation, will this record tarnish Pop Smoke’s legacy?
We get a well-balanced blend of the melodic sound seen on the standard version while also getting a fair amount of the ruthless anthems we all know and love the Brooklyn mc for. The intro track “Hotel Lobby” starts things off on a bang as Pop talks about people putting a price on his head. On top of that, he pays homage to the 50 Cent song “If I Cant”, which makes everything feel even more laborious. The song “Showin Off,” is an action-filled two-part track where Fivio Foreign teams up with Pop for a spine chilling banger. Some of the songs are noticeably unrefined like “Iced Out Audemars” as the mixing of Pop Smoke’s vocals sounds off-kilter and clunky. “Woo Year” was on the more enjoyable side of things as Pop is using a more psychedelic style blended with the aggressive undertone he is stapled with. There’s a lot of cuts on this album which aren’t bad but make me scratch my head like “Tsunami” with Davido and “Backseat” featuring PnB Rock. The song “Paranoia” was one of the more engaging ones but still felt disappointing as the phenomenal Pusha T verse was left off due to his personal gripes with Young Thug. “Hello” with A Boogie wit da Hoodie is one of the other salvageable songs as the two declare their dominance over the current New York trap scene. Overall, the deluxe album definitely has its moments, but I don’t think it is the best representation of everything Pop Smoke embodied.
Sonically, the deluxe tracks complement Pop and his featured artists, but they don’t do anything to further the album forward. Songs like “Showin Off, Pt 2” and “Woo Year” are embodiments of the type of sound you would expect on an album like this, while cuts like “Tsunami” and “Backseat” have a 2000s r&b feel to them. “Hotel Lobby” was a definite standout as its string-based instrumental has plenty of build-up and dramatic tone changes. I had my problems with “She Feelin Nice”, but its modern dancehall beat is undeniably catchy. “Paranoia” has my favorite instrumental on the album as its smooth trap beat has a menacing undertone. The rest of the instrumentals are either hit or miss as they create the soundtrack for Pop Smoke to display his two polar opposite styles. All in all, the production is enjoyable here, but its nothing memorable.
“Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon Deluxe” was a heartfelt effort to honor Pop Smoke on his birthday but, most of the songs feel like throwaways, which should have never reached the surface. Pop doesn’t do anything bad, particularly, but between the random features and mediocre production, it feels more of a compilation than a singular body of work. Going forward, I don’t know what could be left in the vault of Pop Smoke, but I hope the rest of his unreleased catalog is handled right. I’m not mad that we got this by any means but, the original piece we got was more than enough to pay tribute to one of hip hop’s brightest stars.