Pop Smoke's First And Final Album Falls Between Two Worlds
It's been five months since Pop Smoke's death and just over a year since "Welcome to the Party," the first single of his debut mixtape, Meet the Woo, began snaking through the firmament. Then it was joined by the even more irresistible "Dior." That music remains an artifact of the New York summer — the songs that once soundtracked the city's revelry have now been refashioned for protest, which only further cements his growing legend. In the studio, though, these hits were what he was up against. YouTube The biggest critique of Pop's music, and the element that naysayers honed in on, was the homogeneity of his songs. Some wondered if he was a one-trick pony, skeptical that his voice could grow from its Canarsie roots to transcend the sonic signatures of Brooklyn drill, a spinoff of Chicago's homegrown subgenre, set to production inspired by the U.K.'s iteration of it and punched up with New York attitude. Before Pop, born Bashar Barakah Jackson, was shot and killed in a home invasion on Feb. 19, at the age of 20, he'd clearly set out to prove them wrong. Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon, his debut, arrives as a tribute and a sendoff, but also as a glimpse of the infinite. Many of the songs — Pop's contributions to them anyway — feel incomplete, like directions for the roads he'd intended to travel. Pop's deep, baritone snarl was his instrument, and affixed a soulful quality to the sinister sound of his drill. It exists here on songs like "Aim For The Moon" and "44 Bulldog," which are continuations of the music that made him so beloved. The former takes into account the success he was only beginning to see, and thus has a triumphant sheen to it; the latter is vintage villainy that mirrors his earliest releases. Often, though, his voice shapeshifts into softer, more silvery versions of itself. The syrupy hook of "For The Night" stands out from Pop's usual fare, and "Yea Yea" thrusts his menace against a decidedly genial backdrop, to striking effect. Sometimes he's singing more so than rapping; sometimes it's as if he's simply trying to find new ways to pull tones from his vocal cords. On "Gangstas," "The Woo" and "Mood Swings," he sounds scarily like 50 Cent (one of the features on "The Woo" and an executive producer of the album), who came to the brink of death and returned with a new voice.