First Listen #17: Pop Smoke’s ‘Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon’

So. The unfortunate truth is that I’ve never heard a full Pop Smoke song before listening Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon (2020). The most he existed in my life was through the occasional playing of his music on the Twitch streams that I watch and the utter irritation that I felt after seeing that literal trash of an (initial) album cover that Virgil Abloh made for this project. All I know about him other than those little snippets was how much promise he had. In every form I’ve seen him in, people have spoke – and dreamed about – where he would be if he had another ____ years and where the Brooklyn drill scene would be with Pop’s music being partly at the helm of moving that genre forward. It really sucks that he didn’t get the opportunity to do more.

Photo Credit:

2020: Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon

(via Genius)

Overall, I thought the project was decent! I read – in this article from Pitchfork – that Pop’s debut mixtape didn’t have any features, and there was the question of whether or not it was necessary to include the features. Coming at this with zero experience listening to Pop’s music, I didn’t hate the inclusion of the features. I think that it’s not uncommon for there to be a lot of features on a posthumous album, though I guess a slightly strange part of that is that some of those features (or maybe all? But I’m just going off of what I heard) where recorded for the tracks after Pop died. So Pop’s vocals were already done and then the featured artist’s vocals were added later. So for the songs where that’s the case, it does come off a bit “let me get in on this album that I know is gonna blow up.” I have the same push and pull that I have with all the songs that came out after George Floyd’s death. On one hand, I love Black artists using their music to speak out about racism and injustice (I mean, hip hop was built on that), but on the other hand it felt like capitalizing off of a movement, especially for artists who have never made music like that. The features on this project felt a little like that. But I did like hearing the different features overall (although they were of varying quality). I really enjoyed Roddy Ricch on “The Woo” and Swae Lee on “Creature.”  Lil Baby’s verse on “For the Night” and Quavo’s feature on “Aim for the Moon” were also solid.

I did some wrong, but I’m always right

Said I know how to shoot, and I know how to fight

If I tell you once, won’t tell you twice

I’m real discreet, like a thief in the night

Pop Smoke, “For the Night”

I thought Pop sounded good; there were a couple of songs towards the end of the project that I didn’t really like, but that’s what happens when an album is 19 songs long (we’ll get to that at the end). I don’t really have a lot of songs from him to go off of, but I can imagine that he sounds just as good on this as he did on his other projects. Some of the production of the project did feel a little bit repetitive, though. I listened to “Dior” for the first time before listening to Shoot for the Stars, and it felt like a lot of the songs on the project (especially at the beginning of it) sounded like “Dior.” Towards the middle and end of the project it felt like the production kind of came out of that “Dior”-loop, and it was nice to hear Pop over some different beats. I will add, though, that I kind of wish that they didn’t include “Dior” as a bonus track on the project. It reminds me of how “Old Town Road” was on Lil Nas X’s project – it feels a bit like being beat over the head with a song that people already know is good. 

Re: there being 19 songs on the project: there were too many songs. The project still came in under an hour, but the 19 songs made the project feel like it was going on forever. Again, this is coming from someone who has never listened to a Pop Smoke song before, but I really wish they would have trimmed this project down a lot more. 10-12 songs max. That would have felt like they were truly giving us the best of Pop Smoke, rather than capitalizing off of his death by including as many songs as possible. Especially since “Dior” was on there. Having fewer songs just would have made this project feel like it was given and looked at with more care. 

But, like I said, it’s a solid project. It obviously still feels like a debut project, rather than a project made at the end of someone’s career, but that’s the unfortunate part of where everything is right now. It feels like Pop had a lot more work he wanted to do, and it’s a shame that he wasn’t able to do that.

Overall Project Rating

Featured Image Credit:

(listen to Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon on spotify by clicking the image below)

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