"Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon" is in tragic company. It's the fourth posthumously released rap album to enter the Billboard pop chart at No. 1, joining releases by the Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, and XXXTentacion.
"Shoot for the Stars" is the work of the Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke, who was shot and killed during a robbery at a house he was renting in Los Angeles in February. (This month, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office charged four people with murder in the case.)
The first thing you notice about Pop Smoke is his gravelly rumble of a voice. He conveys a sense of weary gravitas, a feeling that, though only 20, he had encountered a lifetime's worth of trouble. Had he? Who knows, but he sounds like he could be twice his age.
His rugged flow connects back to Biggie, a legendary King of New York. And that's a title many felt the charismatic Smoke was poised to claim on the basis of two "Meet The Woo" EPs that preceded his debut album.
Among those who pegged him for greatness was 50 Cent, who mentored the young rapper — 50 appears on "Shoot for the Stars'" "The Woo"(Smoke's favorite word), and 50's "Many Men" is sampled here on "Got It on Me."
"Shoot" captures Pop Smoke's charisma and fluid, versatile approach. His timing was impeccable. He knew all he needed to do was growl "Grrrr " to drive fans wild.
The album falters is in its posthumous assemblage. The 19 tracks on the bonus edition thankfully include "Dior," the 2019 hit that celebrates a designer shopping spree and has become an unlikely Black Lives Matter protest anthem.
But the album is also overloaded with features: three from Migos' Quavo, plus Future, Swae Lee, Lil Baby, and DaBaby. It's understandable why they wanted to jump on what was destined to be the hot hip-hop album of the summer. But turning "Shoot" into an all-star entertainment event dilutes its impact.