The biggest hip-hop album of the year to date is not a release in 2021 – it boomed out of the car windows a year ago.
« Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon », the posthumous debut album of the late New York rappers
According to MRC Data, formerly known as Nielsen Music, it will be the most popular hip-hop album in 2021, with sales of 948,000 in the US that year. Musically, “Shoot for the Stars”, which was released on July 3, 2020, is the fourth most consumed album as recorded by
MRC data says.
« It’s a cultural phenomenon, » says
global editor-in-chief of hip-hop and R&B for Apple Music. Among the notable songs on the album is « Dior, » a previously released track that became a protest anthem during nationwide demonstrations against racial injustice last summer. Meanwhile, the album was a streaming favorite last year, keeping Pop Smoke at the top of the music charts month after month.
To take advantage of the momentum, the Pop Smoke label, Victor Victor Worldwide, will be released on Friday release a second posthumous album « Faith ». This album with performances by
and pop star
is timed to coincide with the rap star’s 22nd birthday on July 20th.
Posthumous albums by artists such as the deceased rappers
made waves in pop culture. « Shoot for the Stars » is one of the most commercially successful in the recent past and cemented Pop Smoke as one of the most important hip-hop figures of the last few decades. It’s also a big moment for New York rap, overshadowed for years by rival hip-hop scenes, particularly in Atlanta.
Pop Smoke, whose real name was
was a Brooklyn-based hip hop newcomer before being cut short at the age of 20 in February 2020. As the leading voice of “Brooklyn Drill,” an emerging rap subgenre with dark, moody chords, intimidating lyrics, and rumbling bass, Pop Smoke offered an alternative to the poppy sounds of mainstream rap today.
The success of “Shoot for the Stars ”is based on many factors including the musicality, charisma and perceived authenticity of Pop Smoke, say industry leaders. He rapped in an unmistakable style and roared in a deep, gruff baritone over dark instrumental pieces that were also melodic and danceable.
Then there is the full guest list of the album, the current rappers (DaBaby, Lil Baby,
), Hip-hop statesmen (50 Cent, Future, Young Thug) and giants from neighboring genres (Burna Boy,
Some music critics say the album, which was produced by 50 Cent as executive producer, sounds too commercial and overloaded with featured guests. But Pop Smoke had strived for mainstream acceptance, say those who knew him.
« Musically, he had this pop sensitivity on his early demos he brought with him, » says
Vice President of Operations for Victor Victor Worldwide. « He always wanted to appeal to a wide audience. » The deluxe version of « Shoot for the Stars, » which spans 34 tracks and spans nearly an hour and 45 minutes, helped boost Pop Smoke’s numbers through the sheer number of songs, a tactic common in the music industry. </ Growing up in Brooklyn's Canarsie neighborhood, Pop Smoke began recording in late 2018. He soaked up the sounds of drill artists in Brooklyn, London, and Chicago, along with veterans like 50 Cent, often viewed as the last New York rapper to define an era. Friends shared his music; it spread to Facebook, SoundCloud, YouTube and even Triller, an app similar to TikTok.
the boss of Victor Victor Worldwide, signed Pop Smoke in March 2019. (Victor Victor Worldwide distributes Pop Smoke’s music through a contract with Republic Records, a division of Universal Music Group.) That summer, Pop Smoke was a local hero with a regional smash: « Welcome to the party. » People in town knew him and were looking for him to become the next star, « says Pandya.
His rapid ascent ended on February 19, 2020 when he was shot dead in a home invasion in Los Angeles. When his debut album was released in July, it peaked at number 1 on the Billboard 200 album sales chart. It’s currently # 12.
For hip hop fans, Pop Smoke’s growling performance, unconstructed approach, and organic fame represented a return to authenticity and realism, industry leaders say. A « harder perspective was missing for a while, » says
Co-founder of the hip-hop festival Rolling Loud. « Pop Smoke definitely brought that into play – a real street hustler’s perspective. »
Among older fans, Pop Smoke’s death was a reminder of the loss of the Notorious B.I.G. 1997. « To someone who was older, » says
an Empire label A&R executive who signed Brooklyn-based drilling pioneers Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow, « it felt like: history repeats itself. » In both cases, hip-hop lost a great deal of talent at a relatively early stage in their career.
« Shoot for the Stars » has generated nearly 5 billion US streams since its release, according to MRC Data. It contains two of the five top rap songs on US radio this year: « What You Know Bout Love » and « For the Night ».
When the second album comes out, a lot of fans will be waiting for it. « If he left more music on this earth, the world should hear it, » says Mr. Cherif of Rolling Loud.
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