July 18 marks the three-year anniversary of Pop Smoke’s posthumous LP “Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon” hitting the top of the charts. The album earned him his first-ever debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
The LP was released via Victor Victor Worldwide and Republic Records. It was executive produced by 50 Cent, whom Pop heavily admired. The project skyrocketed to the top spot immediately, posting first-week sales of 251,000 album-equivalent units. “Shoot for the Stars” featured some of hip hop’s biggest stars — including DaBaby, Lil Baby, Quavo, Future, Roddy Ricch and other New York drill artists.
The influence from “Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon,” as well as Pop’s previous two mixtapes, helped bring to light an already burgeoning drill scene in the Big Apple. Frequent collaborators Lil Tjay and Fivio Foreign dropped the successful hits “F.N” and “Big Drip.” And other artists like Sheff G — who many credit as an innovator of New York drill — saw their fan base grow. Their viral success even helped Tjay and Fivio land on XXL’s Freshman magazine cover in August 2020.
Sadly, Pop Smoke would never see the ultimate fruits of the innovative style, voice and unapologetic Canarsie swagger he showcased on his debut. Months earlier, he was shot-and-killed during a home invasion in Los Angeles at a home he was renting.
Authorities say four men broke into the Hollywood Hills property he was staying at and shot the rapper to death during a robbery. He was later transported to a local hospital, where he died. Since then, a man has admitted to killing Pop during the home invasion when he was a minor. Three other men have also been arrested and charged in connection with the senseless killing.
“Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon” was accompanied with some controversy, particularly over the fact that the project was incomplete at the time of Pop Smoke’s death. But it did show some glimpses into his ability to be a crossover artist. He was more than an artist somewhat bound by the NY drill genre he had helped bring into the hip-hop spotlight over the past few years.
Songs like “Yea Yea” and “Mood Swings” showcased Pop’s ability to sing on an R&B-style track. While “Snitching” (unsurprisingly featuring Quavo and Future) showed he could successfully trade bars on a more commercial-sounding record.
Since the release of “Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon,” the album has garnered over 9 billion streams and launched three RIAA certified platinum songs — “Hello,” “Got It On Me”” and “Something Special.” His tracks “Mood Swings,” “The Woo” and “What You Know About Love,” are 2x platinum. While “Dior” is 3x platinum and “For The Night” is 4x platinum.
Even before the eventual massive numbers the LP produced, it garnered Pop and his legacy a lot of attention toward the end of 2020. In October, Pop Smoke won “Best New Artist” at the BET Hip Hop Awards and was honored with a tribute during the virtual ceremony. Quavo performed their joint hits “Shake the Room” and “Aim For The Moon.” The moment was particularly special for the rapper’s mother, Jess Jackson, as 50 Cent fulfilled Pop Smoke’s wishes of being able to take his mother to an awards show.
The rapper’s legacy also helped launch the Shoot for the Stars Foundation. The organization helps youth achieve their goals while living and growing up in difficult circumstances. The initiative, which was being set up before Pop’s death, helps provide access to technology tools and other resources.
This week also marks what would be Pop Smoke’s 24th birthday (July 20). In honor of the Flossy legend, stream Shoot for the Stars, or any of his music in remembrance of him. A donation to the Shoot for the Stars Foundation would also be much appreciated by his community.
RIP Pop Smoke.