Pop Smoke's Fans Won't Lose 'Faith' Despite Uneven New Posthumous Album

Pop Smoke's Fans Won't Lose 'Faith' Despite Uneven New Posthumous Album
The posthumous album has sadly been a staple in hip-hop for years, occasionally resulting in legacy-cementing projects like J Dilla's immaculate Donuts and 2Pac's commercially successful R U Still Down? (Remember Me). Following these releases, however, those artists' discographies unfortunately dovetailed into a plethora of rehashed and rushed releases to bank on nostalgia. Similar scenarios have threatened to play out in rap's current era — acclaimed posthumous projects from the likes of Mac Miller and Juice WRLD have been followed by the dubious promise of more material to come thereafter.

The case of New York rapper Pop Smoke is no different. Faith, his second posthumous release, lacks the direction provided by mentor 50 Cent, who executive-produced 2020's excellent Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon. The absence of a cohesive structure is compounded by head-scratching features and suspect production choices, resulting in a lacklustre offering.

The best posthumous releases find the artist's collaborators making artistic decisions that the deceased would have approved of. This is almost never the case on Faith, where producers Kanye West and Pharrell proceed to superimpose Pop Smoke's verses on their own creative endeavors. While Pusha T rarely misses in the lyrical department, there is no rationale for having the Virginia MC present on two tracks while Pop's fellow Brooklyn drill scenester and frequent collaborator Fivio Foreign misses the cut. "Manslaughter," featuring Rick Ross and singer The-Dream, should have been a baritone-voiced match made in heaven, but the overbearing strings drown out any semblance of Pop's sombre presence. Thinned-out production and rough vocal captures ruin "Bout a Million," when the 21 Savage and 42 Dugg features actually made sense.

"Brush Em," "Beat the Speaker" and "Coupe" all sound like classic Pop Smoke, while "What's Crackin," featuring Takeoff, seems like one of the few songs that could have fit on a proper Pop Smoke project. While Pop's loyal fans will find solace in the raw and uncut "Woo Baby Interlude," they will undoubtedly be frustrated with "Demeanor," an improbable duet with pop singer Dua Lipa.

But, despite poor production choices and lazy song structures, Pop Smoke's energy and solo spurts of brilliance won't allow for this stale posthumous release to tarnish his legacy. (Republic)