Faith
Tracy Awino/Bleacher Report

FAITH, BY POP SMOKE: BONAFIDE ALBUM OR MONEY GRAB??

In the past few years, there have been many mainstream artists passing away prematurely. This includes the likes of XXXTentacion, Juice Wrld, Lil Peep, and the great Pop Smoke. With his ferocious voice and New York drill style, he effortlessly attracted a mainstream audience. I remember listening to “Welcome to the Party” and “Dior” for the first time. I knew he was special and unique. Since his death, he has released Shoot For the Stars, Aim For The Moon. On July 16, 2021, his team released his sophomore posthumous album titled Faith. Will this album move an audience in the same way his previous records did? This is a review.

With many artists in rap that have passed, the audience may receive unfinished work. Personally, I think this brings up a significant question. Should we continue to release posthumous work? Many were unsatisfied with albums like Skins and Bad Vibes Forever by XXXTentacion because it felt unfinished and poorly curated, especially with the features. Personally, I detest X’s team. After his passing, his career seemed more like a money grab than for the love and respect for his music. On the other hand, we have artists like Juice Wrld, who released Legends Never Die, which was really good. His team also announced the release of Juice’s next project, The Party Never Ends. But like Pop Smoke, we will have to see how the rest of his career pan out.

WHAT I LISTEN FOR IN PROJECTS

When listening to music, I listen for the vibe, lyrics, and production of the song, and as a listener, I expect artists to get out of their comfort zones and experiment. I will be discussing lyrics, production, features, sales, and I will give this project a rating, but, as with all art reviews, my review of Faith is based on personal opinion.

FAITH: LYRICS

The lyrics were very fitting. The work that Pop Smoke left felt complete. There wasn’t any part of the album that felt too unfinished. I like his delivery the most. I think it’s something that is hard to emulate by many, but with Pop’s deep voice, he can also give a very melodic flow, or he could make New York anthems. I would compare him to G Herbo. The only thing I found interesting is the fact that I liked the songs with features more than his solo tracks. I think Pop lyrics weren’t as lyrical as some of the features like Pusha T, but this is not a bad thing when looking at some of the production on this album. With everything coming together, the artist can get a better picture of the direction that Pop Smoke wanted to go into. (Or his team. I will discuss this more in the features). Some of my favorite lyrics from Faith include:

*Lyrics presented by Genius*

It’s gon’ be a manslaughter or homicide
If you f***in’ with me or one of mines (RIP to the legend Smoke, uh)
It’s gon’ be a manslaughter (biggest)
Or homicide (may your name live forever, baby)
If you f***in’ with me or one of mines (I felt you, yes)- Pop Smoke on Manslaughter

When you down, we roll up that sour
Break it down in the back, girl
If I say that you mine, that mean that you ours
You can’t put me first, that’s backwards- Pop Smoke on Mr. Jones

Look, big body, wagon (huh)
I remember I ain’t have it (huh)
Twenty-one, I’m a savage (I’ma a savage)
I got twenty-one in the carats (carats)
Throwin’ bullets (bullets)
Throwin’ bullets like I’m Madden (huh)
Leave that n***a in a casket- Pop Smoke on Bout a Million

MY FAVORITE TRACKS

  • “Manslaughter”
  • “Tell The Vision”

LEAST FAVORITE TRACKS

  • “Top Shotta”
  • “Woo Interlude”
  • “Brush Em”

7/10

FAITH: FEATURES

This project has some interesting features. Many of the features come from notable people who made a name for themselves within the industry. These features include Kanye West, Pusha T, Rick Ross, Kid Cudi, 21 Savage, Takeoff, Future, and many others. This is interesting to me because Pop Smoke was still fresh to the rap industry. After the release of the album, rapper Calboy explained how he was taken off the album. He was also taken off on Pop’s predecessor, Shoot For The Stars, Aim For the Moon. This is interesting because Calboy personally knew Pop Smoke. I wonder if they tried to aim for a more polished album, but I am skeptical about Pop’s team. When looking into his lyrics on the Genius page, it describes how they took verses from different songs and implemented them on different instrumentals. There were also artists that were taken off instrumentals. Had Pop Smoke been alive, portions of this album would be completely different, especially the features. Other than that, the features are a very mainstream and polished bunch.

I enjoyed Pusha T as a feature on this album because all of his verses are lyrically fulfilling. This can be seen more in “Tell The Vision” than “Top Shotta.” Both records are different, so I feel as if it shows Pusha’s versatility as an artist. Rick Ross’s verse on “Manslaughter” was one of the best verses, along with the song being one of my favorites. As a feature, I think Kanye West could have brought more to the table, but I think his feature was good. Kid Cudi’s feature was good on “8 Ball.” I think this was very experimental for Pop Smoke. 42 Dugg and 21 Savage verses were very good on “Bout A Million.” While the instrumental was drill-oriented, I think this was experimental for the two. I liked Takeoff’s verse on “What’s Crackin.” Quavo was featured on the song “Back Door” with Kodak Black. I like the melodic feel of that song. I appreciate 50 Cent and Quavo for their guidance with Pop Smoke. I think it was very influential and significant to his growth. Quavo and Pop Smoke were friends, and he honored Pop with a feature on his new album with Migos titled Culture III, which got mixed reviews. Back to Faith, I enjoyed the overall feel of “Mr. Jones.” I think the sparkly piano instrumental worked for both Pop Smoke and Future. Pharrell was featured on “Spoiled.” I like the R&B feel of the song. This song is a vibe. I think my least favorite feature was Rah Swish on “Brush Em.” Overall, to have a features list this powerful is a reflection of his team. While none of the features were significantly terrible, I don’t think Pop Smoke would have collaborated with them until he was deeper in his discography.

9/10

FAITH: PRODUCTION

Initially, I thought this album would solely be New York drill instrumentals, with sliding 808’s and other drill elements. This project was not the case. I like that Pop Smoke decided to experiment with other sounds. I appreciate the diversity of the production of this project. This can be seen on “Manslaughter,” “Top Shotta,” and “8 Ball,” to name a few. While Pop’s team took different vocals from songs and implemented them on different instrumentals, I think Pop Smoke was slowly going in the direction of experimentation. This project includes production from Jahlil Beats, Kanye West, Swiss Beats, The Neptunes, Tay Keith, and many more. It is nice to hear Jahlil Beats making an appearance again after his reign with Bobby Shmurda. I feel as if it was a full 360 hearing him in the spotlight. The album almost feels like a nod to the past with production from Swiss beats and The Neptunes. I found that very interesting. According to Who Sampled, Faith includes a few samples from the likes of Ne-Yo, The Thomas Whitfield Company, and Travis Scott.

10/10

SALES, RATINGS, AND OVERALL REVIEW

While Pitchfork and many other outlets gave negative reviews, according to Billboard, this album is in the number one spot of the Billboard 200. This makes Pop Smoke the first artist to have two posthumous albums reach number one on the Billboard 200. Because of his impact, I think this is very significant, especially with the different types of artists that have been released posthumously. Billboard also states, “the guest-laden collection was released on July 16 and starts with 88,000 equivalent album units earned in the U.S. in the week ending July 22, according to MRC Data.”

Overall, this album was good for it to be posthumous. It felt somewhat complete. Feature-wise, I’m not sure if he had enough clout to receive these features, but I think they helped bring the album together. Rapper Calboy has expressed his lack of respect for Pop Smoke’s team because he was once again not featured on either of his posthumous work. This is disheartening because the two were friends. I think the album is a great reflection of the direction that Pop Smoke wanted to go into. I like that there wasn’t just New York drill production because I always thought that his style would eventually become stale. I thought that was very refreshing, especially because his previous album was also diverse in sound. So this brings up the question, should we continue to release posthumous albums? I’d say it depends on how much is completed by the artist. Regardless of the state of completion, without the artist, I feel as if a work is incomplete or lacks the potential for what a track/project could be.

What do you think? Should we continue to release posthumous work?

8/10

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