“Faith” by Pop Smoke – Pop or Flop?
On July 16th, Pop Smoke’s label released his second posthumous album “Faith.” Listeners and Pop Smoke fans had been very excited for its release, especially after his first posthumous album “Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon” had exceeded everyone’s expectations and topped the Billboard charts. However, now that the album is actually out, there seems to be a whirlwind of mixed opinions in the media, most of them seeming to come from a place of disappointment. While Faith should have been a work of art that continues the legacy of Pop smoke, it feels more like something his label carelessly threw together in the interest of maximizing profit. Of course we didn’t want to form an opinion based on just the media and listening to bits and pieces, so we sat down and listened to the album from start to finish. Here’s what we think.
Where the Album Excels
To start things off on a positive note, let’s talk about some of the strengths of this album. The album opens with a 46 second snippet called “Good News”. In this snippet you hear the voice of Pop Smoke’s mom, Audrey Jackson, talking about the man that Pop Smoke was, and how his real name “Bashar” means good news. This snippet is basically used to introduce Pop Smoke as a man who believed in himself, and this album as a way of him delivering good news to everyone. This piece probably feels the most authentic on the album. You can hear the genuineness in his mom’s voice, and the background instrumental compliments it perfectly. Not to mention the transition! The transition from the intro to the next track is ridiculously smooth as her voice fades out and his voice comes in to sing “More Time”.
What’s neat about “More Time” is when it says “mama begging me to pray to Allah”. Allah is the God that followers of the Islamic faith pray to. Although it was said that Pop Smoke was Muslim, this is one of the only times he has made such a direct reference to his faith in his music. This allows listeners to zoom in more on the details of Pop Smoke’s life.
Similarly, throughout the album he makes many references to his mom and you realize how much they meant to each other. It feels like you are learning more about him as you listen. An example of this is in the track “Backdoor” when he says “my mama tell me be careful, better stay out them projects”. You can tell he places a lot of significance in her words as he scatters them throughout the album. Little things like these make the album feel like a fresh piece of work straight from him. Of course, the classic Pop Smoke ad-libs such as “wait” and “woo” are present throughout.
Where the Album Falls Short
Unfortunately, the strengths struggle to hold the album up on its own as it falls short in many ways. First off, we’re going to have to agree with the Pop Smoke fans when they say that it doesn’t feel like a piece of work from him. It isn’t hard to tell that his record label haphazardly threw this together using incomplete snippets. Most of the songs are super short in length, and there is barely any sense of completeness within them. Just when you’re beginning to get into the song, it ends. Honestly, as an artist you could probably get away with this on a single or EP, but on an album? An album is where listeners go for a complete listening experience! This album feels neither complete nor cohesive.
You’re probably wondering where the lack of cohesiveness comes from. Lyrically, most of the songs explore similar themes: wealth, women, struggles, desires, and gang violence. However, the overload of features completely tears apart the binding of the album. Of course, it’s nice to have a variety of styles and voices on an album. But when they’re all thrown together without any thought, it doesn’t work, and that’s what it feels like here. It feels like the record label threw together a bunch of big names in music to gain streams (and therefore profit). No thought was put into the artistic value that would be destroyed in the process, which makes the album suffer.
For example, “Demeanor” which features Dua Lipa honestly was a great single. It felt complete, and the blending of genres between the two artists didn’t feel completely unnatural. This would’ve been a great pop single (keyword: pop!) but it definitely was not one to put on this album. It takes away a good amount of Pop Smoke’s style and energy and struggles to feel like a rap song. There is even more chaos in some of the other collabs. Up to four features pile up on some songs, and others sample from a classic Ne-Yo song. Collaborations and sampling as a musician require a lot more thought than they seem to be given here.
Is it Worth a Listen?
So that brings us to the final question. If there is so much criticism, is it worth a listen? It’s definitely worth a listen if you put aside any expectation of it being as authentic as some of his previous work. Some songs do well in bringing back Pop Smoke’s talent and vibe. A lot of the hype and motivational ones would also honestly make great music to bump in the car or workout to. If you’re also big on pop music, then some of the collaborations might be to your liking. However, if you’re a hardcore Pop Smoke fan, maybe sit this one out. Hopefully, the label will focus more on quality and authenticity instead of quantity and popularity moving forward!
“Faith” is now available on all streaming platforms for those who want to give it a listen. Be sure to check out our page for more album reviews!