Right now, Pop Smoke might be the biggest star in New York rap, even though he’s no longer with us. This past February, only 12 days after he released his Meet The Woo 2 mixtape, the Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke was murdered in Los Angeles at the age of 20. Pop Smoke hadn’t yet released an official album when he was killed, so his forthcoming posthumous LP Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon is going to be a big deal — so big that nobody’s willing to accept a halfassed effort from the star fashion designer who’s supposed to be designing the cover art.
This week, Pop Smoke’s estate will release Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon. We’ve already posted first single “Make It Rain,” which features a verse from incarcerated Brooklynn rapper Rowdy Rebel. 50 Cent is serving as the album’s executive’s producer, and he’ll also appear on it. The LP will feature contributions from many of today’s biggest rappers, including DaBaby, Lil Baby, Roddy Ricch, Polo G, Swae Lee, Future, and Quavo. Originally, Shoot For The Stars was supposed to have cover art from Virgil Abloh, the Off-White founder and Louis Vuitton designer who came up as a Kanye West protege and who has forged symbiotic relationships with a few rappers. Earlier this year, Abloh invited Pop Smoke out to Paris for Fashion Week, and he took the rapper under his wing. But nobody likes the cover art that Abloh designed.
As the New York Daily News reports, Abloh unveiled his Shoot For The Stars cover art in a since-deleted Instagram post. In the caption, Abloh wrote, “He mentioned his story felt like the metaphor of a rose & thorns growing from concrete of his hood in Canarsie, Brooklyn. In your memory, I just finished it yesterday.” What Abloh finished was an ugly-as-hell Photoshop monstrosity that looks like it was done in about half an hour.
Twitter user @nuffsaidny has even pointed out that Abloh used the very first Pop Smoke photo that comes up in Google Image search. A petition for a change in cover art quickly drew more than 18,000 signatures.
As the Daily News points out, Pop Smoke’s handlers quickly disavowed Abloh’s cover art. Steven Victor, Pop’s former business manager, tweeted, “Heard you. BRB. Making a change. Pop would listen to his fans.”
This isn’t a situation like Pusha-T’s Daytona cover, where some people thought the cover of Whitney Houston’s drug-covered bathroom counter was distasteful. It’s not a matter of sensitivity to controversial imagery. It’s just that Abloh did a shitty job, and everyone recognizes it.
It’s been a rough month for Virgil Abloh’s public image. A few weeks ago, as the Huffington Post reports, Abloh drew criticism for attempting to shame the anti-police brutality demonstrators who looted his stores and his friend’s vintage store in Los Angeles. Abloh also posted a receipt showing that he’d donated $50 — less than half of the price of a pair of Off-White socks — to bail funds. Abloh later apologized for both.