By Brad Kramer
Reviewing a posthumous album is never an easy task. With the release of Pop Smoke’s 2nd posthumous album Faith, objectively looking at this piece of work, much different from his original musical plan, becomes a lot harder to do. His leftover material was mismanaged and it makes for an album that’s well crafted, but not well curated. A handful of highlights are drowned out by baffling production choices and mediocre cuts where Pop barely appears, which makes this album so much more disappointing knowing what could’ve been.
Faith does, at the very least, hit the ground running. A quick spoken word piece by Pop’s mom transitions well into “More Time,” a sorrowful, piano-backed ballad. Pop starts the song with an effortless croon calling for his partners to be freed from jail, then explodes into one of his trademark verses with all the threatening lyrics, booming vocals and catchy flows he was known for. While the beat was changed from what Pop originally rapped over, this new production is actually something I can commend Faith on. Many tracks take Pop into a bunch of new directions which sound amazing and surprisingly natural, most of the time.
While Pop Smoke’s team have drastically changed the production from what he wanted, most of these new beats still hit just as hard as anything else Pop would’ve used. “Tell The Vision” combines driving brass with fast drums and children’s choir interludes—this in addition to Pop’s lyrics about finally succeeding make this one of the most anthemic songs on the project. “Manslaughter,” just from the beat alone, is an experience. Steady drums and grand layers of heavenly pitched-up vocals make this song just as much of a banger as it is a tear-jerker. Pop Smoke’s hook and verse are fine and Rick Ross fits in perfectly, but The-Dream’s performance blew me away. The emotion with which he delivers his lyrics truly elevates the song. He sings with such passion in the outro of the song, openly ranting with his thoughts on life after Pop’s death; it’s magnificent.
“Bout A Million ” pairs a stone cold, guitar-backed drill beat with equally heartless verses from Pop and 21 Savage. Both of their deliveries are menacing in the exact opposite way—Pop stomping through your speakers with his rumbling voice while 21 Savage’s unbothered muttering makes his wicked lyrics only more spine-tingling—which makes 21 the perfect feature.
There’s a couple other highlights like “Brush Em” (a throwback from 2018), “Woo Baby,” a buttery-smooth R&B jam with Chris Brown, “What’s Crackin” with Takeoff from Migos (which is essentially a Migos song done by Pop Smoke which goes over well) and a groovy disco track with Dua Lipa called “Demeanor.”
But outside of these songs, the rest of Faith is filled with forgettable tracks. Most of them have questionable guest features simply because Pop was never able to finish the tracks. The album contains some mind-boggling production choices that would make anyone seriously question who was in charge of curating this album. The biggest offender is “Top Shotta,” a long-anticipated fan favorite turned disappointment. People were hyped to hear this song after a snippet of Pop snapping over a threatening beat came out back in January of this year. Fast forward to release day and this song instead has one of the dinkiest tropical island beats I’ve ever heard and 3 guests which bog this song down. “Woo Baby Interlude” is a 29-second acapella and a waste of a hook that was supposed to go to Pop’s friend Fivio Foreign for his song “Tiger.” Fans were clamoring for that song, so why they removed Pop’s hook to use as an interlude is something I’ll never understand.
My biggest issue with this album is that aside from those two songs, most of it is perfectly fine. It’s not Pop’s best material but I’m not going to fault him for that—he’s dead, he can’t fix it. The new beats are mostly great and none of the features gave a bad performance. But what this album needed was better curation—choosing features Pop knew and worked with and changing the album from 20 tracks to maybe 14 at most would’ve been a great place to start. If this were to have happened, Faith could’ve actually achieved the potential it had. But Pop’s camp took the easy way out, threw the whole cutting room floor on the album, and added features to fill in the empty spaces he no longer could, sometimes with no regard to what he originally wanted. A good album shouldn’t leave me with so many questions: why were Pop’s friends kicked off of “Manslaughter,” “Tell The Vision,” and “Top Shotta”; why was the terrible beat on “Top Shotta” approved; why is Dua Lipa the feature on “Demeanor” when Pop originally asked for Bruno Mars? Little things like this add up and make it clear that the priority here was releasing an album that is just passable, not one that does Pop Smoke justice. It would’ve been entirely possible to make a great 2nd posthumous album with what Pop left over. Not enough care was taken to do that though, and Faith suffers immensely as a result.
Favorite Tracks: “Manslaughter,” “Brush Em’,” “Bout A Million,” “Spoiled,” “More Time”