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After Fan Outcry, Virgil Abloh’s Hideous Album Cover for Pop Smoke Will Be Changed

on June 30, 2020, 12:13pm

In February, four men broke into Pop Smoke‘s home and shot him dead. Now, the rising rapper’s debut studio album, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, is coming out this Friday. Smoke’s former business manager revealed the cover artwork last night, and it was such a hideous abuse of photoshop, and so derided by Pop Smoke’s fans, that his team announced a cover change two hours later.

The artwork was designed by Virgil Abloh, a Kanye West associate and acclaimed clothing designer. Abloh is currently the artistic director of Louis Vitton’s menswear line, as well as the CEO of his own label, Off-White. He also served as the creative director for Ye and JAY-Z’s 2011 album Watch the Throne, where he oversaw an album cover designed by Riccardo Tisci. These are great accomplishments, and you can see why a rising star in the Brooklyn drill scene would want to work with him. Pop Smoke’s former business manager Steven Victor confirmed as much. In an emotional Instagram post, he addressed the deceased MC, writing “You wanted Virgil to design your album cover and lead creative. Virgil designed the album cover and led creative.”

But the thing is, Abloh is admired by Kanye and Louis Vitton because he has good taste in other people’s art. By wielding the mouse himself, Abloh has confidently sallied outside his expertise (this is sometimes called a “Chomsky”). The results are stupefying.

The reaction from fans was swift and brutal. First of all, where is Pop Smoke’s left ear? As a normal human, he arrived and departed with two. Yet, for the album art, he’s been Van Gogh’d for no apparent reason. Secondly, the graphics come across as generic clip-art, the kind of thing you can throw together in 30 minutes. And while Abloh used a real photo of Pop Smoke — the very first photo that comes up on Google, as it happens — the shadows on his face look wrong compared to the the shadows on the graphical additions. This makes Pop Smoke appear like a cardboard cutout. Abloh’s effort was so hacky, he made the only real part of the image look fake.

As the furor around the artwork grew, celebrities began to weigh in. “Eww,” 50 Cent wrote, adding “Hey Virgil we need new album art, they ain’t going for this bullshit.”

Via New York Daily News, Virgil’s artwork was disavowed in a matter of hours. Abloh himself posted and then deleted his efforts. Business manager Steven Victor processed the complaints in real time, tweeting out “H E A R D YOU,” “B R B,” “MAKING A CHANGE,” and “POP WOULD LISTEN TO HIS FANS.” Sometimes, the social media mobs are right. Sometimes, justice is served.


The new album artwork has yet to be announced, but it couldn’t be much worse. Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon arrives this Friday, July 3rd, and pre-orders are ongoing. In the meantime, revisit Pop Smoke’s posthumous contribution to the new mixtape from Lil Tjay.

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