Hip-Hop

How Mac Miller, Pop Smoke and Juice WRLD Continue to Impact the World

Juice WRLD
Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Juice WRLD

These 2020 posthumous releases extended the legacies of three gone-too-soon hip-hop stars, while also finding notable chart success.

Mac Miller, Circles

After Miller released his Grammy-nominated album Swimming one month before his death in September 2018 at 26, the Pittsburgh rapper’s family, along with veteran producer Jon Brion (Fiona Apple, Kanye West), announced Miller’s posthumous project, Circles, this January. His sixth studio album followed its predecessor’s blueprint, as Miller hopscotched his way through hip-hop, funk and soft rock. Circles debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200; lead single “Good News” reached No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Miller’s highest-charting solo hit. The song’s music video, which has over 58 million views on YouTube, opens with behind-the-scenes footage of the artist in the studio.

Pop Smoke, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon

Following the New York rapper’s death at age 20 in February — days after his mixtape, Meet the Woo 2, became his first Billboard 200 top 10 — 50 Cent and music executive Steven Victor took it upon themselves to finish Pop Smoke’s debut album. The pair reeled in features from Roddy Ricch, Lil Baby, DaBaby and Future for Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, which boasted club-ready anthems (“The Woo,” “For the Night”) and nods to R&B (“Mood Swings,” “What You Know Bout Love”). The album debuted atop the Billboard 200 in July and has spent the most weeks at No. 1 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums since Eminem’s Recovery ruled for 16 weeks in 2010.

Juice WRLD, Legends Never Die

As Pop Smoke’s posthumous debut crowned the albums chart, Juice WRLD’s Legends Never Die arrived — and replaced it at No. 1 the following week. The “Lucid Dreams” star, who died last December at age 21, had been working on a project that was anchored by emo-leaning singles “Tell Me You Love Me” (featuring Trippie Redd) and “Life’s a Mess” (with Halsey). The set earned 497,000 equivalent album units in its first week of release, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data, and charted 17 songs on the Hot 100. Pop Smoke and Juice WRLD became the first artists with back-to-back posthumous No. 1 debuts in the history of the Billboard 200.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 19, 2020, issue of Billboard.