2020 is not Virgil Abloh’s year.
After causing outrage earlier this month with a seemingly stingy $50 donation to help bail out protesters outraged over George Floyd’s death, the designer and artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s wear collection is now under attack for the design of the Pop Smoke’s posthumous album cover art that was released earlier this week.
The cover art features a well-circulated photo of Pop Smoke, whose birth name is Bashar Jackson, with what appears to be silver roses surrounding him along with silver barbed wire.
Virgil, who has yet to respond to the backlash, posted the artwork for the debut album, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, to his Instagram account, writing in the caption, “This album cover was one of like 5 things we talked about. He mentioned his story felt like the metaphor of a rose & thorns growing from concrete of of his hood in Canarsie, Brooklyn.”
The now-deleted post caption also read, “In your memory i just finished it yesterday. as evident of the whole idea, the t-shirt insinuates it’s mandatory we put an and to this cycle of violence that plagues us, we need to shoot for the moon & aim for the stars. as heavy as it is we are celebrating your life the whole way thru. rest in piece young one. -signed Louis Vee, Louis Vee.”
Still, it didn’t take long for Black Twitter to give their opinion on the album cover. Even 50 Cent, one of Pop’s longtime supporters, tweeted his disapproval. He wrote on Tuesday, “Hey Virgil we need new album art, they ain’t going for this bullshit. Love ya work let’s get to it. Steven i told you this shit was. Eww let’s get it right!”
Steven Victor, senior VP of A&R role at Universal Music Group (Pop Smoke’s parent label), quickly addressed the backlash on Twitter, revealing that the cover art will indeed change.
“Making a change,” Victor tweeted about the album artwork. He also added that “Pop would listen to his fans.”
Victor continued on Instagram in a now-deleted post, “As pop’s label & as his friends/family, it is our obligation to bring his vision to life he wanted virgil to lead creative, we fulfilled his wishes however, unfortunately, he’s not here to give his final approval his fans are,” he wrote. “you know why you love pop your voices are loud and clear he loved his fans and listened to his fans pop and us at victor victor h e a r d you l o u d and clear – changes will be made see you July 3rd 2020.”
Pop Smoke was killed on February 19, the victim of a home invasion in his new Hollywood Hills house in Los Angeles. Despite controversy, many fans are excited for the album and the chance for Pop’s legacy to live on.