“Tell the Vision” by Pop Smoke (ft. Pusha T and Kanye West)
It’s always ironic, for lack of a better word, when the music industry releases a song by a late rapper who therein is talking about killing other people, after he himself has already been shot dead. But perhaps such is to be expected considering that murders are such that the victims rarely see them coming.
Thus these sentiments are reflective of Pop Smoke’s thinking when he was still under the impression, like any normal person, that he would enjoy a standard-length life.
And another thing about these posthumous raps is that usually they are incomplete. That would logically be why collaborations are usually in order and/or in some cases repetitive lyrics.
Lyrics of “Tell the Vision”
But with all of that established, what Pop is doing in this song is bragging about his come up and, as noted earlier, propensity to dole out violence. He remembers the humbler days of his youth, barely having enough money to get by.
But now he’s chillin’ “up in the Wraith”, a vehicle manufactured by Rolls Royce that costs more money than most people make in years, along with a whole bunch of ‘thots’, i.e. fast women.
However, outside of that, he also brags about killing somebody’s “big brother” and apparently receiving some type of monetary benefit in the aftermath. Smoke also notes his gang affiliation, commonly referred to as the “Woo”. And what he is basically saying in that regard is that if you disrespect them, then he and his cohorts will come to your house and shoot it up.
But whereas violence may be the main theme of his verse, based on the track’s chorus “Tell the Vision” is rather intended to be more of a come-up song. However, it may be that what Smoke is saying is that he and his have “come from the tranches” alright, to now being able to enjoy fine dining, but they did so largely through the utilization of violence, as opposed to making it big in the music industry, as these types of songs generally tend to read.
Indeed the beginning Pusha T’s verse rectifies this anomaly, if you will, with him rather pointing out how Pop Smoke has, or is about to blow up musically. He also focuses more on the wealth aspect of braggadocio, once again more in tune with your standard come-up rap.
However, Pusha also alludes to his own gang ties, such as himself being affiliated with “the Woos”. Moreover he touts himself as some type of major drug dealer, which is perhaps to be expected giving his rap name.
Then as far as analyzing the title of the song, that is more open to respective listener interpretation. But to note it is only uttered once, by Kanye West, during the intro. And also to note, Yeezy doesn’t actually have a verse in this song. Rather, he just holds down the first few bars of said intro.
Pop Smoke (1999-2020), who unfortunately violently met his fate at the age of 20, has proven more musically active posthumously than he was when he was alive. Otherwise stated, the two albums he has managed to put out – 2020’s Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon and the soon to be released Faith (2021) – both came after Pop’s passing.
And the first of those was actually a major hit, topping the Billboard 200, UK Albums Charts and a bunch of other listings. And whereas the rapper did experience a hit or two before passing away, his name reached a new level of A list notoriety after his passing.
Moreover after life, Pop has teamed up with many of the biggest names in the game such as 50 Cent, Lil Baby, as well as of course Kanye West and others to be featured on Faith. FYI, Faith is album this song is derived from.
Facts about “Tell the Vision”
Kanye West served as both a writer and producer of “Tell the Vision”. And other artists who likewise served both roles are SethInTheKitchen, FnZ (Finatik and Zac), Jahlil Beats and BoogzDaBeast. Meanwhile Rico Beats acted solely as a producer and Pop Smoke, Pusha T and Steven Victor only as writers.
This track was first teased, in name only, by Kanye West in mid-2020. At the time, it was advertised to be featured on an album he reportedly had coming out entitled “Donda”. However, as with some tentative projects he has publicized in the past, said album may not ever be officially released.
UPDATE: The album in question was eventually released. It came out in August of 2021 with “Tell the Vision” being the 19th track on its tracklisting.
Angie Martinez, whom some readers would recognized as a veteran hip-hop radio personality from New York City, is also featured on the intro of this song. More specifically, a snippet of her radio show, in which she was talking about Pop Smoke right after his murder, is contained therein and actually comprises most of the passage.
Kanye West’s “Donda” Album
Titled in honor and memory of Donda West, the late mother of Kanye West, Donda is the rapper’s tenth studio album. Universal Records officially released Donda on August 29, 2021.
Prior to the aforementioned date, Kanye had on multiple occasions delayed the album’s release. He later stated that no permission and approval was asked from him when Universal Records eventually released the album.
Kanye stayed at a provisional studio in the dressing room of the Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta, for some weeks to record the album.
Donda’s concept speaks on sensitive topics such as addiction, racism, and religion. It comprises 27 songs and falls within the hip-hop gospel genre.
Kanye also talks about his personal life on Donda. A significant percentage of the lyrics touch heavily on the following personal issues in Kanye’s life:
- his marital problems with his wife, Kim
- his relationship with his children
- the memories of Donda West
Although he featured many top musicians and rappers, including Jay-Z and Chris Brown, he did not credit any of them on the tracklisting.
Donda topped the Billboard 200 chart and the album chart of over 150 countries globally. As of September 8, 2021, it held the record for the highest-streamed album in a day on Spotify and Apple Music.
Meaning of “Tell The Vision”: By Another Hand
The vocals of this song is rendered by Pop Smoke, a rapper who, as you may already know, died over a year before its release. Actually, earlier in the summer of 2021 Pop Smoke’s own track entitled Tell the Vision, featuring Kanye and Pusha T, was released as part of his own posthumous album Faith. And basically, the same vocals from that track serves as the vocals in Kanye’s version of the song.
Or more specifically, despite being the headline artist, Kanye does not even participate, in a vocal capacity, on his version of Tell the Vision. Instead, the reason why he is acknowledged as the main vocalist is apparently because this particular version we’re covering today is featured on his own album, Donda.
So basically, Kanye’s issuance of Tell the Vision is an abbreviated version of the original Tell the Vision, if all of that makes sense. However, there are three main differences. One is that in Kanye’s release, the instrumental is more stripped down.
Second, all of the featured and additional vocalists from the original – i.e. those of Yeezus, Pusha T and Angie Martinez – are not present in the Kanye version. And third of course would be the fact that, as is the Donda standard, the word “n*gga” is bleeped out in his release of Tell the Vision, which may not really sound like a big deal until you take into consideration that it’s perhaps the most recurring word in the abbreviated piece.
But getting all of that out of the way this is, most simply put, a come-up song. The chorus has Pop Smoke celebrating that “we made it”, with the “we” likely being a reference to himself and his crew and/or family. In fact he goes on to state that “thank God (he) made it”, with that spiritual shoutout likely being one of the main reasons Kanye decided to include this piece on Donda.
And the vocalist also calls his mom out in particular as someone he wants to bear witness to his success. This is a testament to the fact that most rappers grow up in matrilineal households, i.e. families in which the father’s presence is limited or in some cases nonexistent. And considering the struggles single mothers tend to go through, especially in the ‘hood, then usually they are amongst the main beneficiaries of their children’s success, especially if said child blows up like Pop Smoke had.
And the first verse starts off along a similar vein. For instance, Pop notes how he “used to eat 50 cent cake”, which is probably an allusion to products like Little Debbie, a favorite snack in the ‘hoods of New York partially due to its relatively low price. But now he’s chopping steak at Philippe’s.
Now there’s a number of establishments called Philippe’s, so we’re not exactly sure which one Pop is talking about. But either way, the point is that now the vocalist is able to fine dine. But the latter part of Pop Smoke’s verse is more dedicated to gun talk, i.e. the rapper basically threatening opps with the gat, which is kinda ironic considering how he met his fate.
In fact it’s sort of interesting that Kanye decided to retain such lingo given the overall tone of Donda. But that brings us to what appears to be the second primary purpose of this song, which is serving as a memorial to the late Pop Smoke.
No, in this day and age rappers being murdered is nothing unusual. But Smoke’s demise really caught fandom off guard since at the time he was basically being heralded as the Brooklynite who would lead the Big Apple into the 2020s of rap music, i.e. being amongst the top up-and-comers in the game. So even now, a year and-a-half after his murder, many musicians are still inclined to honor him.