New York Yankees star right fielder Aaron Judge made history Tuesday when he usurped Roger Maris for the most home runs in American League history with 62. His late-night blast into left field in Houston against the Texas Rangers not only vaulted him into the record books but added a extra chapter to the inheritance from Pop Smoke.
The umpire’s scrimmages this season at Yankee Stadium have become a sight to behold. Strolling out of the batter’s box to the soundtrack of Pop’s 2020 anthem “Hello” developed into a must-see moment for avid baseball fans and rap purists alike, especially as he inched closer to the venerable record. To Steven Victor — the skilled record manager and artist manager who signed Pop to Universal Music Group through his own Victor Victor Worldwide imprint and helped guide his short-lived career — he sees this as an inspirational moment for the late rapper’s legacy after he died more than two years ago at age 20.
“I continued [Judge’s] Instagram page and I started looking at him more, said Victor, who only learned about Judge’s home run last week. “And then I sent him a DM to just thank him and be very grateful that he’s keeping [Pop’s] name alive.”
In February 2020, Pop Smoke was killed in Los Angeles during a home invasion. His posthumous debut album, Shoot for the stars, aim for the moon, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and gave birth to a multitude of Hot 100 hits, including “Hello,” which peaked at No. 83 and was certified platinum by the RIAA.
“Hello” was initially considered a one-off song, but was later revived by Victor and the producer Ricardo “Rico Beats” Lamarre, giving Victor his first ever songwriting credit. In the track, Pop name-drops basketball legends Carmelo Anthony and Manu Ginobili — something Victor says prompted him to put the record on the album. From fellow athletes like Tom Brady to Floyd Mayweather who have said they are fans of the rapper, Pop’s influence remains strong in the sports world – especially after Judge’s latest triumph.
“This is very inspiring and hopeful,” says Victor. “These people work super, super hard, and [Pop] was also a very hard worker. I always tell people that if you look at Ye or Cudi, they speak to people through their music, even if it’s not directly. I feel that [Pop] did very well.”
Victor adds: “That’s exactly what the goal was: to work together [for him to be] this person who wanted to inspire athletes and kids, using music as a vehicle to do so.”