Pop Smoke Dead At 20

The ascendant Brooklyn rap star Pop Smoke has been murdered. According to TMZ, Pop Smoke was shot and killed early this morning in what appears to be a home-invasion robbery. Police claim that four men wearing hoodies and masks broke into Pop Smoke’s rented Hollywood Hills house around 4:30AM, shooting Pop Smoke and fleeing on foot — apparently the rapper inadvertently revealed the address on Facebook earlier in the day. The suspects are still at large. Pop Smoke was 20.

Pop Smoke, born Bashar Barakah Jackson, grew up in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Canarsie, the son of a Jamaican mother and a Panamanian father. A promising high-school basketball career ended when he was diagnosed with a heart murmur, and he later turned to drug dealing, spending two years on house arrest on a gun charge. Pop Smoke was relatively new to music; he released his first song “MPR” in December of 2018. His rise was fast and meteoric.

Pop Smoke was the biggest star yet to emerge from Brooklyn drill, the mutation of the Chicago subgenre that also drew on the UK’s own version of drill music. Working mostly with the London producer 808Melo, Pop Smoke developed a sound that was gruff and concussive but still catchy and occasionally melodic. He released his debut mixtape Meet The Woo in 2019, and his single “Welcome To The Party” was a New York summer anthem last year. Nicki Minaj, French Montana, and Skepta rapped on remixes, and Travis Scott brought Pop Smoke in to appear on “Gatti,” a track from his Jackboys compilation.

Pop Smoke had some issues with the police during his short career. Along with a few other New York rappers, he was dropped from the lineup of Rolling Loud New York last year after police sent the organizers a letter requesting their removal. Last month, Pop Smoke was arrested on charges of transporting a stolen car across state lines. But his upside was tremendous. Earlier this month, Pop Smoke released the hugely promising mixtape Meet The Woo 2. Just last week, I published a column on the man, writing that “he has the potential to become something special.” His loss is both shocking and enormous.

Below, watch some of Pop Smoke’s videos.

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