The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.
The rap world received shocking news on Wednesday (Feb. 19), when Brooklyn rap artist Pop Smoke was murdered during a suspected home invasion at a residence in Hollywood Hills, California. The 20-year-old rapper, born Bashar Barakah Jackson, was found at the scene with multiple gun wounds and was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Word of Smoke’s death quickly spread across social media with many of the rapper’s peers and fans mourning the loss, and paying their respects.
Breaking out onto the scene in 2019 with his runaway hit “Welcome to the Party,” the Canarsie rep capitalized on the buzz with his debut mixtape, Meet The Woo, which charted on the Billboard 200 and produced the follow-up single “Dior,” a record that peaked at No. 49 on Billboards Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart. From there, Smoke would keep his foot on the pedal by appearing on Travis Scott’s JACKBOYS project and celebrating the new year by unleashing Meet The Woo 2, which was led by the monstrous street banger “Christoper Walking.” Debuting at No. 7 on the Billboard 200, Meet The Woo 2 saw the artist beginning to come into his own, as he worked with the likes of H.E.R., A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, Quavo, and Lil Tjay. Despite his untimely demise, the talent will be remembered as a hometown hero who put on for his borough of Brooklyn to the fullest.
In memory of his life and career, REVOLT highlights five reasons Pop Smoke was able to captivate the rap world and become Brooklyn’s latest shining star.
1. His Voice
From the moment listeners first heard Smoke’s voice on his breakout 2019 single “Welcome to the Party,” they were aware that there was something drastically unique about his vocal tone. Delivering his couplets with a gruff drawl, the Brooklyn rep’s ability to command the room and send the crowd into a frenzy was a trait that set him a part from his contemporaries, and spurred his transition from a relative unknown into an overnight celebrity.
2. His Production
Making sure your production is tight is a key component in having a great song that people wanna listen to, which is a base Smoke had covered from the outset of his career. Hooking up with U.K. drill producers 808Melo and Rico Beats — who crafted all of the beats on his debut mixtape — after coming across their tracks on YouTube, the rapper hit the ground running by recording and releasing “Welcome to the Party” and “Dior,” both of which shut down the New York City clubs with their ominous, futuristic sounds. They would eventually becoming bonafide hits and contenders for songs of the summer and fall, respectively. While Smoke’s sophomore mixtape saw him branching out and working with more established beat-smiths, he will always be credited as helping bring the U.K. drill sound stateside.
3. His Authenticity
Prior to reaching stardom, Smoke caught himself on the wrong end of a WorldStar moment when he was captured being smacked and taunted by multiple teenagers on a Brooklyn street, which went viral. However, he evened the score when he and his crew accosted one of those same teens in a 7-11 store last year, an incident that was also caught on camera for the world to see. The fight was not only retaliatory, but a message that his music was true to reality.
4. His Personality
Smoke’s time in the spotlight was relatively short, however, fans quickly grew fond of his deadpan humor, outrageous quotes and cocksure countenance. Initially a bit guarded in interviews, he eventually began to open up the more his success grew, and charmed the media and the public with his million-dollar smirk and ability to not take himself too seriously. This was most evident in recent interviews, particularly the one he did with Angie Martinez shortly before his death. Coaxing the legendary radio host into blurting out his ad-libs and recounting his brief athletic career, Smoke was just beginning to tap into his most endearing qualities and displaying them for the world to see.
5. His Fashion Sense
Brooklyn has a history of fashionable rappers and Smoke was in line to become the next style icon to emerge from the borough. In addition to one of his highest charting singles (“Dior”) being named after a high-end designer brand, he was also beginning to rub shoulders with fashion titans like Virgil Abloh, who’s Off-White label produced the visual for his Quavo-assisted single “Shake The Room” shortly before his death. From his obsession with Christian Dior to one of his last Instagram posts capturing him flaunting Louis Vuitton gift bags, the late rapper’s flair and dedication to remaining fly only helped bolster his approval rating among fans.
Rest in power, king.