Greetings, beautiful people! This piece will honor the life of slain Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke. Early Wednesday morning, he was gunned down in a home invasion robbery, at his Hollywood Hills residence. He was 20 years old. His death sent shockwaves across the Hip-Hop community. He is gone, but not forgotten.
Often dubbing himself the “King of New York” I was hesitant on giving him that title myself. “King of Canarsie” felt more appropriate, given his high stature in the Brooklyn community.
My prayers & condolences go out to the family & friends of Bashar Jackson. Rest in peace Pop!
Unfortunately, after a famous person passes, many have a story, or moment, that signifies how that person influenced them. Here’s mine.
In a world where music reigns supreme, we cycle, and listen to several different albums each year. I’m no exception. Whenever I seek new music, I return to the music catalog on my Apple Music account.
After listening to an album months removed from the release, if I enjoyed it, I can recall what occurred in my life at the time. A few hours following the passing of Pop Smoke, I re-listened to his first album, my personal favorite, to properly honor his life.
Pop Smoke released his debut album “Meet the Woo”, Volume 1, on July 26, 2019. During that time, I wasn’t in New York City, myself & Pop’s hometown. I was in Oswego, NY, at my EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) summer program.
I could reminisce about the energy following the mixtape’s release. Following his hit singles in early 2019, his debut album was expected to cement his star status in the Hip-Hop industry. And cement it did. The album reached the Billboard 200 chart within a month of its release.
On the album were prominent tracks “Meet the Woo” & “Welcome to the Party”, and underrated gems “Hawk Em” & “PTSD”. But no song would surpass the popularity of “Dior”: an uptempo tune that mixed Smoke’s drill-rap flow, witty rhymes, and luxury brands he enjoyed in Mike Amiri & Christian Dior.
The anticipation surrounding the release was amazing. I remember the clock striking 12 am that Friday morning, with people racing to download the album to their devices. Me and my friends were already giving our reviews on how dope the project was.
Despite spending my summer six hours from home, “Meet the Woo” gave me that vibe, like I was back in my neighborhood, playing hoops, listening to the hottest tracks in the park.
Pop Smoke went mainstream for barely a year. Therefore, the success he achieved, speaks volumes. However, his impact runs deeper than his impressive discography.
In a post-Bobby Shmurda era, following the rapper’s incarceration, New York yearned for an artist to represent the city’s tough and gritty persona, on the big stage. Go read that again. Not an artist to represent New York as a totality. Just one to represent the grittiness our city holds its hat on.
A-Boogie wit Da Hoodie, has no drill-rap records. Ditto for Lil Tjay & Lil Tecca. Fivio Foreign’s breakthrough came after Pop. You could make an argument for Casanova, but he doesn’t have the widespread popularity on par with Pop. The same can be said for 22Gz, Smoove L, Sheff G & Sleepy Hallow. What is Tekashi 6ix9ine at this point?
Let me clarify. I’m not saying Pop started New York drill rap. I’m simply saying he popularized it. Make no mistake, that wasn’t his only imprint on the culture.
Despite putting New York drill-rap on the mainstream, Pop maintained his own distinct sound. We’ve never heard anything quite like it. Pop often drew comparisons to legend 50 Cent, but 50’s voice wasn’t as deep or defined as Pop, further increasing his individuality.
His ascension to fame was unheralded as well. He went from recording tracks in his neighborhood of Canarsie, with no features, to collaborating with the likes of Quavo, PNB Rock, Nicki Minaj, and Travis Scott.
Given another year, and who knows who worked with. His work ethic was uncanny, as he consistently released new music for fans to enjoy.
Lastly, his loving personality. One word to describe the Brooklyn star, is “cool”. He was the smoothest, coolest guy out, and acted as such.
I’ve found myself watching his very first interview on Real 92.3 L.A. four to five times, because of the way he carried himself. The deep voice, the humorous New York slang, how he pauses before he speaks, it was fascinating.
And Pop was very mature for his age. That’s the part that hurts the most. He passed away very young. He was 20! He failed to enjoy the embarrassment of riches in his future.
With myself, being a month from my 19th birthday, and having friends in the same age bracket as me, it puts life into perspective.
Now, I left out several details that made Pop Smoke… Pop Smoke. That was intentional. With this piece, I decided to incorporate my personal knowledge and experiences with the Brooklyn artist.
To conclude, death is never easy. And sometimes, it’s unexpected. That friend you may be at odds with, that family member… tell them you love them. Cherish them, check upon them. Tomorrow is never promised! Like Pop did, let’s aim for success, TODAY. Let’s strive for our dreams, TODAY. Let’s be impactful, TODAY. From the words of Pop Smoke himself: “coming where we come from, we can’t afford to fuck up, or slip up. Can’t make no mistakes (@ 24:46).”
Don’t let that go over your head.
If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you agree, or disagree with this piece. And please, share this with your friends. S.I.P. Pop!
P.S. Shoutout to my high school friend Alex, he’s a longtime Canarsie resident, and big Pop Smoke supporter.
(Originally posted February 20, 2020 on Medium. Edited May 22, 2020 on WordPress.)