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Pop Smoke

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Pop Smoke
Pop Smoke in 2020
Pop Smoke in 2020
Background information
Birth nameBashar Barakah Jackson
Born(1999-07-20)July 20, 1999
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedFebruary 19, 2020(2020-02-19) (aged 20)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Rapper
  • singer
  • songwriter
Years active2018–2020
Associated acts
Cause of deathMurder (gunshot wounds to torso)
Resting placeGreen-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York
Something Special Pop Smoke.png

Bashar Barakah Jackson (July 20, 1999 – February 19, 2020), known professionally as Pop Smoke, was an American rapper. He was considered by many to be the face of Brooklyn drill. Born and raised in Canarsie, Brooklyn, Pop Smoke began his musical career in late 2018 with his debut single "Mpr (Panic Part 3 Remix)". Pop Smoke rose to fame with the release of his breakout singles "Welcome to the Party" and "Dior" in 2019. He often collaborated with UK drill artists and producers, who employed more minimal and aggressive instrumentation than drill artists from Chicago.

Following his rise to fame, record producer Rico Beats introduced Pop Smoke to Steven Victor in April 2019. Victor would later have Pop Smoke sign a recording contract with Victor Victor Worldwide and Republic Records. He released his debut mixtape Meet the Woo in July 2019. His second mixtape, Meet the Woo 2, was released on February 7, 2020, and debuted at number seven on the Billboard 200, becoming the rapper's first top-10 project in the United States.

Less than two weeks after the release of the mixtape, Pop Smoke was murdered during a home invasion in Los Angeles. Fellow New York rapper 50 Cent was the executive-producer of his posthumous debut studio album, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, released on July 3, 2020. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and all 19 tracks from the album charted on the Billboard Hot 100. The album also spawned a string of international top-10 singles, including "For the Night" (featuring DaBaby and Lil Baby) and "What You Know Bout Love". A year later, Republic Records released Pop Smoke's second posthumous studio album, Faith on July 16, 2021.

Early life

Bashar Barakah Jackson was born on July 20, 1999, in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jamaican mother, Audrey Jackson, and a Panamanian father, Greg Jackson.[1][2] He had an older brother named Obasi.[3] Jackson attended nine different schools while growing up in Canarsie, Brooklyn.[4] He played the African drums in his local church as a child.[4] Jackson was expelled from eighth grade for bringing a gun to school and spent two years on house arrest after being charged with possessing a weapon.[5] Jackson started playing basketball as a point and shooting guard. He relocated to Philadelphia to enroll in Rocktop Academy. He was later forced to leave after being diagnosed with a heart murmur, and Jackson eventually turned to street life.[6]


In a Genius interview, he stated that his artist name of Pop Smoke is a combination of Poppa, a name given to him by his Panamanian grandmother, and Smocco Guwop, a nickname from childhood friends.[7] He began his music career in 2018 when visiting a Brooklyn recording studio with fellow rapper Jay Gwuapo. After Gwuapo got high on drugs, he fell asleep. Pop Smoke went into the booth to try rapping for the first time, just to see if he could do it. He used a beat he got from 808Melo's YouTube channel and recorded his track titled "Mpr (Panic Part 3 Remix)".[6] On January 28, 2019, he released "Flexin'".[8] Meanwhile, Pop Smoke befriended producer Rico Beats, who was acquainted with record executive Steven Victor.

The three set up an interview, and in April 2019, Pop Smoke signed to Victor Victor Worldwide, a subsidiary of Universal Music.[9][10] On April 23, 2019, Pop Smoke released his breakout single, "Welcome to the Party", that was produced by 808Melo.[11] Two remixes of the song were later recorded, with one featuring Nicki Minaj and the other featuring Skepta.[11] Pop Smoke released his debut mixtape Meet the Woo on July 26, 2019.[12] From October to December 2019, Pop Smoke would release a plethora of singles, including "War" with Lil Tjay,[13] and "100k on a Coupe" with Calboy.[14] On December 27, 2019, Pop Smoke appeared on Travis Scott's Cactus Jack Records compilation album JackBoys on the song "Gatti" which was also accompanied by a music video.[15][16] "Gatti" debuted and peaked at number 69 on the US Billboard Hot 100, giving Pop Smoke his first Hot 100 appearance.[17][18] On January 16, 2020, Pop Smoke released "Christopher Walking".[19] On February 7, 2020, Pop Smoke released his second mixtape Meet the Woo 2, with features from Quavo, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, Fivio Foreign and Lil Tjay.[20][21][22]

The mixtape debuted at number seven on the US Billboard 200, earning Pop Smoke his first top-10 hit in the United States.[23][24] Five days after its release, a deluxe edition was released with three new songs, each featuring a guest appearance, consisting of Nav, Gunna, and PnB Rock.[25][26][27] Pop Smoke teased to social media his debut headlining concert tour Meet the Woo Tour to promote both his mixtapes.[28][29] The tour was planned to begin in the US in March, and end in the UK in April.[29]

Posthumous releases

"Dior", the second single off Meet the Woo, became Pop Smoke's first posthumous solo hit, peaking at number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 33 on the UK Singles Chart.[17][30][31] At the beginning of March 2020, American rapper 50 Cent announced on his Instagram that he had decided to executive produce and finish Pop Smoke's debut studio album.[32][33][34] After his announcement, 50 Cent called artists like Roddy Ricch, Drake, and Chris Brown wanting to feature them on the record.[6][33] Pop Smoke had wanted to take his mother to an awards show prompting 50 Cent to promise to take her to one when the album was complete.[35][36]

On April 16, 2020, a documentary on Pop Smoke's life was announced to be in the works.[37] On May 14, 2020, Victor announced that Pop Smoke's debut studio album would be posthumously released on June 12, 2020. The album would be known as Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon.[38] It was originally set for release on June 12, 2020, but was pushed back out of respect for the George Floyd protests.[39] Instead, on the album's original release date, the lead single, "Make It Rain", featuring fellow Brooklyn rapper Rowdy Rebel was released.[40]

Rebel's verse was recorded through a collect call since he was incarcerated at the time.[40] Virgil Abloh created the album's original artwork.[41] The cover artwork provoked significant criticism from fans who called it "lazy" and "rushed" and felt it was disrespectful. It prompted a petition attracting tens of thousands of signatures.[42][43][44] Ryder Ripps created the final cover art with the chrome rose against a black background. Pop Smoke's mother chose the final album cover hours before the album was released commercially.[45]

The album was officially released on July 3, 2020,[46] to commercial success, reaching number one in several countries, including on the Billboard 200.[47] All 19 songs on the album charted on the Billboard Hot 100,[30] with "For the Night" featuring Lil Baby and DaBaby, debuting and peaking at number six, giving Pop Smoke his first top-10 hit in the US.[48][49] On July 20, 2020, on what would have been Pop Smoke's 21st birthday, a deluxe edition of the album was released, and featured 15 new additional tracks.[50][51][52] The album's fifth single "What You Know Bout Love", would later end up peaking at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Pop Smoke his second top-10 hit in the US.[53] On February 26, 2021, "AP" was released as the lead single for the Boogie soundtrack.[54][55] Pop Smoke was cast as Monk in a minor role for Boogie.[56]

A second posthumous album titled Faith was released on July 16, 2021.[57]

Legal issues

On January 17, 2020, after returning from Paris Fashion Week,[58] Pop Smoke was arrested by federal authorities at John F. Kennedy International Airport after stealing a Rolls-Royce Wraith, valued at $375,000, whose owner reported it stolen after Pop Smoke had reportedly borrowed it in California for a music video shoot on the condition it would be returned the next day. Investigators believed he arranged for the car to be transported on a flatbed truck to New York. He posted a photo of himself in front of the stolen car on Instagram and Facebook. The car was recovered by authorities at Pop Smoke's mother's house, in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn.[58][59]

Police tried to get Pop Smoke to snitch on the Crips after his arrest. They questioned him about a non-fatal shooting that took place in Brooklyn in June 2019. The police thought he had information on the shooting because they claimed to have footage of him driving a car in reverse near the scene of the crime.[59] The police also tried to pressure Pop Smoke into telling them more information about the Crips, GS9, and other Brooklyn street gangs, but he refused to talk.[59]

Police charged Pop Smoke with a federal grand theft auto charge after pressuring him again about his connection to the Crips and more non-fatal shootings. He again refused to cooperate, posted a $250,000 bond, and agreed to stay away from known gang members and submit drug tests to the US pretrial services.[60] The conditions Pop Smoke was put under hindered some of his performances like the "BK Drip Concert" at Kings Theatre in Flatbush in February 2020, as gang members would be in the audience.[59]


Murder of Pop Smoke
Map of the Hollywood Hills district of Los Angeles.png
Map of the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles
LocationHollywood Hills, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DateFebruary 19, 2020; 17 months ago (2020-02-19)
c. 4:30 a.m.[61] (PST)
TargetBashar Barakah Jackson, a.k.a. Pop Smoke
Attack type
Murder, assassination, home invasion
Deaths1 (Bashar Barakah Jackson, a.k.a. Pop Smoke)
MotiveUnder investigation


  • Jaquan Murphy
  • Keandre D. Rodgers
  • Corey Walker
  • Unnamed 17-year old
ChargesFirst degree murder with special circumstances[63]

On February 19, 2020, Pop Smoke was renting a house owned by The Real Housewives star Teddi Mellencamp and her husband, Edwin Arroyave, in Hollywood Hills, California.[64][65][66] At around 4:30 a.m., four hooded men, including one wearing a ski mask and carrying a handgun, broke into the house.[66][67][68] The LAPD received news of the home invasion from a call from the East Coast.[69] Police arrived at the home six minutes later and found Pop Smoke with multiple gunshot wounds.[70] He was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where doctors performed a thoracotomy on the left side of his chest.[71] A few hours later, he was pronounced dead at the age of 20 years. [72][73]

On February 21, the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner revealed that the cause of Pop Smoke's death was a gunshot wound to the torso.[66] Investigators believed that the house was a target for home invasions following a string of robberies that took place at homes rented by musicians.[72] The LAPD at first considered that Pop Smoke's death was gang-related as he was tied to the Crips. It also suspected that his killers may have been gang-affiliated.[72] The LAPD later believed his death was the consequence of a home robbery gone wrong.[74]

The day before his murder, Pop Smoke and friend Michael Durodola[75] had posted several images on social media, including one in which Mellencamp's home address can be seen in the background.[72] The rapper also posted a story on Instagram and Facebook of gifts he had received.[72] One showed the house's full address on the packaging, giving out its location.[72]

Pop Smoke's body was originally planned to be buried at the Cypress Hills Cemetery but was later changed to Green-Wood Cemetery.[76] Family, friends, and fans of Pop Smoke gathered in his hometown of Canarsie, Brooklyn, to show their respects.[77] His casket was pulled in a horse-drawn carriage and was surrounded by glass windows and white curtains.[77][78]

On July 9, 2020, three adult men and two minors were arrested for the murder of the rapper.[79] Pop Smoke's suspected killers were identified as Corey Walker, 19; Keandre D. Rodgers, 18; Jaquan Murphy, 21, and two unnamed juveniles who were ages 15 and 17 at the time of the killing.[79][80][81]

Walker and Rodgers were each charged with murder with a special circumstance that alleged the killing was committed "during the commission of a robbery and a burglary".[82] A judge later determined that Rodgers was still a minor at the time of Pop Smoke's murder.[83] Walker is being defended by defense attorney Christopher Darden, a former prosecutor from the O. J. Simpson murder case.[83][84] After Walker refused any more delays in his case, witnesses were due to testify at a preliminary hearing in March 2021.[83] Walker is eligible for the death penalty or life without parole if convicted on the murder charge.[81][82][83] The two juveniles had also been charged with murder and robbery in juvenile court.[82][83] Murphy was later charged with attempted murder.[79]

In May 2021, new details emerged that Pop Smoke was taking a shower at a home rented through Airbnb when masked men entered the home through a second-story balcony.[85] A woman who was staying with Pop Smoke at the time in the house had a gun held to her head,[85] and one of the intruders threatened to kill her, saying, "Shut the fuck up. Do you want to die?"[86] The woman heard Pop Smoke struggle in the shower and then heard him screaming.[85] Pop Smoke ran out of the bathroom and then the woman heard a loud bang and heard Pop Smoke fall to the ground. Two other intruders began to kick him.[86] Pop Smoke was able to get up and run downstairs, but not before the woman heard two more gunshots.[85] She followed Pop Smoke to see him on the ground and screamed for Michael Durodola to call 911.[85] It was believed the intruders stole Pop Smoke's gold watch and other jewelry before running away from the house.[86]

In May 2020, the 15-year-old, the youngest of the four intruders, allegedly admitted to killing Pop Smoke over a diamond-studded Rolex during a recorded interview with a cellmate at a juvenile detention center.[87] The 15-year-old told the cellmate that Pop Smoke at first complied with their requests for jewelry but then tried to fight them, and a confrontation broke out in which Pop Smoke was pistol-whipped and shot with a Beretta M9.[88] The intruders made off with his Rolex, which they sold for $2,000.[87][88]

Pop Smoke's parents, Audrey and Greg Jackson shared memories of their son before saying how gun violence took him away from them.

On February 19th, at 4:00 AM, a gun was used to take my son from me. You know him as Pop Smoke, we called him 'Shar'. Because of gun violence, I'll never see my son run up the front of our steps, taking them two at a time; he won't ever take my hands again and dance with me; he won't come into my room and muscle pose in the mirror. Gun violence destroys families. It must stop.[89]

— Audrey Jackson during an ad for the "Gun Violence Destroys Families"


Danny Schwartz wrote in The Ringer that "[Pop Smoke] conquered New York rap and gave the city the kind of readymade and potentially defining star it hadn't seen in years". He also claimed that "in [New York] city, [Welcome to the Party] was more omnipresent than hits like Old Town Road."[90]

Pop Smoke's work ethic was widely praised by his peers in the music industry. Executive producer of his posthumous album 50 Cent revealed Smoke was always "writing what [50] said down" on his telephone, while Quavo added he "felt like [he] was talking to somebody that had been in the game for three years already".[91] Because of Smoke's strong desire to leave his old lifestyle, he motivated young people of his neighborhood to get away from the streets. Producer Rico Beats explained Smoke started "telling kids, don't go the gang route", wanting to "be a better person".[91]

A few months after his death, his family announced the creation of Shoot for the Stars, a foundation launched by Pop Smoke which aims to help and inspire inner-city youth with a platform that helps to achieve goals amidst living and growing up in difficult circumstances.[92] After his death, several murals of him were created in Canarsie.[93][94] Although his lyrics do not generally contend with police brutality or racism, his songs, particularly "Dior", were popularly used during the George Floyd protests in New York City as a symbol of resistance.[95][93][96]


Awards and nominations

Year Award Nominated work Category Result Ref.
2020 BET Awards Himself Best New Artist Nominated [97]
2020 MTV Video Music Awards Himself Push Best New Artist Longlisted [98][99]
"The Woo" (featuring 50 Cent and Roddy Ricch) Song of Summer Nominated
2020 BET Hip Hop Awards Himself Best New Hip-Hop Artist Won [100]
2021 Grammy Awards "Dior" Best Rap Performance Nominated [101]
2021 Billboard Music Awards Himself Top Artist Nominated [102]
Himself Top New Artist Won
Himself Top Male Artist Nominated
Himself Top Billboard 200 Artist Nominated
Himself Top Hot 100 Artist Nominated
Himself Top Streaming Songs Artist Nominated
Himself Top Rap Artist Won
Himself Top Rap Male Artist Won
Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon Top Billboard 200 Album Won
Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon Top Rap Album Won


Year Title Role Notes
2021 Boogie Monk Minor role[103]
2021 TBA Himself Documentary[104]

See also


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