Written by Reggie "Doc" Scott
2020 started off as a crazy year. A lot of unforeseeable things happening. One of them being the untimely passing of Pop Smoke. The rising 20 year-old rapper was gunned down during a home invasion on February 19, 2020 in Los Angeles.
Considered by many as the face of the Brooklyn drill music scene, the Brooklyn rapper born Bashar Barakah Jackson broke out with his 2019 single “Welcome to the Party,” which also had an official remix featuring Nicki Minaj. With production by UK producer 808Melo, Pop released his first two mixtapes, Meet the Woo and Meet the Woo 2, in 2019 and 2020, respectively. In February 2020, his second mixtape had just debuted at number 7 on the Billboard 200 chart days before his murder. It was a clear sign that his star was about to start shining bright. Thanks to his first charting single “Dior” and the public interest in his music following his passing, Pop Smoke became a new mainstream fixture in music. His debut album, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, was posthumously released July 2020 with fellow New York rapper and influence 50 Cent executive producing the project. After the release, the album quickly debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and all nineteen tracks from the regular edition debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, giving Pop his first top ten hit with “For the Night” featuring Lil Baby and DaBaby. From the sounds and influences of the album and even the various countries where he recorded music, it was very clear that Pop was poised to be the hot newcomer in rap and was working hard to cement that title.
One year later following his death, Pop Smoke’s legacy is still on the rise. The Ginuwine “Differences”-sampled “What You Know Bout Love,” released as the latest single from his debut album, just reached the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and peaked at number four on the UK Singles Chart while gaining massive spins on Top 40 radio. “Dior” has been nominated for Best Rap Performance at the upcoming 2021 GRAMMY Awards. His music has reached different demographics and races. There’s also Pop’s upcoming acting debut in the basketball drama Boogie, releasing on March 5th with new music from the late-rapper as well.
While drill music is typically tied to street violence, Pop wanted to make some changes. Although he grew up in the street life, Pop wanted for the younger generation listening to his music to not go the gang route and be a better person. Months after his passing, his family introduced the creation of Shoot for the Stars, a foundation that Pop was forming prior aimed at helping and inspiring inner-city youth with a platform to achieve goals amidst living and growing up in difficult circumstances. His parents, Audrey and Greg Jackson, have partnered with the Entertainers 4 Education Alliance/I WILL GRADUATE program to prevent further gun violence.
“Because of gun violence, I’ll never see my son run up the front of our steps, taking them two at a time,” Mrs. Jackson says in an anti-gun violence PSA. “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.”
Although his life was taken away at such a young age, Pop Smoke’s life will continue to live on through the music and his legacy.
On Saturday, February 20th from 10AM to 3:30PM, Shoot for the Stars Foundation is hosting an online event celebrating his life titled “Shake the Room: The Theology of Pop Smoke.” For more information on the foundation and to register, visit www.shaketheroom.org.