Pop Smoke’s death early Wednesday in the Hollywood Hills shocked many in the rap community as well as devoted fans of the up-and-coming performer. But to others, the rapper born Bashar Barakah Jackson was an unknown quantity.
Here are a few facts about the “Welcome to the Party” mastermind, who was killed at age 20.
Pop Smoke was an up-and-coming star in Brooklyn’s drill rap scene. His debut mixtape, “Meet the Woo,” came out last July, and “Meet the Woo, Vol. 2” debuted this week in the top 10 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. “Dior” and a “Welcome to the Party” remix that featured Nicki Minaj both made it into the top 50 on Billboard’s list of hot R&B/hip-hop songs. “Gatti,” which featured Pop Smoke along with Travis Scott, broke the top 35 on that chart last month.
He played the 2019 Rolling Loud festival in Los Angeles in December, along with Lil Uzi Vert and Playboi Carter. “What Rolling Loud, now in its third year as a traveling event, represents is the shock of the new: noise over order, charisma over lucidity, bad vibes over good. … .,” The Times’ Mikael Wood wrote. “You saw it in 20-year-old Pop Smoke, rapping in his throaty bellow over a wobbling bass line that sounded close to collapse.”
He was one of five rappers the NYPD asked Rolling Loud to lose from its New York lineup. Pop Smoke, 22Gz, Casanova, Sheff G and Don Q were called out in a police letter to organizers as being “affiliated with recent acts of violence citywide” and therefore, the letter claimed, likely to increase the risk of violence during the event, the New York Times reported in October. Organizers complied with that request.
Pop Smoke and his crew were aware that their lifestyle brought risks. “On the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway … he and his crew engaged in what can only be described as defensive driving formations: rotating order, intermittently speeding up and slowing down, blocking other cars from their path,” the New York Times wrote last fall. “It was the type of behavior exhibited by those who are mindful that something unexpectedly awful could happen at any moment.”
He was about to go out on a months-long international tour. Pop Smoke had two shows set for next month at the Roxy in West Hollywood, plus one at the Constellation Room in Santa Ana, as part of a 40-plus-date tour that would have taken him across the U.S. Also on tap were shows in the U.K., Ireland, France, Belgium and Portugal.
He was free on $250,000 bail after being arrested last month in New York on suspicion of stealing a Rolls-Royce that he had borrowed overnight for a music video shoot in L.A. Jackson was charged with a federal crime, interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle, after he allegedly arranged for the car to be shipped cross-country on a flatbed truck. He had posted a shot of himself with the $375,000 car on social media. It was found parked in front of Jackson’s mother’s Brooklyn home with its plates changed and windows tinted. Previously he took part in a diversion program for first-time offenders, likely related to weapons possession.
Pop Smoke was killed Wednesday by masked gunmen in a Hollywood Hills home invasion. A person calling from the East Coast told authorities that several suspects had entered their friend’s home shortly before 5 a.m. Police responding to the call found the 20-year-old rapper in the house with gunshot wounds. “The Bible tells us that jealousy is as cruel as the grave,” Minaj wrote Wednesday on Instagram. “Unbelievable. Rest In Peace, Pop.”
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