HOLLYWOOD—Every rapper’s dream is to become famous at microwave speed. Pop Smoke released his first album, “Meet the Woo,” last July, and in the months to follow, he collaborated with Nicki Minaj, Travis Scott and others. His second album debuted this month at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 chart. He moved on from his family’s duplex in a middle-class section of Brooklyn, and, at 20 years old, was living in a rented four-bedroom home owned by one of the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” with a backyard pool featuring expansive views of the Hollywood Hills.
On Wednesday, February 19, several people broke into that home, at least one holding a gun and several cloaked in black masks. Someone staying there contacted a friend on the East Coast, who then called 911. Within minutes, the call was relayed to the Los Angeles Police Department who were at the home, but it was too late; the intruders fled and a person inside was fatally shot. Pop Smoke’s record label, Republic, confirmed that he was the victim.
Yes, rapper Pop Smoke has been killed, after an apparent armed robbery. According to published reports, his label Republic Records says it’s “devastated by the unexpected and tragic loss of Pop Smoke.: Police responded to reports of a robbery – a man was taken to hospital and later pronounced dead. Officers confirmed that an unknown number of suspects entered a property in Hollywood Hills. A number of celebrities in Los Angeles have been victims of home invasions in recent years, and fans of Pop Smoke, whose real name was Bashar Jackson, wondered whether he had unwittingly provided bait to thieves by posting photos of cash, and his address, on social media.
The loss of another rising star hit the hip-hop universe hard on Wednesday, with many artists posting their condolences. Several others have died by shootings or overdoses in the last couple of years, a dark cloud over the industry coinciding with its rising fortunes thanks to new, freely available platforms including SoundCloud and TikTok.
Pop Smoke emerged last year as the first breakout star of Brooklyn’s growing drill rap scene with the hits “Dior” and “Welcome to the Party,” which became the ubiquitous hip-hop song of the summer. A gravel-voiced rapper with a bark-like delivery, he quickly honed a signature approach that recalled the rougher New York rap of the 1990s.
He was scheduled to go on tour in March following the release of his second album, “Meet the Woo, Vol. 2.” Pop Smoke is one of several notable rappers to have died in the last couple of years. Accidental drug overdoses have claimed the lives of established rappers including Mac Miller and up-and-comers like Juice WRLD and Lil Peep.
Shootings killed Nipsey Hussle, XXXTentacion and a host of rappers well known in their local scenes. Pop Smoke had legal problems. He was arrested last month on charges of transporting a stolen $375,000 Rolls-Royce to New York from California (he needed the judge’s permission to travel to London) and previously had to wear an ankle monitor as part of a court diversion program connected to a weapon charge, which was eventually dismissed.
In Los Angeles, he was living in a home owned by Teddi Mellencamp, a “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” alum and her husband, Edwin Arroyave. Pop Smoke was musically unique. It was said, “He just had this real muffled, deep voice, and you kind of almost end up talking like him after a record of hearing him.”
His lyrics were unabashedly profane, but original. The rapper inverted the meaning of “thot,” a derogatory term for a sexually active woman. Many fans online noted that the day before he was shot, the rapper had posted photos on Instagram showing a stack of cash and a gift bag label with his Los Angeles address. In recent years, the homes of actors, musicians and athletes have become popular targets for burglars. Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Emmy Rossum, David Spade and baseball player Yasiel Puig have all been victims of burglars. In October 2018, the Los Angeles Police Department said that the homes of stars were targeted for specific reasons.
Police say no suspects have been identified and no arrests have been made. They also denied reports that a man was held at the scene, but say one suspect is thought to have had a handgun. Pop Smoke, who this week got his first US Top 10 album, was signed to Republic Records who indicated in a statement: “Our prayers and thoughts go out to his family, friends and fans, as we mourn this loss together.”
When reports first appeared in the US tributes began flooding for Pop Smoke including from friends. He had a breakout hit with “Welcome to the Party” in 2019 – which led to him being singled out as an artist to watch this year. Pop Smoke “possessed the air and cadence of a rapper who has been in the game for a decade or two longer than his actual age.” The track ended up being remixed by both Nicki Minaj and Skepta.
Rose’s Scoop: Pop Smoke was in the middle of several U.S. tour dates at the time of his death.