Bashar Barakah Jackson (July 20, 1999 – February 19, 2020), known professionally as Pop Smoke, was an American rapper, singer, and songwriter. 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 2018 when visiting a recording studio with fellow rapper Jay Gwuapo. After Gwuapo got high on drugs, Pop Smoke went into a booth and tried rapping for the first time. He used a beat he got from 808Melo's YouTube channel and recorded his debut single titled "Mpr (Panic Part 3 Remix)". He often collaborated with UK drill artists and producers, who employed more minimal and aggressive instrumentation than drill artists from Chicago. Pop Smoke rose to fame with the release of his breakout single "Welcome to the Party" in 2019.
Following his rise to fame, Rico Beatsintroduced 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, released on February 7, 2020, debuted at number seven on the Billboard 200, becoming the rappers first top-10 hit in the United States. Less than two weeks after the release of the mixtape, Pop Smoke was fatally shot during a home invasion in Los Angeles. 50 Cent executive produced his posthumous debut studio album, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, which was released on July 3, 2020, and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, with all 19 tracks from the album charting on the Billboard Hot 100. The album spawned a string of international top-10 singles, including "For the Night" and "What You Know Bout Love".
Bashar Barakah Jackson was born on July 20, 1999, in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jamaicanmother, Audrey, and a Panamanian father, Greg. He had a older brother named Obasi. Jackson attended nine different schools while growing up in Canarsie, Brooklyn. He played the African drums in his local church as a child. 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. 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. Jackson later turned to street life.
In a Genius interview, he stated that his artist name of Pop Smoke is a combination of Papa, a name given to him by his Panamanian grandmother, and Smoke Oh Guap, a nickname from childhood friends. 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)". On January 28, 2019, he released "Flexing'". 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 revealed that he signed to Victor Victor Worldwide, a subsidiary of Universal Music. On April 23, 2019, Pop Smoke released his breakout single, "Welcome to the Party", that was produced by 808Melo. Two remixes of the song were later recorded, with one featuring Nicki Minaj and the other featuring Skepta. On December 27, Pop Smoke was featured on Travis Scott's Cactus Jack Records compilation album JackBoys on the song "GATTI" which was also accompanied by a music video.
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. The mixtape debuted at number seven on the US Billboard200, earning Pop Smoke his first top 10 hit in the United States. 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. Pop Smoke teased to social media his debut headlining concert tour Meet the Woo Tour to promote both his mixtapes.
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. At around 4:30 a.m., four hooded men, including one wearing a ski mask and carrying a handgun, broke into the house and shot him twice in the chest. The LAPD had received news of the home invasion from a call from the East Coast. Police arrived at the home six minutes later and found Pop Smoke with multiple gunshot wounds. He was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where doctors performed a thoracotomy on the left side of his chest. A few hours later, he was pronounced dead at the age of 20 years old. 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. Investigators believed that the house was a target for home invasions following a string of robberies that took place at homes rented by musicians. The LAPD at first considered that Pop Smoke's death was gang-related as he was tied to the Crips. They also suspected that his killers may have been gang-affiliated. The LAPD later believed his death was the consequence of a home robbery gone wrong. The day before his murder, Pop Smoke and friend Mike Dee had posted several images on social media, including one in which Mellencamp's home address can be seen in the background.The rapper also posted a story on Instagram and Facebook of gifts he had received. One showed the house's full address on the packaging, giving out its location.
Pop Smoke's body was originally planned to be buried at the Cypress Hills Cemetery but was later changed to Green-Wood Cemetery. Family, friends, and fans of Pop Smoke gathered in his hometown of Canarsie, Brooklyn, to show their respects. His casket was pulled in a horse-drawn carriage and was surrounded by glass windows and white curtains. On July 9, 2020, three adult men and two minors were arrested for the murder of the rapper. 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. 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". A judge later determined that Rodgers was still a minor at the time of Pop Smoke's murder. Walker is being defended by defense attorney Christopher Darden, a former prosecutor from the O. J. Simpson murder case. After Walker refused any more delays in his case, witnesses were due to testify at a preliminary hearing in March 2021. Walker is eligible for the death penalty or life without parole if convicted on the murder charge. The two juveniles had also been charged with murder and robbery in juvenile court.Murphy was later charged with attempted murder.
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