Pop Smoke biography

The life of Bashar Barakah Jackson

Pop Smoke was born as Bashar Barakah Jackson on July 20, 1999 in Brooklyn, New York. His mother is Jamaican and his father is Panamanian. He has a brother, Obasi Jackson, who is also a music artist. Bashar grew up in Canarsie, Brooklyn and he attended nine different schools. He was expelled from the eighth grade for bringing a gun to school. Because of this, Pop Smoke was put on house arrest for two years and he had to wear an ankle bracelet during this period. He was only allowed to go to school while he was on house arrest. Bashar claimed that this is the only reason why he was able to get his diploma. 

At 15 years old, he received a basketball scholarship to a prep school in Philadelphia, but unfortunately he was forced to stop playing competitive basketball due the fact that he was diagnosed with a heart murmur 6 months into the program. In an interview with XXL Pop said that he returned to Canarsie after this and turned to street life. At the age of just 16, Bashar was already driving a BMW 5 series.

Pop Smoke explained in an interview with the LA Leakers that coming from the hood, there are three options to survive and make it out of there: to rap, play ball or sell drugs. Pop said that he did all of them and that he was good at it. Before he started rapping, he was playing ball and later he turned to street life since he was not permitted to play competitive basketball. However, a chance to get out of the street life appeared in 2018 during a studio session with rapper and friend Jay Gwuapo. 

Pop Smoke and Jay Gwuapo | Pop Smoke Related

Pop Smoke: music career

Pop Smoke’s music career actually started by accident. During a studio session in 2018, with friend and rapper Jay Gwuapo, Gwuapo fell asleep because he was too high on drugs. Having already paid for the studio session, Pop went up and picked up the mic to try rapping for the first time. He started making remixes to popular songs within the Brooklyn drill scene by looking up beats on YouTube. One of these beats would end being Pop Smoke’ first song that was ever released: ‘MPR’, which is a remix to Sheff G’s ‘Panic Part 3′. MPR gained a lot of streams and views in just a few days. In January 2019, he released Flexin’ and after that his music career (and popularity) skyrocketed.

He became friends with Rico Beats, an acquaintance of Steven Victor. Steven is owner of Victor Victor Worldwide, which is a subsidiary of Universal Music Group. Pop Smoke signed to Victor Victor Worldwide in April 2019. This was also the month that Pop Smoke released ‘Welcome To The Party’, which would gain him mainstream success. It was one of the hottest singles during the summer of 2019 and it was streamed all over the world. The song would even gain more attention due the two remixes that were made: one featuring Nicki Minaj and one with British rapper Skepta.

Pop Smoke released his first mixtape, Meet The Woo, on July 26, 2019. His second mixtape, Meet The Woo 2, would follow on February 7, 2020. His debut studio album, Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon would posthumously be released on July 3, 2020.

Pop Smoke: face of the drill scene

Pop Smoke was one of the first rappers from Brooklyn who used drill beats from the UK. Pop will always be known as the artist who built the bridge between the UK and New York drill scene. Although he was not the first New York artist who used UK drill beats, he surely made good use of it and he made the Brooklyn drill scene go worldwide. This is also the reason why many people see Pop Smoke as the face of the Brooklyn drill scene and the drill scene in general.

Bashar worked frequently with 808Melo, a UK based producer. Pop started his music career by searching for drill beats on YouTube and he came across 808Melo. He started using his beats, but he didn’t pay for them. After 808Melo discovered that Pop was getting a lot of attention rapping on his beats, he confronted him about a compensation for the beats. Pop thought that his management took care of the payments. Instead of giving 808Melo money, Pop decided to flew him out to New York to work on his debut mixtape: Meet The Woo. The duo went on to make many hits together: Dior, Welcome To The Party and Gatti are just a few examples of hits that the superb duo made together.

If you want to know more about Pop Smoke’s music career, projects and features/singles, take a look at the ‘Pop Smoke discography‘ page. We discuss everything related to his music career on that page!

Pop Smoke and 808Melo | Pop Smoke Related

Pop Smoke and 808Melo. Credits: The Face

How did Pop Smoke come up with his artist name?

Pop Smoke explained, in a Genius interview, that his artist name is a combination of the words ‘Papa’ and ‘Smoke Oh Guap’. His grandma gave him the nickname ‘Papa’ and his childhood friends always called him ‘Smoke Oh Guap’. But his friends didn’t want to call him papa, so they decided to call him Pop. The Pop and the Smoke just mixed together, and this is how Bashar came up with the name that would be known all over the world: ‘Pop Smoke’.

Pop Smoke’s death

Pop Smoke was tragically murdered during a home-invasion robbery in Hollywood, Los Angeles on February 19, 2020. Pop Smoke was visiting Los Angeles to celebrate the release of Meet The Woo 2 and to promote the mixtape which dropped on February 7. For the visit he and a few friends were renting a multi-million dollar mansion in Hollywood via AIRbnb. On the 19th of February, around 4:30 A.M., at least four hooded men broke into the house, including one person carrying a handgun. There were multiple people inside the house besides Pop Smoke, but the burglars only ran into Pop Smoke. The person carrying the handgun shot Pop Smoke twice in his torso, which ended up being fatal.

The LAPD got a call about the home-invasion from the East Coast and arrived six minutes later at the mansion. Pop Smoke was brought to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where doctors opened up the left side of his chest in an attempt to save his life. Unfortunately, it had no impact and Pop Smoke was announced dead at the same hospital where another Brooklyn legend (Biggie Smalls) lost his life. Pop Smoke’s cause of death was a gunshot wound to the torso. It is really sad to realize that Pop Smoke survived the hood in Brooklyn and ended up dying in Hollywood at such a brutal way and young age.

Pop Smoke death | Pop Smoke Related
Pop Smoke Related

Pop Smoke’s death: investigation

On February 19, the rap scene lost one of his most talented artists, and the world lost a young legend. Pop Smoke would only reach the age of 20, may he rest in peace. Many things are still unclear about what exactly happened that day. The LAPD started the investigation by detaining and interviewing the people who were inside the house, but the witnesses weren’t cooperative or gave unreliable statements.

Due to the fact that there were no reliable witnesses and the situation with the coronavirus, it looked like the case would not be solved for a long time. Furthermore, the LAPD couldn’t find a motive for the killing. They first believed that it was a gang related murder, because of Pop Smoke’s ties with the Crips. However, this scenario was quickly ruled out.

The investigation was further complicated because Pop Smoke accidentally leaked his address when he received presents from his friend, Mike Amiri. Pop and his friend Mike Dee also posted some pictures online where the address of the house could be seen while they were flexing with piles of cash and jewellery. This meant that the murder could also be the result of a robbery gone wrong. The LAPD was found with a difficult challenge to solve the murder. 

5 suspects arrested

But, on July 9, 2020, completely out of the blue, five suspects were arrested in connection to Pop Smoke’s murder. The LAPD found the alleged killers the ‘old-fashioned way’: by knocking on doors of houses in the neighborhood and by using video surveillance from citizens and businesses to track down the killers. 

The five suspects are: Corey Walker (19), Keandre D. Rodgers (18), Jaquan Murphy (21) and two juveniles who are not named because of their young age (17 and 15). CBS News reported that Walker and Rodgers are charged with murder with a special circumstance allegation, because the murder was committed during a robbery/burglary. This means that they are both eligible for the death penalty or life without parole if they are convicted.

The two juveniles have also been charged with murder and robbery. Murphy was later charged with attempted murder. The five individuals are members of the ‘Hoover’ gang, a criminal organization known for robbing houses of celebrities. The LAPD believes that the home invasion robbery was based on the pictures that Pop Smoke posted online containing the address where he was staying.

Pop Smoke was buried on the 5th of March at Greenwood Cemetery, New York. Before Pop Smoke’s body was buried, a horse-drawn carriage took a ride through his old neighbourhood Canarsie. Hundreds of people came out on the streets to pay their respect as Pop made his final ride through Canarsie. 

Pop Smoke's final ride through Canarsie | Pop Smoke Related
Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon | Pop Smoke Related

Pop Smoke: posthumous work

On the 14th of May, Steven Victor announced that Pop Smoke’s debut studio album would be released on June 12, 2020. 50 Cent became executive producer of the album. 50 gained interest in finishing the album for Pop and he wanted to executive produce it. Steven Victor couldn’t bring it up to himself to listen to Pop Smoke’s music after his death because he was too sad. However, 50 Cent convinced him to continue working on it so, just like Pop always wanted, that his debut album would be released during the summer.

With 50 Cent as executive producer, Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon was supposed to be released on June 12, 2020. Due to the death of George Floyd, the label decided to postpone the release out of respect. Instead, the lead single of the album ‘Make It Rain’ featuring Rowdy Rebel was released on that day. This was the first single with Pop Smoke as lead that was released after his death.

Shoot For The Stairs, Aim For The Moon was eventually released on the 3rd of July. Complex has written an interesting article on how every single song on this album was made. The album would be end up as one of the biggest albums of 2020 and it debuted at number one of the Billboard 200 chart with 251.000 album-equivalent units in its first week. Pop Smoke made history with this: he is the first hip-hop artist who posthumously debuted with his debut album at number one of the Billboard 200 chart.

On July 20, what would be Pop Smoke’s 21st birthday, the deluxe version of the album dropped. More information about the album can be found at the Pop Smoke: discography page!

Pop Smoke: movie

Not only was Pop Smoke a great music artist, he also got himself a role in the movie ‘Boogie’. The movie is written & directed by Eddie Huang and it was  released on the 5th of March 2021. The story is about Alfred Chin, also known as ‘Boogie’. He is a Chinese high-school basketball player who dreams of playing in the NBA one day. However, he faces a lot of challenges, such as high school problems, racism and rivals like Monk (played by Pop Smoke). The soundtrack of Boogie contained two new Pop Smoke songs: ‘No Cap Remix’ featuring M24 and ‘Fashion’ featuring Polo G.

This shows that Pop Smoke had a huge potential: not only music wise, but also in other areas such as acting. It is really sad that we never got the chance to see what Bashar could fully achieve during his life. However, we can conclude that Pop Smoke was meant for greatness and that the sky was never the limit.

Shoot For The Stars Foundation | Pop Smoke Related

Legacy of Pop Smoke

The family of Pop Smoke announced that they would continue to work on the Shoot For The Stars foundation. Pop Smoke always wanted to make music for the youth and for the kids who, just like hem, grew up in poverty. This is exactly the target audience for the Shoot For The Stars foundation. The foundation is focused on helping the inner youth to ‘shoot for the stars’ and help turn their pain into champagne by making their dreams a reality. The foundation was found by Pop Smoke before he died and his family will continue his aspiration to inspire and help the youth.

Although Pop Smoke’s songs aren’t directly about racism or police brutality, Dior became one of the anthems during the Black Lives Matter protests in New York. It is great to see how much love the city of New York showed (and still shows) to Pop Smoke.

As last but not least, Pop Smoke’s DJ confirmed that there are approximately 400 songs left of Pop. However, we do not now how many songs are meant to be released and how many song are finished. We still have some good news to finish with, because Steven Victor confirmed that we can expect more music projects from Pop Smoke in the future.

FAQ about Pop Smoke

Pop Smoke’s real name was ‘Bashar Barakah Jackson’. The name Bashar means ‘bringer of good tidings’ and it’s origin is Arabic.

Pop Smoke was born on July 20, 1999.

Pop Smoke was born in the Canarsie neighborhood of New York in the United States of America.

Pop Smoke is from the Canarsie neighborhood of New York in the United States of America.

Pop Smoke was American and he was born to a Jamaican mother and a Panamanian father.

Pop Smoke died on February 19, 2020 as a result of a home invasion robbery. He was just 20 years old.

Pop Smoke’s official death certificate stated that he died as a result of a gunshot wound to the left side of his chest. He was shot during a home invasion robbery on February 19, 2020.

Pop Smoke died in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles after being shot in a Hollywood Hills mansion. 

Pop Smoke was buried on March 5, 2020.

Pop Smoke was buried at Green-Wood Cemetery, New York City. Pop Smoke’s body was originally planned to be buried at Cypress Hills Cemetery, but the location was later changed to Green-Wood Cemetery.

Pop Smoke’s street mural is at 8125 Flatlands Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11236, United States of America.

Pop Smoke’s brother is Obasi Jackson.

His grandma used to call him ‘Poppa’ and his name in the streets was ‘Smoke Oh Guap’. As his friends didn’t want to call him ‘Papa’, he shortened it to ‘Pop’. After that, he mixed the ‘Pop’ with the ‘Smoke’ and the rest is history.

Pop Smoke started rapping at the end of 2018.

Pop Smoke was signed to Victor Victor Worldwide, a subsidiary of Republic Records.

Pop Smoke first officially released song is ‘MPR’.

Pop Smoke’s birthday is on July 20.

Some sites report that Pop Smoke was 5’5 (1.65m), however this is not true. Pop Smoke his height was 5’10 (1.77m).

Pop Smoke and 50 Cent are not related. Even though they have the same surname (Jackson) and their music style is often compared to each other, they are not related.