Rapper Pop Smoke dead at age 20

Recently, one of our youngest upcoming rappers was taken from us far too soon. Based on the relatable music he made for the forgotten portion of society, it was heartbreaking to learn that on Feb. 19, 2020 Smoke was fatally shot in a home invasion in the home he was renting in Hollywood Hills.   

Though we will continue to bring him to the parties, it would be doing him an injustice not to tell those unaware a little about the  20-year-old rapper from Brooklyn. This summer, it was impossible to escape Pop’s breakout single, “Welcome to the Party,” giving anyone listening to it their taste of how New York hip-hop had once sounded.  

Pop Smoke, born Bashar Jackson, grew up with a strong female leader in his mother.  He also has a brother who is currently continuing his education. Though he had an early love for sports,  he was also kicked out of school for bringing a gun with him.  

The method of his death was a constant fear growing up.  Those raised in Canarsie, Brooklyn carried the fear that someone would take him or her from their family solely because that person could. Every second of his life, both before and after fame, consisted of how quickly everything could all be taken from him as quickly as he got it.  

Smoke had attended nearly nine schools due to the charges against him for bringing a weapon in junior high. Most of his musical goals had intended to attract the younger crowd and speak to younger people who grew up in similar situations. He himself said his music had been for those who ‘got to carry their guns to school because it ain’t safe, but they still got to make sure they get their diploma ’cause their mom could be happy. I do it for them.”  

This was the beginning of his musical career with only a few mixtape releases and not one official album released. His most well-known song was seen as the perfect way to exemplify the reckless, energetic and unpolished potential of a New York summer. Previous interviews have concluded and learned he is from a city where getting home safe at all had been a blessing all together and so for me personally, it is sad to see him survive Canarsie just to lose his life in Hollywood Hills. As many heard him say, “where we come from, it isn’t sweet,” making it clear he felt blessed to live this long alone.   

 Due to his history and unfortunate altercations with the law, he did not get to fulfill a lot of the performances he would have wanted. He had become one of the artists to put New York back on the map for what the streets alone genuinely represent and though it’s a sad time for the city, everyone had connected to him in one way or another.  Unfortunately for Pop Smoke fans, you can take the man out of the hood, but you can’t take the hate from it.

Valery Caraballo