Pop Smoke, the rising New York rapper whose gruff-voiced style made fans of stars like Cardi B and Nicki Minaj, was shot and killed in Los Angeles on Wednesday. A representative for the LAPD confirmed the rapper’s death to Rolling Stone.
The Los Angeles police responded to an emergency call at 4:20 this morning after masked gunmen broke into a house where the rapper was staying, the rep confirmed. Pop Smoke was transferred to a local hospital and pronounced dead when he arrived. He was 20. The rapper’s death came just days after his new mixtape, Meet the Woo 2, debuted in the Top Ten of the Rolling Stone albums chart.
As news of Pop Smoke’s death spread quickly online Wednesday morning, rappers remembered him on social media. “Rest In Peace, Pop,” Minaj wrote. “You made the whole city proud,” added Bas, who is signed to J. Cole’s Dreamville Records. “Sad man, just sad,” wrote another New York rapper, Joell Ortiz. “We are devastated by the unexpected and tragic loss of Pop Smoke,” a representative for Republic Records wrote in a statement. “Our prayers and thoughts go out to his family, friends and fans, as we mourn this loss together.”
Pop Smoke was born Bashar Jackson in Brooklyn, New York, in 1999. His transformation from a relatively unknown artist to next-up took place in the span of just a few months. Last April, he released a song titled “Welcome to the Party” that was sludgy and triumphant, hypnotic yet menacing. The production bore similarities to previous New York hits like Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot Nigga,” but Jackson had an inimitable voice — deep, gravelly, beat-swallowing. He quickly earned a major label deal.
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Jackson remembered his earliest experiences making music. “The first time I wrote a song, I had to be like eight years old in church, some gospel shit,” the rapper explained. “I sang that shit in front of everybody, the whole congregation. Now look — I’m a gangsta. That shit was fun. From that point on I knew I’m finna do this my whole life.”
The rapper’s rapid ascent did not come without some bumps. Last October, Jackson was scheduled to perform at Rolling Loud, a popular hip-hop festival that was coming to New York for the first time. However, the police demanded that Rolling Loud remove Jackson and several other local rappers from the lineup, saying in a letter that “if these individuals are allowed to perform, there will be a higher risk of violence.” Jackson did not perform at the event. Then in January, the rapper was arrested for allegedly transporting a stolen vehicle worth $375,000 from California to New York.
But Jackson continued to build on the success of “Welcome to the Party,” which has amassed nearly 80 million streams to date in the U.S. and later earned an official remix from Minaj. He released a slew of singles throughout 2019, collaborating with stars like Travis Scott on the Jackboys EP — which debuted at Number One — while also working with other rising artists like Lil Tjay and Calboy.
The flurry of singles and collaborations culminated in Meet the Woo 2, which Jackson released earlier this month. “I never wrote [down] anything,” he told Rolling Stone. “It’s all up my head. Everything that I be writing, everything that I be saying, when it comes to these types of songs, just be so natural. Just how I be feeling.”
Fans responded enthusiastically: The mixtape arrived at Number Eight on the latest Rolling Stone albums chart, amassing 37 million streams.
This story is developing.