Pop Smoke’s lasting legacy on the hip-hop community


Late rapper Pop Smoke in a music video for his hit song “Welcome to the Party.” 

Collin Maguire

The murder of 20-year-old Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke, birth name Bashar Barakah Jackson, has sent waves throughout the music industry over the past week.

The up-and-coming rapper was shot and killed in a home-invasion shooting by masked gunmen Wednesday morning. 

Jackson was coming off the release of his mixtape sequel “Meet the Woo 2,” opening eyes with his debut mixtape in volume one. Jackson had only been involved with music for a year and a half, but his ability to quickly turn heads allowed for him to solidify himself among the best in the rap game as a drill rapper. 

Drill rap is a hard-hitting and dark style of trap music. Drill rap’s birthplace has been credited to Chicago.

Vulture Magazine’s Paul Thompson wrote, “At the time, [Chief] Keef, fellow local rapper Lil Reese and their producer Young Chop took the horrors of their increasingly bloody streets and translated it into a sound fit for wartime: drill music, a fusion of trap and gangsta rap. It’s tough, matter-of-fact street rap that wouldn’t have found its way into the mainstream in previous decades.”

Drill music isn’t just about a particular sound but centers around a particular hip-hop culture, including vocabulary, dance movements and overall mentality derived from the dark depths of rap game. 

Pop Smoke’s brand of Brooklyn drill music is compared to the likes of grime music. Pop Smoke has even collaborated with grime artists from the United Kingdom, such as 808Melo and AXL Beats, but drill music tends to have a much slower tempo and relies heavily on the melody. Towards the end of the 2010s, Brooklyn drill rappers emerged onto the scene with the likes of Sheff G, Sleepy Hallow and Fivio Foreign. Drill rap has since emerged as a prominent sound in New York for a number of years now. Pop Smoke was among the most important figures in terms of evolving the Brooklyn drill scene. 

Pop Smoke burst into the mainstream in the early stages of his career with the release “Welcome to the Party,” a song many considered to be the song of the summer, with the song topping out at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. After the release of the first mixtape, Pop Smoke began gaining a lot of attention, drawing comparison to artists like 50 Cent. Pop Smoke followed up on that momentum when “Meet the Woo 2” debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 this past Sunday. 

Pop Smoke had his recipe for exclusively hard-hitting music defined, and he quickly established himself as an incredibly consistent source of music over the past year. “Meet the Woo 2” was no different from its 2019 predecessor “Meet the Woo” in terms of quality.   

Pop Smoke’s voice was taken from the hip-hop world too soon, but his impact on the constantly changing rap scene will remain. Pop Smoke allowed drill rap to take center stage once again, and he along with his peers have laid out a red carpet for a plethora of New York artists.