R.I.P. Pop Smoke, A King of New York Who Didn't Get To Enjoy His reign
The King of New York is the crown jewel for all rappers from the 5 boroughs. It is a title that has been held by many of the greatest rappers in the history of hip-hop.
From The Notorious B.I.G to Jay-Z to Nas to 50 Cent to Kendrick Lamar to Cardi B to the controversial Tekashi 69. No matter how you view the current scene of New York rap, there's no denying that New York is the birthplace of the genre. To be a New York rapper at the very top is something all New Yorkers cherish and feverously debate.
Relating to sports terms, the King of New York crown has its gravitas such as being a Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, World Series-winning centerfielder for the New York Yankees or an NBA Finals-winning center for the Los Angeles Lakers. Being the King of New York is a title that many like to profess, but very few can stake a legitimate claim to the throne.
Bashar Barakah Jackson, A.K.A. Pop Smoke, was going through his coronation as the newly appointed King of New York when he was murdered this past Tuesday, 2/19.
Pop Smoke just released his second mixtape Meet the Woo 2 which debuted at #7 on the US Billboard 200. The second mixtape was fueling the momentum that he has built upon since last summer when his first single, Welcome to the Party.
It was impossible to escape the combination of the song's hypnotic production and the fierce, braggadocious and threatening voice of Pop Smoke. Pop Smoke was just another emerging rapper from Brooklyn's drill scene that also includes 22Gz and Sheff G but was pulling ahead of the two rappers.
Incorporating U.K. drill producer, 808Melo, Pop Smoke had a sound that was different from the generic drill and trap we had grown accustomed to in hip-hop over the years.
Meet the Woo released in July of 2019 and was a tantalizing debut from the Brooklyn rapper. Filled with terrifying whispers threat lyrics, adlibs like "Woo" and "Woo Back Baby!" and booming 808 drums, Pop Smoke established what Brooklyn sounded like while being unique.
Led by singles Meet the Woo and Welcome to the Party, the mixtape was the soundtrack for all of New York during the summer. Neither of these songs would prove to be the one to truly exalt Pop Smoke to quasi-superstar levels.
The trance-inducing but hard-hitting drums of the production combined with the nastiest, grimiest and relentlessly attacking lyrics, Dior established Pop Smoke as someone to watch on the New York scene. The song rattled off the rest of the year and Pop Smoke rode that momentum into his feature of Travis Scott's label compilation Jack Boys, his first true taste of stardom. Pop Smoke was featured on the album's song Gatti and stole the show. More like a Pop Smoke song featuring Travis Scott, Pop Smoke was now exposed to a bigger audience. The first step in a calculated attempt to take over the scene.
In Pitchfork's review of Meet the Woo, the sound of Pop Smoke is perfectly described.
Rapping entirely in ad-libs, hooks, and Instagram-ready one-liners, he sounded like a kid raised on a strict diet of Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Finally Rich, and Newports. His production, mostly from UK drill beat wizard 808Melo, mixed grimy, fast-paced drums with vocal samples ripped from UK garage and melodies that could score an anime. This stew of influences could only come from an artist raised on the internet, but Pop Smoke’s smooth arrogance and West Indian lingo remains distinctly Brooklyn.
Pop Smoke was a refreshing voice and a unique sound in New York. In recent years, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie (from the Bronx) has been a rapper that has created many clones. A Boogie's melodic and whiny-rapping sound has been adopted by the likes of Smoove L, Lil Tecca and Lil TJay. The rapper has even tweeted about the plagiarism of his sound.
The lack of different voices, approaches and an effort to be different from New York rappers has the city's sounds all over the place. A lot of copy cat sounds of A Boogie; A$AP Rocky and French Montana sounding like they're from the South and not from New York; Don Q and Dave East are stuck in the '90s with dull coke raps and terrible beat choices; Tekashi 69 was a bad rapper and his troll antics didn't help and Cardi B is just trash. No one can pinpoint who the best rapper out of New York truly is until Pop Smoke created his buzz last summer.
I've talked a lot about why Pop Smoke was great and his story up until now but I'll tell you why he was so endeared to many New Yorker's hearts.
There was no way that when you listened to a Pop Smoke record, it didn't remind you of the last true King of New York, 50 Cent. Pop Smoke was an admitted 50 Cent stan and drew comparisons to 50 Cent from long-time New York DJ, Funk Flex. Pop Smoke was 50 Cent incarnate, he was the evolved version of 50 Cent. Substituting the dusty beats of the early 2000s for U.K. drill, Pop Smoke was having a meteoric rise in New York, one not seen since 50 Cent.
To actually be the King of New York, you first have to make the claim, which Pop Smoke did on Christopher Walking, and for the first time in years, it felt like this was a true claim to the crown.
She love how I talk (She love how I talk) She know that papi outside, she know I'm the king of New York (Grr)
What's, even more, is that earlier in the song, Pop Smoke channeled his inner 50 Cent with the lines "I ain't no Window Shopper". When first hearing the song, it brought me back to as a child listening to Window Shopper freshly downloaded off off Limewire. I will speak for most New Yorkers when I say this; hearing him echo 50 Cent confirmed to me that Pop Smoke was going to last.
Pop Smoke was ready to blow up this year but his career was cut too short. In that short career. Pop Smoke owned an entire summer throughout the 5 boroughs of New York, all without evening having a proper performance in his city. This wasn't on purpose, Pop Smoke has had a litany of problems trying to secure performances in New York Touring throughout the states and U.K., Pop Smoke was building an audience that was enhancing every day with features and social media.
It is a sad time for New York. The city has lost one of its budding stars in yet another on the long and devasting list of murders in hip hop. New York is very territorial amongst the 5 boroughs and Pop Smoke was able to create unity amongst all hip-hop fans in the 5 boroughs. Pop Smoke also brought the limelight back into Brooklyn. The last rapper to make a name from himself coming out of Brooklyn was Tekashi 69 and he was not nearly as loved as Pop Smoke. Like 50 Cent provided kids from Queens hope that they can make it out too, Pop Smoke was Brooklyn's new shinning hope.
Pop Smoke was able to garner up so much love in New York for a career that spanned a little over a year. He was able to garner a following and love only at the age of 20 and that is truly the most amazing thing about Pop Smoke. Hopefully, the next Pop Smoke, the next King of New York can be inspired by him and honor what could've been.
R.I.P. Pop Smoke
You cannot say Pop and forgot the Smoke!
Woo Back Baby!