On February 19, 2020, Bashar Barakah Jackson, famously known as Pop Smoke, was shot and killed at a Los Angeles home he was renting. A year later, his influence on hip hop, particularly in his native Brooklyn, remains large, and questions surrounding his death continue to loom.
Authorities claim one year ago today, four men broke into a Hollywood Hills home the rapper was staying at and shot him during the commission of a robbery. He was later transported to a local hospital, where he died.
In July, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced that they charged Corey Walker, 19, and Keandre Rodgers, 18, with robbery and murder with a special circumstance allegation that the killing occured during a robbery and burglary, making them eligible for the death penalty. Additionally, two other defendants, both minors, were each charged with one count of murder and robbery in juvenile court.
Investigators believe the accused men became aware of Pop’s whereabouts after he made social media posts revealing the house he was renting.
In late August, a pre-trial hearing took place for Walker and Rodgers. A trial date for them, as well as the two minors, has yet to be set as prosecutors and police continue to investigate what happened surrounding the alleged crimes.
But during the year that followed Pop Smoke's death, his influence on New York Hip Hop has exploded. He had just come off of releasing a commercially successful hit with “Dior” and a follow-up to his debut mixtape with Meet The Woo 2 less than two weeks before he was killed.
In July, Pop Smoke’s debut album Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon was released via Victor Victor Worldwide and Republic Records. Executive produced by 50 Cent, whom Pop heavily admired, the project skyrocketed to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts and had first-week sales of 251,000 album-equivalent units.
The posthumous LP features some of Hip Hop’s biggest current stars, including DaBaby, Lil Baby, Quavo, Future, Roddy Ricch, and more, as well as other New York drill artists.
The influence from Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, as well as Pop’s previous two mixtapes, helped bring to light an already burgeoning drill scene in the Big Apple. Frequent collaborators Lil Tjay and Fivio Foreign dropped the successful hits “F.N” and “Big Drip” respectfully and other artists like Sheff G (who many credit as an innovator of New York-style drill) saw his fan base heavily-grow, among others. Their viral success helped land Tjay and Fivio on XXL’s 2020 Freshman magazine cover in August.
London-born drill producers like AXL Beats and 808Melo, also frequent collaborators with Pop Smoke, saw the demand for their beats skyrocket. The drill scenes in the United Kingdom and France heavily influenced what started to grow in Brooklyn and collaborations between artists from the European countries and those stateside began to grow as well.
In October, Pop Smoke won “Best New Artist” at the BET Hip Hop Awards and was honored with a tribute during the virtual ceremony as Quavo performed their joint hits “Shake the Room” and “Aim For The Moon.”
Now into 2021, Pop Smoke and the NY drill scene’s influence remains large. Staten Island-bred rapper CJ’s hit “Whoopty” reached number 10 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 earlier this month and peaked within the top 3 on the UK Billboard charts. While the song and music video for it were released last July, they went viral due in-part to the track’s catchy nature, melodic beat and international appeal as it samples the Indian song "Sanam Re" by Arijit Singh and Mithoon.
During an interview with HipHopDX in January, CJ identified Pop Smoke and his absence from the New York drill scene as the chief inspiration for the hit. “Basically, I was in quarantine and stayed in the house for a long time, and I was just like, ‘Damn, there ain’t no music coming out right now,'” he told the outlet. “We had lost Pop, may he rest in peace, and I felt that we were missing that energy, that New York bop, that New York swag. You know what I’m saying? We was missing that whole lane.”
Fivio Foreign and Lil Tjay, who both signed with Columbia Records, are planning to release albums this year while Sheff G, Raw Swish, Sleepy Hallow, Smoove'L and Sosa Geek (who along with Fivio were featured on Drake’s 2020 song “Demons”) all continue to create drill music.
Photo: Joseph Okpako/WireImage