Known for his breakout single "Welcome to the Party," Brooklyn's Pop Smoke combined gravelly vocals with erratic production to become the face of Brooklyn's rising drill scene. Within just a year of his debut, he made a rapid rise in the mainstream, landing in the Top Ten with sophomore mixtape Meet the Woo, Vol. 2. Tragically, soon after achieving this chart peak, he was gunned down on February 19, 2020.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Pop Smoke (born Bashar Jackson) got his start in music almost by accident; during studio sessions with various associates in 2018, Smoke secretly began to record his own vocals. Couched firmly in Brooklyn's rising drill scene, Smoke combined his booming, smoky vocals with the sonics of Chicago and London drill, producing an explosive collection of street-driven anthems. After remixing Sheff G's iconic "Panic, Pt. 3" for his debut single, "MPR," Smoke released the follow-up single "Welcome to the Party," produced by U.K. drill's 808Melo. Racking up millions of streams in just days, Smoke's track swiftly became Brooklyn drill's biggest success thus far, prompting remixes from the likes of Skepta and Nicki Minaj and bringing the local subgenre to the international stage. Capitalizing on his rapid rise, Smoke released his debut project Meet the Woo in July 2019, produced exclusively by 808Melo. After Meet the Woo spawned the second key hit "Dior," Smoke rounded out 2019 with an appearance on JackBoys, the chart-topping compilation from Travis Scott and his Cactus Jack crew.
Kicking off 2020, Smoke issued a Meet the Woo sequel featuring artists from Quavo to A Boogie wit da Hoodie. The mixtape, titled Meet the Woo, Vol. 2, continued the work of his drill-heavy debut, paying homage to the genre's U.K. roots through a Charlie Sloth freestyle while expanding on the melodic aspects of the Brooklyn scene. This project saw even greater success for the rapper, peaking at number seven on the Billboard 200 and charting across Europe. However, just weeks later on February 19, Pop Smoke was shot during a home invasion and died; he was 20 years old.
In July of that year, Victor Victor and Republic issued the rapper's first posthumous release, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon. With executive production from 50 Cent, the album touched base on a variety of styles, with features ranging across the musical spectrum, and topped the Billboard 200. A deluxe edition, with a more drill-driven approach, arrived just a few weeks later. ~ David Crone