“Woo is a lifestyle…”
There was just something special about him.
On February 19, 2020, the hip hop world was shocked by the news that Brooklyn native Pop Smoke was shot and killed in Hollywood Hills, California where he was staying at the time. The 20-year-old was just making his mark across the nation introducing a unique sound now called Brooklyn Drill to the nation with hits such as “Welcome to the Party,” and “Dior.”
“He enjoyed making that kind of music,” CEO of Victor Victor Worldwide, Steven Victor says as he explained what brought the artist to the specific sound that molded Pop Smoke’s young career. “He enjoyed the London sound. He also enjoyed the African sound. He was able to fuse that so well. It was after a bunch of conversations and a bunch of studio sessions, and just listening to a bunch of music and hearing him speak about the different types of music he wanted to make, the impact he wanted to have, and how he wanted his career to go. That’s how we decided to make that his signature sound.”
Pop Smoke drew many comparisons to 50 Cent due to his voice, and how he was coming up as a young artist. Those comparisons and influences turned into recording remakes of the Queens native’s biggest hits off his album Get Rich or Die Tryin‘ named “Many Men.”
“When he came through I told him anything that I have done that struck a chord with you, do it over,” 50 Cent said recounting a conversation he had with Pop Smoke following their first visit. “Do it your way. He was like, ‘bet.’ It was like consent to do what he was doing.”
An original version of the “Many Men (Remix)” was leaked to the internet following his death in February. With 50 Cent executive producing his debut album, Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon, the influences come more to life with the track “Got it on Me.”
“I mean its god’s plan. It’s not like I’m overthinking, It’s just happening. I’m just doing it.”
Pop Smoke started his career with “Money, Power, Respect,” which began buzzing around the streets of Brooklyn following its release. It was followed up with the single “Flexin'” before he brought the world his biggest hit “Welcome to the Party.”
“They said I was going to die before that shit drop,” he said speaking to Drewski in one of his first interviews.
“Welcome to the Party,” brought the attention of not only New York, but some of the biggest artists in hip hop. As the track continued to buzz, artists such as Nicki Minaj, French Montana, and Dave East all recorded verses over the hit. It was Minaj’s version that became an official remix and officially released on August of 2019.
“It had to go,” he said about the record at the time. “We don’t hold nothin’ back.”
The track was followed up by yet another big hit in “Dior,” both featured on his debut mixtape Meet the Woo. “Dior” brought Pop Smoke to new heights, peaking at 30 on the Billboard Hot 100, and opening more eyes, giving an opportunity for New York to find its new sound and bring the crown back to the city and Brooklyn.
“We needed that,” HOT 97’s DJ Enuff said. “He was bringing it back to New York, and bringing it back to Brooklyn. He was starting to become dominant. And people from other cities knew that. I’d be on the phone with people in Texas and people be like ‘Brooklyn is making some noise again,’ and I’d be like ‘yup.’ It felt good. It felt like when Biggie back in the days was bringing it back after [Snoop Dogg] and [Dr. Dre] after the west coast had it for so many years. It just felt good to have a Brooklyn drill thing happening.”
Following his passing, the sound continued on, as his friend Fivio Foreign scored a hit with his single “Big Drip.”
“I really feel like [Pop Smoke] is sending blessings to me,” he said during a conversation with Rosenberg in March. “He’s sending his blessings my way, I want to keep the shit going for him. It’s bigger than us.”
His legacy still lives on today, as his album Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon which carried features from Quavo, Lil’ Baby, DaBaby, Future, Rowdy Rebel, Roddy Ricch, 50 Cent, and more was released in July of 2020. It is clear that although he has passed, people are still still relating to his words, and are still influenced by the sound he helped make popular before he passed away.
The project debuted at number one in the United States, and various other places around the world, as well as became the first hip hop artist to have a posthumous debut album hit number one on the charts.
Adding to his young legacy, he will also posthumously make his acting debut in the upcoming film Boogie which is set to be released on March 5.
With more music expected on the way, we can only expect the Brooklyn legend to continue to influence hip hop and the music scene.
Watch as 50 Cent, Steven Victor, and more remember the late rapper.