Pop Smoke: His Coarse Baritone, And The Revolution He Left Behind
Every once in a while when the music industry is smooth sailing like the Titanic, an iceberg comes and hits it in the face, totally battering it apart, only to be reinvented (for the better of course), and recently that was Pop Smoke. The world signed up to be shook when the song “Welcome To The Party” first hit YouTube that slowly climbed up the hall of fame to become a Big Apple summer anthem. Since his first hit, Pop stood out like an ace with his “savagely intense growl” that predestined him for the greatness that’ll follow.
His skyrocketing to stardom was a monumental event to witness as a revolution in the New York rap infrastructure was brimming but it was short-lived. 19 February 2020 saw the demise of the coming-of-age artist in a break-in robbery gone wrong. It’s seen as a dark day for rap as Pop Smoke was reviving the international drill music scene by blending its aggression with the innate compassion associated with the genre that whisked many souls.
The 'Beef' With Drill Music
Pop's music was revolutionary as it seamlessly staged a comeback of drill music which for the longest time had been demonized by the media and painted black, courtesy of “its violent and nihilistic rhymes.” Drill music was birthed in the 2010s on the south side of Chicago where privilege was scanty and resources ran dry which culminated in more murders and a hyper-active gang culture. The genre gave words to a collective state of mind of a community, which gradually began to take the form of a burgeoning movement in London in 2013. As it gained momentum, the moral police attacked the genre for glamorizing death as it rawly brought forth scenes of grotesque gang violence, armed with free-flowing slangs.
This became his driving force as he wanted to “make music for that kid in the hood that’s gotta share a bedroom with, like, four kids–the young kids growing up in poverty.” Essentially, what Pop’s music did was borrow drill from the UK and enriched the NY pop music with it, pushing it more into the forefront. His inauguration into the drill scene was incidental wherein he just picked up some beats of 808Melo and started rapping. With his coarse baritone enmeshed with dapper beats, Pop bridged the gap between rap and drill, churning out tracks that shot through the roof.
Alphonse Pierre via Pitchfork
Fans were equal parts overwhelmed and electrified as his debut studio album 'Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon’ was released posthumously. And as expected it did land on the moon, becoming the longest-running No.1 album on the Billboard Top R&B/ Hip-Hop Albums chart since 1990. The bling-laden glory that he rightfully deserved was received by ‘Mood Swings’ with Lil Tjay which soon transcended into a TikTok royalty track, furthering Pop's reach.
The ‘Outro’ track had snippets of the late rapper, surmoning kids like him with: “You tell them n****s ‘Shoot for the stars, aim for the moon’.’’ Talking about the release of his much-anticipated, second posthumous album, 'Faith', it has Kanye West, Dua Lipa, 21 Savage, Pharrell, Bizzy Banks and more as the contributors. As the performance verdict on the album is still out, it is nonetheless deigned to stir people and bring them closer which was his music stood for, always.