On February 19, in the early morning hours, rising rap artist Pop Smoke was fatally shot at the Hollywood Hills home he was renting.
According to reports, four individuals wearing hoodies, one of whom was carrying a weapon and wearing a mask, entered the house where Pop Smoke was staying and shot him.
He was later taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he passed away a few hours after the incident.
Pop Smoke was known for his contribution to the thriving drill scene in Brooklyn and his popular songs like “Welcome to the Party” and “Dior.”
The Early Life of Pop Smoke
Bashar Barakah Jackson, known as Pop Smoke, was born on July 20, 1999, in Brooklyn, New York.
In an interview with Genius, he revealed that his stage name “Pop Smoke” is a combination of “Papa” and “Smoke Oh Guap.”
His grandmother gave him the nickname “Papa,” and his childhood friends called him “Smoke Oh Guap.”
They decided to shorten “Papa” to “Pop,” and the two names just blended to form the unique moniker that would become synonymous with his artistry worldwide.
Interestingly, Pop Smoke’s music career began unintentionally during a studio session with his friend and rapper Jay Gwuapo in 2018.
Gwuapo fell asleep because he was too high on drugs, leaving Pop Smoke to try rapping for the first time.
He started by creating remixes to popular songs within the Brooklyn drill scene by searching for beats on YouTube.
His remix of Sheff G’s “Panic Part 3,” titled “MPR,” became his first released song and gained significant streams and views in just a few days.
In January 2019, Pop Smoke released “Flexin’,” which propelled his music career and popularity to new heights.
Pop Smoke was among the first artists who popularized the use of drill beats from the UK in his music.
He is credited with bridging the gap between the UK and New York drill scenes, although he was not the first artist from New York to incorporate UK drill beats into their music.
Pop Smoke’s use of these beats propelled the Brooklyn drill scene to global recognition, earning him the reputation as the face of the scene and drill music in general.
How Did Pop Smoke Die?
In February 2020, Pop Smoke rented a house in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles for a short four-day stay.
The property was owned by Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast member Teddi Mellencamp.
During his stay, Pop Smoke appeared to be enjoying the success of his budding career and was even seen hosting a party at the residence.
By the early hours of February 19, only three people remained in the home: Pop Smoke, Michael Durodola, and a woman named Amelia Rose, whom he had met earlier that night.
Unfortunately, the festive mood was short-lived when five individuals arrived at the property around 4:00 am intending to steal its contents.
It is unclear whether they were aware that people were inside the house or if they believed it to be unoccupied at the time.
The events that followed tragically resulted in Pop Smoke’s untimely death.
Although the exact details surrounding the tragic death of Pop Smoke remain unclear, it is believed that he was either taking a shower or had just finished one when an armed intruder broke into the house.
The perpetrator, wearing a ski mask and carrying a handgun, initially threatened a woman present in the house but then turned his attention to Pop Smoke.
The woman later recounted that a struggle ensued, followed by gunshots.
Despite the best efforts of Michael Durodola, who attempted CPR until the police arrived, Pop Smoke was pronounced dead a few hours later at the hospital.”
Investigators found that among five individuals who had invaded the house, one was a 15-year-old who reportedly confessed to a cellmate in 2021, disclosing what transpired during the incident.
In the confession, the teenager indicated that Pop Smoke initially complied with their demands, with their primary target being a Rolex watch, which he handed over.
However, according to the teenager, Pop Smoke suddenly attempted to resist, leading to a scuffle.
During the struggle, the teenager shot and killed Pop Smoke.
The gang members then took the Rolex watch and sold it for $2000 the following day.
Security camera footage played a crucial role in the arrest of multiple suspects.
Detectives were able to identify the black BMW’s partial license plate number, leading them to Corey Walker.
Moreover, Walker’s name was linked to the Infiniti sedan that appeared later on.
A warrant was then issued by a judge, authorizing detectives to examine Walker’s Google account, where they discovered a series of intriguing searches.
On his Google account, Walker had looked up the address of the house where Pop Smoke was staying and checked out the LAPD’s website, which occurred before 3 am on the night of Pop Smoke’s death.
An hour after Pop Smoke was shot, a search was conducted on the same account, focusing on the type of Rolex watch stolen during the home invasion.
Subsequently, at 8:00 am, another search was carried out on the account for the latest breaking news in LA.
However, that was not the totality of the evidence.
Upon examining phone records, detectives discovered another individual named Sean Hansen.
By tracking the phone movements of both Walker and Hansen, investigators found that they were present in the area of the address at the time of the incident.
Nevertheless, this was only a part of the story, as several other individuals were involved, resulting in the rapper’s tragic demise.
The perplexing aspect of Pop Smoke’s death is not the fact that he was shot but rather the uncertainty that surrounds the motive for his murder.
While a teenager reportedly confessed to shooting him to his cellmate, certain evidence raises doubts.
Initial reports suggest that five people entered the property, yet TMZ footage shows only four individuals arriving at the residence.
After proceeding to the rear of the house, only three returned to the front, indicating that only one person, the one with the firearm, went inside.
Subsequently, the fourth individual emerged from the front door, implying that he had entered the property from the rear.
Shots were fired inside the house during that time.
However, most of the things one would expect to be stolen during a home invasion were left behind, with only a few valuables taken.
This seemed illogical to some, while others believed that the items were abandoned due to the gunshots, which frightened the intruders, causing them to flee the area.
In other words, this act could explain why they failed to complete the job.
The Gang Theory
Pop Smoke’s death was initially probed as a potential gang-related incident, as he was linked to the Crips gang.
Some investigators believed he was targeted at the location after disclosing it on his Instagram account.
Nonetheless, despite being associated with an East Coast gang, no proof emerged that a gang from the East followed him to Los Angeles, and most people swiftly debunked this notion.
This “theory” appeared to be a case of inventing a narrative that sounded fascinating and divergent from the truth.
Additionally, Corey Walker claimed to be a member of the Hoover Criminals, a street gang from Los Angeles.
This assertion, recorded during a wiretapped discussion, also helped propagate the notion that it was gang-related.
However, police never discovered evidence to suggest anything other than a premeditated robbery.
When examining how everything played out, including taped confessions made by the suspects without police knowledge, it is apparent that this was not just a random burglary.
Did His Instagram Post Cause His Death?
Investigators were initially unclear about what had happened to Pop Smoke, but the confession of the teenager who pulled the trigger gave them some clarity.
Before this jail cell conversation, the investigators had some footage and were aware that several individuals were involved, but they lacked hard evidence.
The teenager revealed that he and another teen had planned to rob the rapper after seeing his address on Instagram.
Six months after this confession, Walker was arrested and also confessed to his involvement in the crime in a separate jail cell conversation.
He admitted that he drove to the house with another person but returned with four individuals to carry out the robbery.
They went to the rear of the house and discovered that there were two men and a woman inside, but they still decided to proceed with the robbery.
Walker did not enter the house, but the younger individuals did and stole only a Rolex before fleeing the scene in a car.
It is evident that the gang did not plan to murder Pop Smoke, despite their awareness of his presence at the residence.
Their sole intention was to rob him of his Rolex watch and a thick gold chain, which he had flaunted in online images that revealed his address.
They were not anticipating any resistance, so they assaulted him first, hitting him with a pistol before the 15-year-old fired three bullets into his back.
In addition, Walker had equipped two of the teenagers with his guns, but he told them not to use them and instead to threaten and intimidate the occupants into surrendering the items.
He hoped that by confessing this plan, he could avoid severe charges related to Pop Smoke’s death.
However, this confession did not prevent him from facing severe charges related to Pop Smoke’s death while the teenagers were tried as juveniles.
Despite not entering the house, Walker, who was 19 then, would be tried as an adult and face the harshest sentence due to his age.
Was Pop Smoke Setup?
After Pop Smoke’s death, several fans took to social media and expressed their belief that his murder was a setup.
Many of them refused to accept that the circumstances of his death were merely coincidental.
On Twitter, one fan succinctly summarized their views, stating that the recent revelations from Pop Smoke’s trial seemed to point to a setup.
They found it suspicious that the perpetrators happened to arrive while he was taking a shower through the balcony and that they let the woman with him go unharmed after pointing a gun at her head.
The LAPD acknowledged that the robbers had gang affiliations, and Pop Smoke had connections with the Crips, making it plausible that the shooting could have been gang-related, a setup, or both.
Nonetheless, as mentioned, the LAPD’s investigation concluded that the killing was a botched robbery.
They ruled out the possibility that it was a setup or motivated by the victim’s gang ties.
Currently, there does not seem to be sufficient evidence to refute the LAPD’s determination.
Pope Smoke’s Funeral
Pop Smoke’s funeral was a grand affair, fitting for the larger-than-life hip-hop star himself.
On March 5, 2020, thousands of Brooklyn residents lined the streets to bid him farewell as his funeral procession passed through the Canarsie neighborhood.
The procession featured a hearse pulled by a pair of white horses, and his casket was visible through the glass.
Pop Smoke’s friend, 50 Cent, contributed to the procession by lending his custom Versace Lamborghini, which was featured with the top down, although he was not behind the wheel himself.
Barricades were erected to manage the crowds of fans who attended the event, and the LAPD was present to maintain security.
The occasion was far from somber, as fans played Pop Smoke’s music and celebrated with champagne as he passed by.
Pop Smoke was later interred in a private ceremony for his immediate family and close friends.
However, the family’s grieving was tainted when an unknown individual took photos of Pop Smoke’s body lying in state and shared them on social media.
The late rapper’s brother, Mike Dee, was understandably outraged and publicly criticized the person who took and posted the photos on his Instagram account.
He questioned why someone would attend a funeral only to disrespect his brother’s memory by taking pictures of him in his casket.
He also expressed disappointment at the lengths people would go to for social media fame.