Pop Smoke Made Brooklyn Sound Like the Center of the Rap Universe

Last summer, Pop Smoke’s music––guttural, raw, irresistible––coursed through New York’s clubs, car stereos, yawning apartment windows. Born Bashar Barakah Jackson and raised in Canarsie, on Brooklyn’s Eastern shore, the young rapper had broken through with “Welcome to the Party,” a hypnotic study in tone. That song’s video opened with a group of young men invoking the names of those dead or imprisoned, while a red-lettered warning about prop guns flashed on the screen; the beat itself is grim and Gothic, the lyric full of threats. And yet it did feel like party music, somehow, capable of cutting through the humidity and making swaths of people dance, or at least move their shoulders a little bit while they grimaced into their phones’ cameras…

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