Presented as a tribute to the late rapper...

Just before Christmas last year, Clash sat down with Pop Smoke for a photo shoot.

He'd been on the road, but still had boundless energy; pretty soon the stereo was being cranked up, and it felt less like an interview setting and more like a party...

Earlier today - February 19th - news broke that Pop Smoke had been shot dead by intruders at his residence in the Hollywood Hills.

It's a shocking, hugely upsetting development - only 20 years old, he was a vital link between the US and UK music scenes, someone who promised to shape rap music over the next decade.

We've decided to share the feature Clash created with Pop Smoke on that day as a tribute to a life ended too soon.

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With an alluring baritone and slightly husky voice over a UK drill beat, Pop Smoke took the world by storm in 2019 with his breakout hit ‘Welcome To The Party’. With the now liberating lyrics “I’m a thot, get me lit” becoming an urban mantra, expectations for this Brooklyn artist are exceedingly high in 2020 and beyond.

Having one of the songs of the summer at the age of 20 is an aspect that is incredibly hard to grasp, but Pop Smoke - real name Bashar Jackson - is managing his newfound fame day-by-day. “I didn’t think ‘Welcome To The Party’ was gonna blow up the way it did,” he tells Clash. ‘At the time, everything I was releasing was catching on, but I didn’t think that song was going to catch on like it did.”

With rap giants such as Nicki Minaj and Skepta releasing their own remixes of the song, Pop Smoke already has some healthy co-signs under his belt, which will hopefully result in more collaborations in the future.

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After signing a deal with Victor Victor Worldwide/Republic Records earlier this year, Pop has learnt very quickly how the music industry differs to the streets where he was raised.

“You need to have tougher skin in the industry than in the streets,” he advises. “In the streets, if someone doesn’t fuck with you, you’ll know to stay away from them. But in the industry, you never know.”

Reiterating his age, Pop Smoke finds inspiration in other artists like him rather than the typical answers for rap influences. “I get inspired by the young niggas in my hood like Eli Fross, Sheff G, and more. The young, new energy inspires me most because that’s what’s hitting right now.”

Pop’s debut label mixtape, ‘Meet The Woo Vol.1’, was released in the summer with no features and met with great critical acclaim. It is, though, just a teaser of what is expected from a very confident but indecisive Pop Smoke in the new year.

“It’s going platinum, I promise you. With ‘Volume 2’, you can expect some features. Right now we’ve got A Boogie on it, but I’ve got a bunch of songs featuring artists. I don’t know what I’m putting on the tape yet.”

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Words: Debbie Ijaduola
Photography: Vicky Grout

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