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Rising rap star Pop Smoke fatally shot in LA home, police say

Hannah Fry, August Brown and Richard Winton
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Pop Smoke, a rising New York rapper, was fatally shot in a Los Angeles home early Wednesday, law enforcement sources confirmed.

Officers responded after someone calling from the East Coast reported that several people, at least one of whom wore a black mask and was armed with a handgun, had entered their friend’s Hollywood Hills home shortly before 5 a.m., said Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Steve Lurie.

When officers arrived at the $2.5 million home, they found the 20-year-old rapper, whose legal name is Bashar Barakah Jackson, with gunshot wounds.

He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Officers detained several people inside the house, but they were later released. Two to six suspects fled the scene and had not been found, Lurie said.

Investigators think the home where the rapper was staying was likely targeted by the assailants. In recent years, several home invasions in Los Angeles have been aimed at homes being rented by musicians, according to law enforcement sources.

Photos and videos on Pop Smoke’s Instagram story showed him in L.A., getting a haircut on Tuesday, and posing by the infinity pool in the backyard of the Hollywood Hills home where he was staying. Later that evening, he posted a photo of the Los Angeles skyline from what appeared to be the home’s backyard.

The Hollywood Hills home is owned by Teddi Mellencamp of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” and her husband, Edwin Arroyave, according to property records. Mellencamp wrote on Instagram that she was informed about the shooting early Wednesday by a third-party leasing and management company that oversees the rental property.

“Foremost, we would like to extend our prayers and condolences to the family and loved ones affected by this tragic loss of life,” she wrote.

The rapper’s death came days after his second mixtape, “Meet the Woo 2,” landed at No. 7 on the Billboard Top 200 list. His breakthrough mixtape, “Meet the Woo,” released last year, has 280 million streams globally.

Pop Smoke was signed to Republic Records through Victor Victor Worldwide, according to the label.

“We are devastated by the unexpected and tragic loss of Pop Smoke,” said Joseph Carozza, an executive vice president at Republic Records. “Our prayers and thoughts go out to his family, friends and fans, as we mourn this loss together.”

The rapper was one of the most promising voices from the New York drill scene, a regional variant of a hard-edged, gothic sound that originated in Chicago with acts such as Chief Keef but that also won popularity on the East Coast and in the U.K. His dense clusters of lyrics and the high-tension moods recalled an older era in New York rap, but his laconic delivery and gravelly timbre were entirely of the moment.

Typical of hip-hop today, his single “Welcome to the Party” — a menacing slice of noir produced by the London-based 808MeloBeats — became a streaming sensation in a matter of weeks, and allies including Nicki Minaj and the U.K. grime star Skepta quickly joined on a remix.

But Pop Smoke’s brief life in Brooklyn was troubled from the start. He claimed in interviews that he had been expelled from middle school for bringing a gun to campus. Even after his rise, his rough past caught up with him – what should have been a triumphant hometown set at New York’s Rolling Loud festival last year was thwarted when the NYPD requested that he and four other local rappers be pulled from the bill, citing “public safety concerns.”

“The above listed performers have been associated with recent acts of violence citywide,” wrote NYPD Assistant Chief Martin Morales in a letter to organizers. “The New York City Police Department believes if these individuals are allowed to perform, there will be a higher risk of violence.”

Last month, a federal grand jury indicted the rapper on a count of transporting a stolen vehicle across state lines. Prosecutors in New York alleged in court documents that Pop Smoke stole a $375,000 Rolls Royce Wraith in Los Angeles. It was later found at his mother’s home in New York.

During a hearing in the case in Brooklyn last month, a federal prosecutor said the government believed that Pop Smoke was a member of a street gang affiliated with the Crips, according to a court transcript.