Pop Smoke was emerging as a superstar when his life was cut short on Feb. 19, 2020. Though it was early in the game for him, the Brooklyn rapper left an imprint beyond his husky voice. The inviting yet combative energy he showcased on the mic in addition to tracks like “Welcome to the Party” and “Dior” helped throw drill music into the mainstream realm.
His first recorded smash, “MPR,” featuring Pop rapping about slinging iron over production crammed with booming 808s, was his bread and butter. Pop's debut mixtape, Meet the Woo, delivered in 2019, proved just how effective that formula was, housing other fan favorites like “PTSD” and “Hawk Em.” The project’s sequel arrived in 2020, and was an extension of that. Meet the Woo 2 also came at a time when Pop was beginning to collaborate with more of his peers.
Lil Tjay was one person he locked in with early on, delivering tracks like “Mood Swings,” featured on Pop's 2019 posthumous debut album, Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon. Fivio Foreign also made a guest appearance on “Sweetheart” from the same tape. And most notably, Migos’ hook master Quavo came through for “Shake The Room.” Each of those artists reflected the natural chemistry Pop shared with other acts.
The Woo limb also had an affinity for R&B music. Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon drives home that fact with slow-burning samples like Ginuwine's "Differences" on the track “What You Know Bout Love.” Upholding that energy, on the most recent 2021 release of Pop's posthumous sophomore album, Faith, Ne-Yo’s “So Sick” was flipped for “Woo Baby” with Chris Brown.
Despite the fact that Pop Smoke was only here to enjoy the fruits of half of his full efforts, there’s plenty of quality sounds that were put forth via himself and Steven Victor, the head of Victor Victor Worldwide, the record label Pop was signed to along with Republic Records. Victor helped take what little vocals were left from Pop after his passing and turned them into hits. As the world continues to both mourn and celebrate the legacy of Pop Smoke’s short-lived career, XXL highlights the best songs in his catalog.
Check out Pop Smoke's most essential songs you need to hear below and remember, the smoke will never clear.