The first time going through this album was a tough listen, not only because we lost yet another innocent teenager to sinister circumstances, but also because of transparent lost potential. Now, it should be noted that regardless of his societal standing, Bashar Jackson deserved to live peacefully and wholeheartedly. We shouldn’t solely weigh an artist’s musical output as a beacon for proof of life. This mode of existence can inherently lead to perverse jealously or gross indifference when it comes to human emotion-something Pop Smoke’s killers most likely felt upon pulling the trigger.
In a whole other vein, the social media age can sometimes paint its celebrities as martyrs when they pass, which kind of takes away from the point of human cultivation. Even as we’re more connected than ever before (the idea that we can communicate with musicians and other celebrities), fans still see musicians as above the normal every-day Joe Schmo; a god complex if you will. Illustrating your favorite artists as a role model is not necessarily a bad thing, so as long as you treat them as basic human beings-people who’ve more often than not struggled through adversity, forged their own path in life, and effectively found their true passion. If we don’t do this, then we’ll more likely see them as robotic perfectionists, which in turn can lead to a lack of empathy.
When we constantly harbor on other people’s daily lives, we tend to utilize a figurative measuring stick as a comparative mechanism. We see someone’s success as our failure. I’m a product of this lifestyle too, and it’s something I probably need to work on the most in life. I’m insanely hard on myself when another writer my age finds the job they’ve been looking for while I still haven’t. This is what I like to call unhealthy motivation. Too much of it can be detrimental to my overall well-being. Life isn’t a race; we all move at our own pace. Instead of focusing on each other’s path, we should be forging our own while surrounding ourselves with people that truly matter the most.
Unfortunately, the gunmen who killed Pop Smoke were most likely driven by this figurative measuring stick at an extreme level. I’m personally ecstatic when I see someone as young as Juice WRLD and Pop making an organic impact on the world at large. I can’t necessarily relate to their lifestyle, but I can find solace in someone my age “reaching for the stars, and aiming for the moon.” They both found a unique lane without sacrificing their genuineness or following someone else’s framework. That in itself is inspiring, even without their music.
What hurts me the most listening to Pop’s posthumous release is the fact that he was undoubtedly in love. Songs like “Something Special,” “What You Know Bout Love,” and “Mood Swings” found Jackson head-over-heels for the girl of his dreams. This was a 19-year-old just realizing what this anatomical feeling is while simultaneously searching for the full breadth of his artistry. Pop, like all of us, was a human being who carried vulnerability and compassion; heartache and happiness. He should be celebrated not only as an entertainer, but also as someone who truly loved his community, family and culture. If more people recognized these personal attributes, the world would carry more empathy. Pop would probably be alive, continuing to forge his own path. Instead of being jealous, we should start doing the same.
Other tracks to check out
BKtheRula – “Summer”
BKtheRula’s carries a certain mysticism in her music that many artists fail to grasp. She’s simultaneously direct and cryptic in her new song “Summer.” She sums up this emotionally-draining year with the proclamation that, “everything’s bad in the summer.” The head-spinning synths are hallucinatory, yet perfectly on-the-nose for this current climate.
SahBabii – “Tongue Demon”
The perfect balance of lush, seductive, colloquial, and sometimes sexually explicit. I can hear generations of Atlanta rap in this song without it sounding too derivative. The entire landscape is just fascinating.
9lokkNine -“Kriminal Mind”
Best known for his hit with YMW Melly “223s,” 9lokkNine is comfortably making waves through YouTube’s region-less connectivity. There’s a lot of gun references but the track is so damn catchy, and perfectly sums up 9’s rascal energy. I tried all week to think of a perfect description for the preppy instrumental until someone in the comments section described it best-“this beat sounds like Mr. Krabs walking.”
Nef the Pharaoh – “Mac of the Year”
After confidently rapping the ABCs for his kid earlier this year, the Vallejo native comes through with the biggest flex of them all-“my son is one, I can put him through college.” His kid is a fast learner.