Bashar Barakah Jackson was born on July 20, 1999, in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jamaican mother and a Panamanian father. He spent his childhood in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn. There, amongst other things, he started dealing drugs and at 16 years old he bought himself a BMW 5 Series, spending two years on house arrest after catching a weapons charge. He began his music career in 2018 while hanging around other recording artists during their studio sessions, initially remixing popular songs within the New York City drill music scene, before embarking on creating original music. In a Genius interview, he stated that his artist name of Pop Smoke is a combination of Poppa (a nickname given to him by his Panamanian grandmother) and Smoke (a nickname given to him by childhood friends).
In April 2019, he released his breakout single, “Welcome to the Party”, the lead single of his debut mixtape, Meet the Woo (2019). The song was later remixed two times, one featuring Nicki Minaj and the other featuring Skepta in August 2019. The song was noted for its usage of UK drill production, later commonly seen throughout his discography. This was due to frequent collaborations with British drill producer 808Melo. Other well-known songs of his include: “Mpr”, “Flexin'” and “Dior”. Following the rise to popularity of “Welcome to the Party”, he collaborated with other popular artists on singles such as: “War” featuring Lil Tjay and “100k on a Coupe” featuring Calboy. In December 2019, he collaborated on “Gatti” with JackBoys and Travis Scott, which is the last track on the JackBoys (2019) album by Scott and his Cactus Jack members.
In February 2020, Pop Smoke released his second mixtape Meet the Woo with features from Quavo, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, Fivio Foreign and Lil Tjay. In five days of its release, a deluxe edition was released with three new songs: “Wolves” featuring Nav, “Dior (Remix)” featuring Gunna, and “Like Me” featuring PnB Rock. Pop Smoke’s posthumous debut album is set for release in May 2020. American rapper 50 Cent gave praise to the deceased rapper and expressed interest in finishing the album with possible features from Roddy Ricch, Drake and Chris Brown while also promises an award show for Pop Smoke’s mother.
On January 17, 2020 after returning from Paris, Pop Smoke was arrested by federal authorities at John F. Kennedy International Airport and charged with transporting a stolen vehicle across state lines. The vehicle was a Rolls-Royce Wraith, whose owner had reported it stolen after Smoke had reportedly borrowed it in California for a music video shoot on the condition it would be returned the next day. The car was recovered by authorities at Smoke’s mother’s house, in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, and sported Alabama license plates and tinted windows. Smoke pleaded not guilty, and was released on $250,000 bail on the same day.