A group of people, including one wearing a mask and armed with a handgun, burst into a posh Hollywood Hills home early Wednesday and fatally shot up-and-coming rapper Pop Smoke, police said.
Los Angeles Police Department detectives were still trying to determine the motive of the attack, which stunned the rap world and prompted an outpouring of grief from fans.
“There is a lot of information available,” said LAPD Capt. Jonathan Tippet. “We have some work to do.”
Officers responded after someone calling from the East Coast reported that several people had entered their friend’s home shortly before 5 a.m., said LAPD Capt. Steve Lurie.
When officers arrived at the $2.5-million home in the 2000 block of Hercules Drive, 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. At least four suspects fled the scene, and authorities say they have not been found.
Investigators suspect the home where the rapper was staying was targeted by the assailants. In recent years, Los Angeles homes being rented by musicians have been the targets of several home invasions, according to law enforcement sources.
Investigators are aware that the rapper may have inadvertently posted an image with the home’s address on social media, the sources said.
Pop Smoke also had been tied by officials to the Crips street gang, and detectives suspected the assailants were probably gang members.
Tippet, however, cautioned against ascribing a motive in the slaying given that the investigation is still in its early stages. Authorities are looking through images from security cameras throughout the neighborhood in search of a possible getaway car. Locations with license-plate readers in the area also could help detectives.
Photos and videos on Pop Smoke’s Instagram story showed him in L.A. getting a haircut 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,” debuted 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,” a Republic Records spokesperson said Wednesday. “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 could have been a triumphant hometown set at New York’s Rolling Loud festival last year was derailed when the New York Police Department 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. He had pleaded not guilty to the charge.
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.
Because Pop Smoke is considered by law enforcement to be affiliated with a street gang, authorities say his slaying is considered a gang-related homicide. Detectives also suspect the assailants are probably gang members, but it has not been determined whether the killing was motivated by gang rivalry, officials said.
The slaying comes at a tense moment in hip-hop, when young artists including Lil Peep and Juice Wrld have died of drug overdoses, while others like XXXTentacion and L.A. rapper Nipsey Hussle have been killed in street violence.
“The Bible tells us that jealousy is as cruel as the grave,” Minaj, a fellow New Yorker, wrote on Instagram after news of the performer’s death broke. “Unbelievable. Rest In Peace, Pop.”
Young M.A., a fellow rapper from the Brooklyn music scene, posted a photo of Pop Smoke on Instagram as a tribute to the artist.
“Lost for words right now,” she wrote. “Brooklyn King! Rest up!”
Rapper Freddie Gibbs wrote on Twitter that he was “in the lab last night comparing Pop Smoke to 50 [Cent] when he came out.”
Pop Smoke had been scheduled to embark on his Meet the Woo Tour next month, with an initial show March 2 in Washington, D.C. He also was scheduled to perform on the second day of the Rolling Loud festival in Miami in May.
Rest Up Pop Smoke, you were too young. God Bless and comfort your family. What a crazy trajectory you were on man smh ????????????????????????
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) February 19, 2020
No such thing as success with out jealousy, treachery comes from those who are close. R.i.P pic.twitter.com/OZxKtpPZog
— 50cent (@50cent) February 19, 2020