Brooklyn Unites in Celebration of Pop Smoke

Fans flooded Brooklyn streets to celebrate the life of Pop Smoke at a public procession in his Canarsie neighborhood on Thursday afternoon.

Pop Smoke procession in Canarsie
Complex Original

Photo by Eric Skelton

Pop Smoke procession in Canarsie

“We outside!”

Making his way through a dense crowd of people on the corner of 82nd Street and Flatlands Avenue in Brooklyn, a man in his early twenties looked around his Canarsie neighborhood in awe. Borrowing one of Pop Smoke’s favorite phrases, he shouted to no one in particular, “Man, everyone outside now.”

Two weeks after Canarsie-raised rapper Pop Smoke was murdered in Los Angeles, thousands showed up to honor his life at a funeral procession on Thursday afternoon that snaked through his old neighborhood.

Gathering under a mural of the late rapper on 82nd Street, fans, friends, and family circled around a horse-drawn carriage. The words “POP SMOKE” were engraved on the glass walls of the carriage, in the style of Virgil Abloh’s signature Off-White quotation marks. Just two months before, Pop Smoke had excited fans by making an appearance at Abloh’s Paris Fashion Week show.

Canarsie loves Pop Smoke

— Eric Skelton (@ericskelton) March 5, 2020

As a heavy police presence guided throngs of fans into place at the beginning of the procession, the atmosphere was subdued. But the mood flipped as soon as Pop Smoke’s music started pumping out of car speakers and the procession made its way down Flatlands Avenue. The circumstances that brought everyone together on Thursday afternoon were unfathomably tragic, but this was a day meant to celebrate the life of one of Canarsie’s favorite sons. 

“You would never see this shit before Pop Smoke. We’re united!”

As Pop Smoke’s famously deep vocals delivered the words “You should enjoy yourself” on an unreleased song that blared from the subwoofer of an SUV at the center of the procession, everyone followed his orders. People danced on top of cars, yelled “Woo!” any chance they could get, and sang along to the lyrics of Brooklyn anthems like “Welcome to the Party,” “Dior,” and “Shake the Room.”

Throughout Pop Smoke’s short career, he made it very clear how important the people of Canarsie were to him. Interviewed for a September 2019New York Times profile, he proudly drove through his neighborhood and spoke about how he made music for the young people who grew up like him and “got to carry their guns to school because it ain’t safe, but they still got to make sure they get they diploma ’cause they mom could be happy.”

Pop Smoke’s procession in Canarsie

— Eric Skelton (@ericskelton) March 5, 2020

On Thursday, his beloved neighborhood came together in a way that would have surely made him proud. Throughout the afternoon, people embraced, swapped their favorite Pop Smoke stories, and reconnected with old friends. “Is everyone good? Is everyone healthy at home?” One man even popped a bottle of champagne as “Element” rang out over the crowd, before the procession came to its final stop at the corner of 92nd Street and Seaview Avenue.

Taking in the scene unfolding around her, a woman in her early thirties nudged a man beside her and remarked, “Can you believe this is happening in Canarsie right now?”

“You would never see this shit before Pop Smoke,” a man shouted over the crowd a few minutes later, blown away by the scene unfolding around him.

“We’re united! This is real Brooklyn shit.”

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