The following is a detailed account of 24 hours in the life of Pop Smoke on Jan. 17, 2020. It includes quotes from interviews in Complex and Spotify’s new podcast series, ‘Complex Subject: Pop Smoke,’ which debuted today. For more stories like this one, you can listen to the full podcast series on Spotify here.
To be a rapper is to be both beloved and targeted. For Pop Smoke, both happened in the same 24 hours in January 2020.
The 20-year-old artist, who died a month later, was riding high after being personally invited to Paris Fashion Week by esteemed designer Virgil Abloh.
“I remember we were in Paris and we were driving to the airport early in the morning after being out all night,” recalls Victor Victor general manager and close confidant Shivam “Shiv” Pandya. “He was tired, but he was just like, ‘Man, I love Paris. It’s beautiful.’”
Pop spent his final night in Paris sitting as a front-row guest at Virgil Abloh’s Louis Vuitton fashion show before shooting the “Shake the Room” music video in a ritzy Parisian restaurant with Quavo. He was already a New York City hero, but his trip across the pond was a star-making moment that helped legitimize his international appeal.
Life was good. But it wasn’t all good. On Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, Pop was living it up in Paris, cruising through the city in a Ferrari Pista. But by Friday, Jan. 17, he was in New York federal court, facing 10 years on a charge of transporting a stolen vehicle across state lines.
His December 2019 case for possessing a stolen Rolls-Royce had gone federal, as law enforcement sought to pressure him into giving them information about a June 2019 shooting as well as the 823 Crips, a gang that was namechecked by the prosecutor during his federal arraignment. News of the arrest caused already-cautious runners of the annual Yams Day concert to tell his team he wouldn’t be allowed to perform at the Barclays Center. Pop devised plans with ASAP Bari to sneak in, but was turned away at the door, left to reflect on the whirlwind of the past 24 hours.
The day’s eventfulness was particularly extreme, but Pop was used to a fast-paced schedule. Fame had come quickly for the Brooklynite, and everything had escalated since signing to Victor Victor in the spring of 2019.
A&R Rico “Rico Beats” Lamarre first came to veteran music executive Steven Victor about Pop Smoke in November 2018. After months of convincing, Victor finally agreed to a meeting just to fulfill Rico’s promise to Pop that he’d get a conversation—although he only planned to stay for five minutes.
The first thing Victor noticed about Pop during the meeting was his intense aura. “He’s staring at me, and I’m like, ‘Yo, is this nigga going to try to beat me up if I don’t like his music? What’s going on here?’” he recalls.
Pop was staring at Victor so hard that he assumed the young star was angry about something. Victory told Pop that he was also from Canarsie, but even that didn’t break the stone face. It was an awkward introduction, but the mood changed quickly once Pop played his music.
“He plays the first song, and I’m like, ‘This is different. His voice is different.’” Victor remembers. “I don’t know if I like it or if I don’t like it, but there’s something interesting about it. He plays another song. I’m having the same reaction. He plays the third song, it’s the same reaction. He plays the fourth song and I’m like, ‘Hmm. This kid’s a really good songwriter.’ He plays 10 songs and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Yo, this music’s really, really good. Damn.’”
After the five-minute meeting turned into an hour, Victor left the office and couldn’t wait to tell Rico how great Pop was. It took months of industry wrangling, but Victor was able to figure out his own Victor Victor (now Victor Victor Worldwide) label situation and sign Pop to a deal on simple terms.
“I’m going to give you what you want, just say the numbers and that’s what I’m going to give you,” Victor told him. The young rapper signed and became their top priority.
“Pop had that confidence and that energy that you knew was special. Everyone doesn’t have it, and you remember it when you see it.” - Shivam Pandya
Pop Smoke dropped Meet the Woo on July 26, with now-classic songs like “Welcome to the Party” and “Dior.” Before long, he became a star with international appeal. Fans in the UK appreciated his artistic kinship with UK-based producers like 808 Melo and AXL Beats. Their gliding bass and atmospheric soundscapes merged classic drill percussion with dubstep, another UK favorite.
Fashion designer Virgil Abloh says it was Pop’s mesh of Brooklyn bravado over UK drill production that made him a fan. Virgil listened to Pop heavily in 2019 while working on new designs, and was so grateful for the vibes that he invited Pop to be a guest at his Off-White and Louis Vuitton shows during Paris Fashion Week. As he explained to Complex, “I was listening to [Pop and Westside Gunn’s] music when I made these collections. I want you to sit front row and feel like you belong here too, because you were my inspiration.”
At the time Pop was riding high off the recent success of “Gatti” with Travis Scott and his brand-new “Christopher Walking” single. To Victor, it made sense for Pop to take up Virgil’s offer.
“Pop’s got a little momentum,” Victor recalls thinking. “I was like, ‘How ill would it be if he was sitting front row at a fashion show?’”
Victor says that Virgil also asked them to send him some music, and he would direct a video for one of the songs while in Paris. He ended up choosing “Shake the Room.”
It all happened spur-of-the-moment, with the invite extended Saturday, the tickets purchased Sunday, and the team flying out Monday.
For Shiv, the trip was abrupt, but duty called. He’s the self-described pointman for “all the logistics and operational stuff” at Victor Victor, and the main operation at the time was to make Pop Smoke a superstar. He had become the de facto road manager, and the two had built a strong rapport, traveling with each other all over the United States, and also to London, where Pop had his first shows (with Skepta) in November 2019.
Shiv was a firsthand spectator of how popular Pop had become, and Fashion Week was going to be a setoff to another year of elevation. The team was looking forward to releasing his debut studio album sometime in 2020, once they had satiated fans with his forthcoming Meet the Woo 2 mixtape. According to Shiv, Pop had recorded a lot of the album over the previous months, and was going to finish it in LA in February, before headlining his first tour in March while the album was being mixed.
Everything was falling in line musically, but looming legal problems posed a threat to those plans.
In December 2020, Pop had been arrested in Brooklyn for allegedly possessing a stolen Rolls-Royce Wraith that cops found outside his mother’s home in Canarsie, Brooklyn. The owner was claiming that Pop had rented the vehicle for a music video, but hadn’t returned it in the agreed-upon time.
Pop called the allegations “foolishness” and “cap” during a conversation with Power 105.1’s Angie Martinez.
“There’s definitely a factual dispute between how he came to be in possession of the car,” his lawyer Peter Frankel tells Complex now. “I think there’s an issue with respect to where he got it from, who he got it from, and what the understanding was with respect to how he was going to use it. He was in lawful possession of the vehicle, and there was a misunderstanding for sure with respect to how long he was supposed to have it, and what could be done with it.”
The charge became one of what Steven Victor says was roughly “17 cases” that Pop had on his plate. Frankel, who Victor paid to represent Pop, perceived the array of charges as “nothing that was incredibly serious. But some silly stuff started to pile up.” Victor insists, “We were getting each case thrown out one by one.”
“Because he was an artist that had a high profile, they felt like they could just squeeze him for information.” - Steven Victor
While Pop was in custody for the Wraith, an NYPD detective asked him about a June 2019 shooting in Queens. Pop had been seen on surveillance footage escaping the scene by driving in reverse down a one-way street.
“He wasn’t a suspect in the shooting, but he was certainly considered to be a witness,” Frankel says. “Law enforcement had reason to believe that he had information that was crucial to their investigation. They showed up at his arrest and they tried to question him about it. It was from that moment on that I really understood that he was not just a potential target, but somebody that law enforcement had legitimate interest in speaking to.”
Frankel points out that the cops also asked Pop about the 823 Crips, who they believed he had information about. He had previously referenced being an 823 member in an infamous 2012 video of his encounter with Brooklyn Bloods, and also rhymed, “I’m 823 and I’m certified” on his 2018 “MPR” single. But both references were made before he gained national fame and started “basically living in the studio,” according to Frankel. Pop had also moved from his mother’s home in Canarsie to Edgewater, New Jersey, giving him further distance from the gang’s activities. But even if he did know something, he refused to tell the cops anything.
Frankel says the stolen vehicle charge was “fairly serious,” but “it wasn’t something that, in my view, was going to cause him to have exposure to jail or prison. I think that at the state level, that was a charge that we could handle fairly routinely.”
Although Pop had legal issues to tend to back home, they didn’t dampen his Paris experience. As Rhude designer Rhuigi Villaseñor told Complex, Pop had “a LeBron moment” in Paris, adding, “You knew [Pop Smoke] was going to become that guy.”
He was the man of the moment in the City Of Lights, standing out even in a city overrun by stars during Fashion Week. Over four days, he sat front-row at the Off-White and Louis Vuitton shows, performed at fashion brand Who Decides War’s after-party, and met with fashion industry mavens like Villaseñor and Places + Faces’ Imran Ciesay. A photo of him rocking a blue Off-White fur coat even went viral.
His starpower was front and center at the Thursday evening Louis Vuitton Menswear’s Fall/Winter 2020-2021 fashion show. Pop wore a sheer mint green shirt-and-shorts set alongside stars like Bella Hadid, Daniel Kaluuya, J Balvin, Kris Wu, and Migos. Anyone who listens to his catalog knows how much he loved designer fashion, and it’s likely he felt the show’s “heaven on Earth” theme more than most people in attendance.
“[Pop] was always aware of Fashion Week,” Shiv says. “But this is how we had explained: ‘You don’t want to go until you get invited, you don’t want to go until you’re sitting front row. You don’t want to go until you’re getting dressed. You don’t want to go until it’s a moment.’”
This was the moment. Pop didn’t even have an album out yet, but he was brushing shoulders with platinum artists and big-time movie stars, wearing an outfit that the Louis team had specifically laid out for him.
Most designers would be dog-tired and eager to relax after helming two Fashion Week showcases, but Virgil still directed Pop and Quavo’s “Shake the Room” video just four hours after the Louis show. It was the crew’s last night in Paris, and the first time Virgil wasn’t preoccupied with planning the other shows. Curating the “Shake the Room” video was one last Fashion Week task that he was willing to get done no matter what it took. It takes an artist with a certain starpower for someone as accomplished as Virgil (who has well-documented connections to Kanye West, Travis Scott, and Kid Cudi) to work on strenuous terms, and Pop was already that caliber of artist.
Shiv was used to that dynamic, noting, “Pop had that confidence and that energy that you knew was special. Everyone doesn’t have it, and you remember it when you see it. Even though it’s overpowering and it’s different, there’s something very endearing and appealing to it where you want to take care of this person and you want to make them happy and be around them.”
Steven Victor says he was also “hyper focused” on doing whatever it took to get the job done for Pop. He even flew from New York to Paris just to film a single shot of him acting out “Shake the Room’s” “Steven Victor in the Pista” line. He says that Virgil told him the video had to “be like real life.”
That true-to-life yearning is reflected in the spontaneity of the video, as well as the VHS quality of the shots captured by Kamera Kombat, who assisted Abloh with the shoot. A disclaimer pops up at the start of the video informing, “This is barely a ‘video shoot.’”
“Virgil was like, ‘Yo, let’s just meet at this restaurant and we’ll figure out the game plan to shoot the video from there,’” Victor says. “‘We’ll come up with the treatment and everything.’” Then, once Pop and crew got to the restaurant, Virgil decided, “Nah, we need to shoot the video in this restaurant.”
There wasn’t much of a treatment for the video, but Pop and Quavo’s natural charisma eclipsed the need for choreography. The two took over the still-open-for-business restaurant like it was their own. The four-minute visual splices scenes of them dancing with employees, standing on tables, hanging out in the kitchen, and giving one lucky guest the birthday celebration of a lifetime. Videos depicting rappers hobnobbing with the posh class is a common video trope, often played up for comedic effect. But this was a spontaneous, real-life engagement with the restaurant’s guests, and they all seemed to be having genuine fun together.
Virgil suggested that they film the Ferrari scene outside.
“Everyone’s like, ‘Yo, how? We don’t got permits.’” Victor says, recalling that they ultimately decided: “‘Fuck the permits. Let’s just start shooting it. And when they come shut us down, they shut us down. Hopefully we have enough footage by then.’”
“He wanted to experience the love of being onstage in New York and celebrating with his fans. Every step that we made towards that, they just kept putting up a roadblock.” - Shivam Pandya
The crew got more than enough shots of Pop, Quavo, and yes, “Steven Victor in the Pista.” A Prada after-party was the video’s intended third setting, but they mostly ended up enjoying the Parisian nightlife instead of filming. Virgil says that he thought Pop would grow tired of the techno music in the club, but their hours-long stay “spoke volumes that he’s curious.”
Shiv says he saw the same inquisitiveness. “He was always very interested to know that there was this commonality with people in such a far off place,” he notes. “As much as he did, he also didn’t think that he would ever get there. So then once he saw it for himself, it was refreshing to him.”
For the man born Bashar Jackson, a trip to Paris was a chance for a kid from Canarsie, Brooklyn to have some new experiences.
“He was just super, super genuine with everything,” Shiv says. “It wasn’t like he was just trying to go party and do all of the silly stuff. He wanted to do that as well, but it was always a bigger picture,” recalling that Pop enjoyed sightseeing and trying the food throughout Europe, even though he ended up “not feeling” French food.
“He hated the pizza over there,” Shiv remembers, “He was super upset at the Pizza Hut and he hated all the local French cuisine.”
But he tried it. Shiv says that he gradually saw Pop “trying to wrap his head around how far he had come,” and pondering “how to breach the gap” of exposing his friends back home to more than the Brooklyn blocks that raised them.
“He was just trying to figure out what he could do to explain to everybody that there was so much more to the world,” Shiv notes. “He always felt great pressure to do that.”
As far as everyone knew, Pop had all the time in the world to figure it out. But unfortunately, his big introduction to Paris would also be his final time there. And as soon as he got back to New York, he was smacked with news about the stolen car case.
Pop was arrested by the FBI immediately upon his arrival at JFK airport and sent to federal lockup. And to make matters worse, the same NYPD detective from the December arrest was at the scene, asking once again about the 823 Crips and the June 2019 shooting. It became clear to everyone around Pop that the FBI had taken on the case in order to pressure him into giving the NYPD information.
As Pop’s profile grew, so did the legal system’s toolbox. Steven Victor feels that the feds sought to take advantage of the reality that he had a lot to lose as a budding international music star.
“Because he was an artist that had a high profile, they felt like they could just squeeze him for information,” Victor says. “In their minds, they’re thinking, ‘This guy has a bright future ahead of him. He’s not going to let us continue to fuck with him. He’s just going to tell us what we want.’”
“Law enforcement has a lot of tools at their disposal,” Frankel advises. “If I were to say to you that there was tremendous interest in certain elements, be it gang elements, or certain people that law enforcement believed that Pop associated with and had information about, and they didn’t feel that the state prosecution would be strong enough to extract the information from him, then it’s not surprising in the least that the feds would get involved.
“It was of no surprise to me that they would have somebody there to try to interview him prior to the time that he had an attorney present,” Frankel adds. “Once he got the lawyer in place, law enforcement can’t question you. So they had to be there right away, and they were.”
The criminal complaint was filed by the feds on Jan. 15, the same day Pop was at the Off-White fashion show in Paris.
“Do you see a lot of stolen car cases in federal court?” Frankel asks. “I can’t remember one in over 20 years.”
But the stakes were high for the feds. They believed Pop had information that would help the NYPD solve crimes, and they were going to leverage the stolen car case as much as they could. While Frankel thought he could have avoided jail time from the case on a state level, Pop was suddenly facing a maximum of 10 years in federal prison. And the government kept applying pressure at the arraignment.
Presiding judge Ramon E. Reyes set a $250,000 secured bail, which Frankel called a “fairly significant bail based on the charge.”
“For anybody else, they would’ve just had a cash bond that he would have been able to do himself,” Shiv says. “He had the money in his bank account to cover it.” Shiv ultimately signed on the bond the next Monday, a hefty sum that he says he didn’t hesitate on.
“He was realizing like, ‘OK, this is happening because I’m an artist that’s on the upward trajectory. They see where this is going.’” - Shivam Pandya
Frankel urged the court to reconsider the secured bail, which also forced Pop’s mother to put her house up as collateral. But assistant US attorney Gillian Kassner didn’t budge on her belief that he was a flight risk, noting his previous cases, frequent international travel, and also the reasoning that “the defendant uses six or more aliases, not to mention that the alias he employs most commonly refers to leaving.” She also said, “The government believes he’s a member of the 823 G Stone Crips gang, and therefore, he might also have additional resources available through that.”
Frankel says that the reference to the Crips made it “clear from the beginning that Pop was someone that they were interested in, not for the vehicle so much as for other things that they either thought they could potentially tie him to, or information that they thought that they could get from him.”
Not only was the bail exceptionally harsh, Pop’s release conditions were particularly restrictive. He was subject to random “workplace visits” and home visits, needed to get permission to travel internationally, had to undergo substance counseling and treatment, and was also forbidden from drinking and smoking. He also couldn’t “associate with any known gang members,” which was the muddiest obstacle to navigate.
“What’s a ‘known gang member’?” Frankel asks. “I said to them, ‘Give me a list of all the known gang members so that I can make sure that my client doesn’t associate with them.’ But it’s ridiculous because there is no such list. You’re putting Pop in a situation where you’re telling him he can’t associate with some undefined group of people, and you retain the ability to violate the conditions of his release by saying he associated with a gang member.”
Shiv expresses agitation that the cops would “try to do all these little things that they knew a 20-year-old artist would have trouble with.” He explains, “They tried to get him slippin’ and it was our job to put enough safeguards around him to make sure that that didn’t happen.”
To the police, Pop’s stardom wasn’t evidence that he was attempting to leave whatever life he may have lived behind; it was an opportunity to be capitalized on. By policing his interactions, allowing random visits, and making drinking and smoking a violation (for an alleged offense that had nothing to do with intoxication), they were essentially setting traps that they hoped would persuade him to cooperate.
The federal case was immediately affecting Pop’s livelihood: the Yams Day fest organizers told his team that he wouldn’t be able to perform later that night while he was still at the arraignment. Even before the arrest, Victor Victor had been having trouble ensuring that he would get to perform.
To this day, the entire New York drill scene has trouble booking shows in the city because the NYPD routinely pressures promoters to shut them down, citing a fear of violence. Pop was one of five artists banned from the 2019 Rolling Loud festival in Queens, New York because of the NYPD’s assertion that the “performers have been associated with recent acts of violence citywide” and “the New York City Police Department believes if these individuals are allowed to perform, there will be a higher risk of violence.”
Pop was “associated” with the June 2019 shooting just by virtue of being on the scene. And now, the NYPD was claiming that his mere appearance onstage would incite violence, an insult to him and show attendees. It didn’t matter if he merely sought to do his job as an entertainer if the job is inherently criminalized.
The Barclays Center braintrust and the NYPD had been “messing with the Yams day people” for weeks leading up to the show, according to Shiv. He tried to assure the showrunners that they’d come with a small party and would leave after the performance. The team also refrained from promoting his appearance on the bill, attempting to avoid the NYPD officially banning him from the event. But as Shiv recalls, news of the federal charges nixed his appearance.
“That afternoon, they were like, ‘OK, now the police were saying you can’t come because of this thing,’” he says.
It was another blow in a terrible day. After Pop was freed on bond, he went home and tried to maneuver around the ban. “Even after everything, he was like, ‘I got to go, I got to go,’” Shiv recalls. “So we went home and changed and he was like, ‘Listen, I got a plan.’ He was on the phone with [ASAP] Bari. They were working out this grand scheme. The plan was to sneak in through the front door and try to make it backstage, and that we would do the set and then leave.”
“Pop was concerned about how hip-hop artists were perceived generally as gangbangers and thugs, and that was something that really bothered him.” - Peter Frankel, Pop Smoke's lawyer
Yams Day is a big deal in New York. The event started as a celebration of the life of ASAP Mob architect ASAP Yams, who died in 2015. And every year, the ASAP crew books Yams’ favorite artists to perform alongside the city’s biggest new acts. It’s a prime chance for artists to engage with thousands of fans and be legitimized on a bill full of rap favorites. Performing there would be another stamp that Pop had a legitimate claim as “King Of New York.”
In a perfect world, the red carpet would be rolled out for him as perhaps the hottest artist in the city at the time. Maybe the police would even escort him into the show to help him navigate backstage smoothly. But in New York City, 2020, he was trying to sneak past them into a show full of thousands of people who would love to see him. His attempt failed.
“We got like, 20 feet into the building before someone spotted us,” Shiv says. “And then we got stopped.” The NYPD specifically told Barclays Center that he wouldn’t be able to perform, and they were on alert for him.
“They were just saying, ‘Man, you know you can’t be here. You gotta get outta here,’” Shiv says. “And [a cop] was like, ‘Look, I don’t want to arrest you.’ There were a bunch of cops around and security came and they’re like, ‘Look, just get in the car and leave.’ If you guys come any further, we have to arrest you.”
Pop was already dealing with intense bail conditions from federal officials who thought he was a gang member, so he couldn’t risk a day-of violation. Shiv says they left the arena “frustrated” and “really disappointed” with the ban.
“He wanted to experience that love of being onstage in New York and celebrating with his friends and with the artists and with the fans,” Shiv says. “Every step that we made towards that, they just kept putting up a roadblock. And that was just always extremely frustrating for him.”
Pop was one of the most in-demand musicians in a city regarded as a worldwide cultural hub, but never headlined a hometown show. He had to go all the way to London to perform with Skepta in November 2019. No matter what commercial heights he reached, it seemed like he couldn’t surpass the perception of being a criminal.
The NYPD birthed the Hip-Hop Police, which has surveilled artists and attempted to link them with gangs for years. Pop Smoke grew up in Canarsie, Brooklyn, a neighborhood besieged by conflict between the Wooo and Cho gangs in recent years. Cops had attempted to link his “Woo” catchphrase to the Wooo gang, and the stigma followed him around.
“Some people thought that he was deeply involved in gang activity, and that wasn’t the case at all,” Frankel says. “But [‘Woo’] was something that was his thing and what he loved to talk about, and sing about, and perform. It’s probably a pretty good example of something that can be thought by some to mean one thing, but nothing could have been further from the truth.”
“It wasn’t like he was really running around committing murders or selling 100 [kis] of cocaine,” Victor says. “It was just, there was people around. There was things that was happening in the neighborhood that police felt like he might’ve seen or might’ve known.”
Pop drove around Brooklyn that night with Shiv. With his Barclays Center debut canceled, there was nothing to do but reflect on the day. The previous night, Pop was having the time of his life, shooting a video in Paris. But on that chilly Friday night, he drove around his native Brooklyn, facing a harsh reminder that he couldn’t navigate it the way he did before fame. He was a target.
“I think it became clear right after the arraignment,” Shiv says. “We drove around for a while in Brooklyn and in New York and stuff all night. I think that’s when it all kind of came into focus for him and he was realizing like, ‘OK, this is happening because I’m an artist that’s on the upward trajectory. They see where this is going.’”
While he was disappointed, Shiv said that he stayed resilient.
“At some point he was like, ‘Well, at some point, they won’t be able to stop me. At some point, I’ll just be so big and they can’t stop the show. We’ll get to that point and it’ll happen further down the line,” Shiv says. “So he didn’t worry about it. I think what bothered him was if fans thought that it was anything that he did or he didn’t want to be there or he was trying to skip out on something or not.“
Frankel says that as long as he knew Pop, the artist was concerned with the stereotypes applied to rappers, noting, “He had an intellectual curiosity about his case that was beyond what I was prepared for. He asked a lot of questions. Some clients don’t want to talk about their case unless it’s absolutely necessary because it just depresses them and it causes them to feel anxiety and stressed out. Some clients are middle of the road. Pop wanted to know everything. Pop was concerned about how hip-hop artists were perceived generally as gangbangers and thugs, and that was something that really bothered him.”
The two “spent a lot of time talking about the fact that just because you’re perceived in a certain way doesn’t mean that you are that way,” Frankel adds. “He didn’t want to be perceived that way. All he wanted to do was focus on his career.”
Ultimately, Frankel says Pop could have very well faced “a couple years” for the federal charges, but he was tragically killed a month later while in LA recording. Four people, including a 15-year-old, allegedly stormed an Airbnb he was renting to rob him of a cuban link chain and Rolex watch. After Pop struggled with them, they allegedly shot him three times.
As his fans celebrate his legacy this month, listening to his recently released Faith album, the cruel reality is that even if he was here to perform new music, the NYPD would be trying to stop him from doing so. And he likely had more volatile days ahead of him as predacious cops sought to derail his ascension in the music world. Artists whose lyrics reflect violent realities are treated like every bar is literal by the justice system. In Pop’s case, the added reality of his presence near a shooting gave them more ammo to threaten his career in order to get the information they sought. The cops knew that the bigger he got as an artist, the more distance he was creating from his old life, and they didn’t want him to fulfill his inevitable wish of getting so big that he was out of their grasp.
“It’s just a stereotype that, unfortunately, artists can’t seem to get away from, and it couldn’t be further from the truth,” Frankel says. “Are there artists that are involved in violence or guns? Yeah, of course. But you could say that about a lot of different types of people in various professions. To classify all hip-hop artists as violent thugs and gang bangers is really just to do a disservice to yourself because nothing could be further from the truth. It’s like saying that someone that is an actor that plays villains in a movie is a villain in real life. It’s just dumb.”