Pop Smoke told Angie Martinez that before touching down in Paris back in January, he had never even left the country before. The 20-year-old Canarsie rapper, born Bashar Jackson, hadn’t traveled internationally, not even to Jamaica, where his mother is from, or Panama, where his father is from. He didn’t have a passport. 

But now Pop Smoke was thousands of miles away from Brooklyn, sitting front row at shows for brands like Louis Vuitton and Off-White among people he once idolized, like Virgil Abloh and Quavo. It was another milestone in his rapid ascent to the forefront of the rap world. And it was supposed to be just the beginning before his tragic death this past February.

“He was just so excited to be there. It's somewhere he always wanted to go, and it was his first trip,” says Shivam Pandya, the director of artist management at Victor Victor Worldwide, Pop Smoke’s label. “As soon as we had landed, when we got to the city, the first stop he had the driver make was to go to the Eiffel Tower. He wanted to get out of the car and take pictures.”

In the months leading up to his first trip across the pond, Pop Smoke’s notoriety in the rap game had grown. His breakout single, “Welcome to the Party,” was a summer anthem in 2019 that extended far beyond New York City and introduced the Brooklyn drill sound to the mainstream. Another anthem, “Dior,” followed it. In less than a year, Pop was able to create a stylistic image for himself that resonated with his fans and peers. Style seemed to come naturally to him. If it wasn’t already clear that Pop was intrigued with the fashion world, “Dior” made it obvious, with the deep-voiced rapper shouting about brands like Amiri and, of course, Dior over the chorus. The track will forever link him to the designers he loved in the same way older hip-hop fans might equate Pharrell with Bape or Biggie with Coogi and Versace sunglasses.

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