DANGER

KEEP OUT

HAZARDOUS MUSIC

As they say, “listening to Pop Smoke is always an ill-advised decision.” All right, maybe it’s just me (I say it at least once each week), but it’s true — the Brooklyn driller has the ability (read: gift) to pull listeners into his world and never let go. This, of course, isn’t a bad thing by any means, but it can create some sticky situations for sure. In the car, Pop Smoke can cause you to miss your turn and get lost. At a party, Pop Smoke can make you ignore everyone around you and exist solely as a body for the music to move through. In short, Pop Smoke can cause people to do some pretty wild things, but why? The answer, of course, is multifaceted, but it all comes down to one thing: 808 Melo, his producer.

The East London producer has been crafting beats for UK drill and UK hip-hop acts for the past couple of years, but he has only produced a one-hit wonder, “Know Better,” a disrespectful and boastful track by Headie One and Rv. The dissonant melodies, off-kilter hi-hats and sliding 808s on the vocal sample provide the two men with the perfect sonic palette to talk some greasy shit and spew rude comments. Thanks to 808 Melo, “Know Better” has become a quintessential UK drill song and has even been used by Stormzy in his disappointing Wiley send, “DISAPPOINTED.”

Suffice to say, Melo’s time was bound to come, but he’d need an American to do it: someone with global appeal and what is to some a more tolerable accent. Pop Smoke was that someone. From the get-go, the two men were a match made in drill heaven. Their earliest collaborations include “MPR” and “Flexin’,” two hard-hitting, hard-nose, hard-ass songs that immediately yanked listeners into their frigid landscapes. Though the sound had been popular in the UK since around 2016, to Americans, it was fresh and new. It was exciting in the same way Atlanta trap and Chicago drill were exciting when they first exploded into the scene. Now, all Melo and Pop would need was a breakout hit.

“Welcome to the Party” was that hit. When the track came out in May 2019, it immediately caught fire. And for good reason. “Welcome to the Party” is an absolute banger, and I don’t say that lightly. It’s the kind of song that commands everyone’s attention for the track’s entire three minute and thirty-four second runtime. Pop Smoke is cold as ice on the track, using a staccato flow to deliver absurdist tough talk like “Bitch, I’m a thot, get me lit / Gun on my hip / One in the head / Ten in the clip” and “Don’t let that Henny in my system / I catch a body, next day I forget it.” In his words, to be “welcome to the party” is to do what he has already been doing. The beauty of Pop Smoke is how assured of himself he is, like he knows he was bound to be the first to blow up with this sound. His charisma and energy is just plain infectious. 

However, 808 Melo is the reason that Pop Smoke was able to flex and move the way he does on “Welcome to the Party.” Melo’s beat is kicked off with what may be the best producer tag of 2019: a female voice slowly declaring, “Thisssss issss a Melooo beat.” As soon as the tag drops, you know both Pop and Melo are going to go to work. Melo does most of the heavy lifting by crafting an expertly simple beat, highlighted by reversed horror movie piano slashes and pulsating, gurgling 808 slides. Pop Smoke and 808 Melo prove on “Welcome to the Party” that they’re the new rapper-producer dynamic duo, and no one is going to challenge them soon.

Pop Smoke, thanks to “Welcome to the Party,” is on his way to becoming a breakout star, the harbinger of Brooklyn drill, similar to how Chief Keef introduced the world to Chicago drill. Hell, he was featured on Travis Scott’s Jackboys compilation on the song “GATTI,” co-produced by (surprise, surprise) 808 Melo. Most of Pop’s other songs are variations on “Welcome to the Party,” but they all work so well that it does not matter at all. However, when Pop does break the mold, he transcends. On “PTSD,” from his debut tape Meet the Woo, he does his best 50 Cent impression and crushes it, delivering an impassioned and emotional performance. With time, hopefully, he continues to both break the mold while creating more drill classics.

What’s the point of all this? I’ll tell you: Pop Smoke is a force of nature, a veritable black hole. His charismatic gravity is so strong that nothing can escape him. He is one man sufficiently compact enough to disrupt the four dimensions of the spacetime continuum. So, don’t say I didn’t warn you when — not if — Pop Smoke takes over your entire world.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *