When 21-year-old Malluchi Boateng first heard Pop Smoke’s music last year, he “fell in love” with it.
As the rapper’s posthumous album Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon was released on Friday, Malluchi tells Radio 1 Newsbeat he’s grateful he has something to hold on to.
“I will honestly play this album to my future children. It’s incredible.
“I’d been waiting all day for it to come out, I listened straight away.”
He says the release of such a “special album” – Pop Smoke’s debut – was bittersweet.
“While I was really enjoying the songs, I was like ‘Wow, this is the last one I’ll get to hear’.”
The US rapper, real name Bashar Barakah Jackson, was killed in a suspected robbery in February at the age of 20.
‘Destined for great things’
Pop Smoke only released his debut mixtape in 2019 but was already having a big impact on hip-hop.
He had been co-signed by 50 Cent, who executive-produced the posthumous album – which features a sample of the classic 50 Cent song Many Men, from 50’s own debut album.
Malluchi says: “He was definitely destined for great things.
“If you look at what he did in about 14 months of his career, most artists do that in five or six years.”
Malluchi’s friend Jaimie chimes in: “The reason we love Pop Smoke so much in the UK is because he bridged the US and UK music scenes.
“We’ve had loads of UK and US collaborations before, but Pop Smoke actually used UK producers and rapped on UK drill beats.”
Pop Smoke often worked with East London producer 808Melo – helping give the Brooklyn artist a sound more familiar to London.
He had relationships with artists like AJ Tracey, Fredo and Dave – and his previous mixtape featured a freestyle on the same beat as Headie One’s iconic tune Know Better.
“You have this unique thing with Brooklyn rap where it was created by UK production,” says music journalist Abubakar Finiin.
“This whole new sound that was bubbling through Brooklyn was created by 808 Melo, AXL beats – these UK producers shaped it.”
Abubakar says originally the artists in Brooklyn didn’t even know the producers were British.
“They were just ripping the beats off YouTube.”
But eventually the two sub-genres evolved together “mutually”, and Abubakar says you could tell that Pop Smoke in particular “made an effort to understand the UK scene”.
“The UK has a thing where we can see who the up-and-coming US rap stars are, it’s a weird one. Pop Smoke was the front runner in that.
“It’s a shame we didn’t see it proper come into fruition.”
Jaimie felt the excitement of UK and US drill crossing over in Pop Smoke’s music.
“He was changing the music culture,” he says.
Jaimie thinks Pop Smoke was still “evolving” with every body of work and that this album contains a “mix of genres”.
“He sampled 50 cent’s Many Men, a classic tune. He’s mixing old school with new school, it’s so creative.
“It’s really sad that we won’t get more albums from him.”
Album cover controversy
Malluchi, like many, was glad to see the album had new cover art.
It was originally created by streetwear designer Virgil Abloh and had been called “lazy” – petitions to have it changed were signed tens of thousands of times.
“I hated the first one, it was poorly done,” Malluchi says.
“The new one is decent, it’s much better than the first one.”
Speaking about the time he saw Pop Smoke perform at a university rave in Leicester, Malluchi says: “It was so sick. It was one of my first ever concerts, so I’m glad I got to see him.
“I gave him my phone and he recorded a Snapchat video on stage. After that night, I just loved him.”
Jaimie agrees that “the energy he brought was different” – and as Jaimie starts singing the chorus to Dior, he says “you can’t listen to a Pop Smoke song and be sad”.