The Philosophy of Pop Smoke
“You see Pop Smoke… I liked a n***a man… I swear to God I really liked that n***a. I met him, we was talking. And I was like ‘Yo’… I’m watching him and this n***a keep playing with his phone and he was playing with his phone ALL the time… I’m like ‘Yo, what the f**k is wrong with this n***a?… he’s like “yo… what you say?”50 Cent Interview on Pop Smoke
In this clip, 50 Cent describes the first step in the philosophy of Pop Smoke that every new artist, and indeed every new creative person must walk through on their journey to master:
#1 Study The Mentor (But Don’t Follow The Mentor)
Almost every single newcomer rap artist sounds like their number one mentor(s).
Jay-Z lifted his early “triplet” flow from mentor Jaz-O… Eminem on Infinite sounds like a mixture of It Was Written Nas and Treach from Naughty By Nature, and even 50 Cent himself was step-by-step trained by fellow Queens native Jam Master Jay of Run DMC how to master hit song structure:
“I didn’t actually know how to count bars when I met Jay. I would write a verse and it would be 12 bars, sometimes 14, sometimes 18… everything but 16 bars you know… he kind of trained me to write the chorus, and he was like… he’d write make the chorus to the record 3-4 times before I started. And this is why sometimes I have habits based on that. Sometimes I’ll put more than one melody on the actual record. So for example, on P.I.M.P., I’ll say, “I’m a P.I.M.P… and then there’s a part in the record where I’ll say, I’m ‘bout my money you’ll see… ” So, there’s a bridge area on the record and I learned how to do that under Jay’s tutelage”50 Cent Interview on Jam Master Jay
The difference between copying and studying an artist lies in exactly what Pop Smoke did here with 50 Cent… he emulated the “mentality” of 50 Cent rather than simply reproducing the exact same outcomes.
This reminds us of an underrated Jay-Z line where he once said, “don’t follow me, homey, follow my moves”.
Artists in the 21st century should strive to focus more on the mentality of their favorite rappers and attempt to “read between the lines” of the philosophy the icon is representing…
Rather than just copying the same old song format, which is why so much modern rap sounds exactly the same.
We discuss exactly how to follow the philosophy of 21st century song structure in our free course, “The Top 20 Songwriting Secrets of Professional Rappers” which you can pick up HERE…
But the first step in the philosophy of Pop Smoke is study the mentor, but don’t follow him.
#2 Don’t Write, Relive
“I don’t really write like that… I don’t write at all, to be honest… I just go in there and go crazy. I always got people around me who do different things, so my boy Al was just around and was like, ‘You know how to do this?’ And I was like ‘Yeah… bro, and it just went from there”Pop Smoke Interview
Our last article titled, “How Rappers Write Their Songs” which you can view by clicking HERE described the ‘Mind Only Method’ style of writing that rappers such as Lil’ Wayne, Jay-Z, Big Sean, and now Pop Smoke use wherein a rapper does not actually write their lyrics down…
…But rather gets in the studio, thinks of the verse in their head, instantly memorizes it, and simply raps it without ever having writing anything down:
‘A lot of people didn’t know how deadly you are with your pen… or device if you type it down…’ I don’t even do that… I just go in there and work it out in my head… ‘you one of them too? Do people really do that?’ I don’t know if people are lying I know Jay-Z, Kanye, Common, myself, Wayne… ‘all the good ones’Big Sean on His Writing Process
The method to the madness of the Mind Only Method for Pop Smoke is that he is really re-living the context of the song based on his real-life experiences…
Rather than trying to “make up” a scenario in his head that sounds good for the listener.
This gives an authentic feel to the music that cannot be reproduced by what we used to call “studio gangstas” or people who aren’t really “about that life”.
Interestingly, Kendrick Lamar has discussed a similar philosophy to his writing, using the “Relive Your Life” mentality to maintain authenticity in his raps:
“Usually me and the boys just got in the studio and I can go off of a simple drum loop that I like.
My process – it starts from a whole bunch of pre-meditated thoughts. The process of me just thinking about the ideas of what I want to say next.
By the time that I get into the studio, I have to find that exact sound that triggered the emotion or the idea that I thought about two months ago.”Kendrick Lamar on His Writing Process
#3 Be Your Own Fan First
In this clip, we see Pop Smoke dancing around super hype to his OWN tracks just the way that a fan would.
Just like in #2 where we described the importance of representing yourself authentically through the music so that it resonates with YOU more than just a fan…
…Pop Smoke clearly is 100% happy with what he has created even before the track has been released.
One can only imagine how that “self-fandom” helps to seep into the energy of the track and thus the concerts when he performed.
Rap is a sport that thrives off of confidence, and thus if an artist is doubting themselves constantly, it’s going to seep into the track itself and probably won’t land with the audience as much as it needs to become a hit.
Pop Smoke’s ability to humble enough to study (without copying) his mentors, reliving his real-life through the music rather than “creating a fantasy”, and being a fan of his OWN music first and foremost are major factors in the philosophy of Pop Smoke that helped and help his name live on well past his untimely passing.