Temple graduate recalls Pop Smoke's Philly signing at DTLR weeks before his death

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The music world is mourning the death of 20-year-old rapper Pop Smoke.

The up-and-coming music star was killed during a shooting inside a Hollywood Hills home, according to his label.

"We are devastated by the unexpected and tragic loss of Pop Smoke," said a statement from Republic Records. "Our prayers and thoughts go out to his family, friends and fans, as we mourn this loss together."

The Brooklyn-born rapper, whose real name is Bashar Barakah Jackson, was in Philadelphia earlier this month. He held a mixtape signing at the DTLR on 52nd Street.

Jasen Alfrena works as the full-time in-house videographer for DTLR/VILLA.

The 23-year-old Temple University grad, who also was born in Brooklyn, saw the reaction Pop Smoke got from his fans firsthand.

"The scene at DTLR was that a lot of people overall were excited. The DTLR employees were selling his shirts and tape to whoever wanted to actually meet him and get their tape cover signed by him personally. The line reached from the second floor all the way down the stairs to the first floor, just waiting for him to show up to the store," Alfrena told 6abc.com on Wednesday.

Known professionally as VITO, Alfrena captured images and video of Pop Smoke interacting with his Philadelphia fans at the store.

"Pop Smoke, he came to the store and showed mad love meaning that he interacted with the fans that came up to him for their photo and or signing. He showed respect," Alfrena said. "Just by his presence you felt that he truly cared about the people who came out to see him; it felt like he was just blessed to be where he was at in his music career overall. Pop Smoke danced, laughed, even shook hands with many people, people who weren't even getting anything signed."

One particular moment stood out to the Temple grad.

"He even had a little kid who was 8 or 9 years of age rap for him and he enjoyed listening to the little one. Another younger kid was actually break dancing right in front of him and he allowed the kid to dance," Alfrena said.

Pop Smoke had been in Philly a week earlier at the club NOTO. Alfrena was busy with his videography business and could not make that appearance. So when he got another chance to see him, he wasn't going to pass it up.

Alfrena had graduated from Temple in September 2019 and a few months later was hired by DTLR to be their in-house videographer. His next assignment was on the way.

"The week (Pop Smoke) was actually supposed to come back, which was the event at DTLR, I got a text from a colleague of mine that he'd need me to shoot photos/videos of Pop Smoke. It was literally a couple days before so super last minute. But I agreed and that's how I got footage and plenty of photos of him," Alfrena said.

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jaysvito's video shows Pop Smoke at DTLR in Philadelphia on February 7, 2020.

Earlier this month, Pop Smoke released the album "Meet the Woo 2," which debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart. It was the follow up to his first official release," Meet the Woo," last July. He also had the popular hit "Gatti" with Travis Scott and Jackboys and "Dior."

The DTLR event lasted for a couple hours, and though, Alfrena didn't get a chance to chat with Pop Smoke, he said he saw the impact the "Welcome to the Party" rapper had on the younger generation and fellow artists.

"He had his own dance which was called the 'Woo Walk' dance which was being danced by millions every time his song came on. People who even knew about him and liked his music stemmed from Nicki Minaj, Quavo, to Travis Scott, Lil Tjay, and even 50 Cent. Many more I could not name at this time but he had a lot of love behind him for his craft for sure," Alfrena said.

Pop Smoke named fellow New York rapper 50 Cent as one of his influences and on Twitter, the multiplatinum entertainer memorialized him: "R.I.P to my man Pop Smoke, No sympathy for winners. God bless him."

Minaj also posted her sympathies with a photo of Pop Smoke on her Instagram account. "The Bible tells us that jealousy is as cruel as the grave. Unbelievable. Rest In Peace, Pop," she wrote.

And Jamie Foxx posted an Instagram picture of himself with the rapper, saying, "Wow just chopped it up with this young black man... just another senseless killing of us."

"Pop Smoke was just too young to have gone like this, he was just getting started. There are just a lot of young artists who are passing that didn't even reach their full potential with their craft and it is truly saddening. I don't think he deserved what happened to him at all. It's really just a sad day today for sure," Alfrena said.

Pop Smoke was scheduled to perform at The Filmore in March.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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