Jackson was born in 1999 to a Jamaican mother and a Panamanian father in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. He grew up in the Canarsie neighborhood. At the age of 15, he received a basketball scholarship to a private school in Philadelphia, but quit after a short time. In his eighth grade year, he was expelled from school after smuggling a gun into the school. He subsequently spent two years on house arrest for illegal gun possession. Inspired by the young New York drill scene, he began his music career in 2018. His stage name Pop Smoke came from the combination of Poppa (nickname given by his grandmother) and Smoke (nickname given by his friends). In April 2019, he released his first single Welcome to the Party, an outtake from his debut mixtape Meet the Woo. The song later received remixes with guest appearances by Nicki Minaj and Skepta. In December 2019, the song Gatti was released on the compilation JackBoys by Travis Scott and the label collective Cactus Jack. His second mixtape Meet the Woo 2 was released on February 7, 2020, and featured collaborations with artists such as Nav (Wolves), Gunna (Dior (Remix)), and PnB Rock (Like Me). Until shortly before his death, the rapper was working on his debut album, which was slated for release in June 2020 according to his manager Steven Victor, but was ultimately released posthumously on July 3, 2020, under the title Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon. The album was released in June 2020.
Pop Smoke was considered a pioneer of New York drill rap, which grew out of Chicago-area drill and its British subgenre (UK drill) in the early 2010s. As of 2019, his music was considered more popular on New York radio stations than on the Billboard Hot 100.
On January 17, 2020, Jackson returned from Fashion Week in Paris and was arrested by officers at John F. Kennedy International Airport upon entry. He was charged with transporting a reported stolen vehicle within the borders in the United States. The vehicle in question was a Rolls-Royce Wraith valued at approximately $375,000. According to Jackson, the vehicle was borrowed for a music video shoot, with the understanding that the vehicle would be returned the next day. Previously, Jackson had posted pictures with himself and the Rolls-Royce on Instagram and Facebook. The vehicle was impounded by officers at the mother’s home where the vehicle was parked. Pop Smoke pleaded not guilty and was released the same day on $250,000 bail. The vehicle was returned the next day.
On February 19, 2020, Bashar Jackson, aged 20, was shot and killed during a robbery at his Hollywood Hills home. According to authorities, the perpetrators were four masked men with handguns. Just six minutes after the events, police found the rapper with multiple gunshot wounds. He was later officially pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. According to coroners, Jackson died of a gunshot wound to the upper body. He was buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. More than 1,000 people were in attendance during the funeral service in March 2020. On July 10, five men linked to the murder were arrested. Four of them, including Corey Walker, 19, Keandre Rodgers, 18, and two teenagers, ages 17 and 15, were charged with murder by prosecutors. A possible death penalty for two of the four perpetrators is also being considered by authorities. Jaquan Murphy, 21, the fifth person, received an attempted murder charge.