Pop Smoke is dead. Shot in what appears to be a targeted hit, the 20-year-old rapper became the latest musician to die well before their time.
His demise is a personal tragedy for all who knew him and a loss for rap music, no doubt. But the main lesson of his death isn’t that the American rap scene can still be fatally dangerous. Neither is it that it doesn’t pay to have links with the Crips.
No, the main lesson is that the American public is sick.
In showing more interest in Pop Smoke’s death than in his music, the American public – and really the wider Western world – revealed itself to have an unhealthy, morbid fascination with death, violence, suffering, and tragedy.
Pop Smoke was an exciting up-and-coming rapper. His most recent album, Meet The Woo 2, entered the Billboard 200 at number seven following its release last week.
That’s a major accomplishment. But it still equated to only 36,000 album sales.
By contrast, Google statistics reveal that there were over five million searches for “Pop Smoke” yesterday. More than any other trending search term.
The clear implication is that most people secretly care more about salivating over the details of his death than actually listening to his music.
The reality is even starker when you examine the search interest over a longer timeframe. He just released an album, but it seems like virtually no one cared until TMZ broke the news that he’d been murdered.
In other words, Pop Smoke the living musician was of no interest to the average American. Beyond hardcore rap fans, few people cared about him and his output.
But when Pop Smoke died amid tragic circumstances, then millions of sick Americans sat up and took notice.
Following Pop Smoke’s murder, people flocked to Twitter to jump on the grief bandwagon.
In many cases, these memorials were just cynical ploys to use someone’s death to garner likes and follows.
But there’s something even more troubling about the public’s fascination with death and suffering. Few things grip the modern imagination more.
It’s understandable that suffering people identify with death and suffering. They lead difficult lives, tarnished by their own personal failures and tragedies. So when a celebrity dies, they find a suitable venue to pour out their own grief and despair.
How else can you explain the fact that more people read about a musician’s death than listen to his or her music?
Time and again, whether we’re talking about Pop Smoke or Kurt Cobain, a tragic death is the number one way to raise the profile of a musician or artist.
It seems we care more about celebrities when they suffer like us. We gain validation for our own suffering.
And in the end, this points to an insidious illness at the heart of modern society. There’s something seriously wrong if millions of people are drawn so inevitably to news of a celebrity’s death.
So perhaps rather than poring over the details of another tragic musical demise, we should be poring over how we can make modern society itself less tragic.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com.