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Meaning of the song ‘PTSD’ by ‘Pop Smoke’

Released: 2019

“PTSD” by Pop Smoke presents a raw and harrowing depiction of the steady-state anxiety, brutality, and survivalism that tag along with street life. The unnerving state of hyper-alertness and emotional disquiet, linked to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is harnessed by the rapper as a form of power, driving his street instincts and earmarking his ambitions.

The repetitive line “My PTSD startin’ to kick in so I gotta get high” sets the tone for the song, revealing Pop Smoke’s mental health struggles as a result of street-life trauma. The implication “I gotta get high” suggests he’s using substances to cope with the psychological hardship. But – peep this – he’s spinning his narrative, turning trauma into a stairway to survival and success.

‘Trey shot that nigga out my car’, this stark admission serves as a chilling example of the violence Pop Smoke has been exposed to. He gives us an insidious illustration of loyalty and aggressive control with the bars, “I ain’t no city boy ’cause I love my bitch / Nigga, but that don’t mean that I don’t love my hoes”. Here, Pop Smoke acknowledges his relationships, establishing the difference between a committed partnership and the fleeting attractions that come with fame.

In the line “AK on my shoulder like I’m Malcom X / ‘Cause I ain’t goin’ out like I’m Martin Luther”, the late rapper draws a significant parallel to historical figures of the black community; positioning himself closer to Malcom X’s philosophy of ‘by any means necessary’ self-defense than to Martin Luther King Jr.’s approach of nonviolent resistance.

Pop Smoke also makes it pointedly clear that he’s ready for any backlash with his words “If I call Nappy Blue, he come and get you”. Nappy Blue is a member of Pop’s entourage that’s always ready to hold him down. The phrase “Call Dread, that’s the new Tom Brady / ‘Cause he be sendin’ shots like it’s missiles”, further affirms his crew’s readiness to defend their own, even to the point of violence.

The lyrics, “I just rolled a spliff and put it in the air / I’m big 092, niggas know I’m Woo”, communicates the bitter reality of blunted grief, where emotional disconnect and gang affiliation are coping mechanisms. In the lines “I need 25K or I ain’t walkin’ through / I spent 20 on my wrist and 20 on a chain, I be spoiling myself so I can ease the pain”, material success and ‘spoils’ keep the edge off the psychological distress.

Throughout the song, Pop Smoke intertwines sub-themes of gang unity, expensive taste, fame’s tribulations, and the power dynamics of the streets. “PTSD” thus serves as a trenchant glimpse into the model of masculinity in conflicted socio-economic environments. The late artist stands tall, asserting self and gang, flaishing his wealth all while acknowledging his emotional battles with a rare, near-therapeutic honesty.

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