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Pop Smoke lives on in Eddie Huang’s directorial debut Boogie

The story centers on an up-and-coming Asian-American with NBA dreams

LiFTED | Elaine Chung | 11 Mar 2021

Eddie Huang is adding another title to his already bustling resume as he made his directorial debut on March 5 with the semi-autobiographical Boogie, a story about an Asian-American teenager’s dreams of making it into the NBA. The late rapper Pop Smoke plays the antagonist and also provides music for the soundtrack.

“Once I met Pop Smoke, the film changed,” Huang said in an interview with Yahoo Entertainment. He was referring to an incident in Las Vegas when rapper Dave East, who was supposed to play Pop Smoke’s character, got charged with assault after a threesome in a Las Vegas Hotel room in 2019. Huang had four days before Boogie was supposed to start filming and he needed someone new, so a friend suggested Pop Smoke since he was a basketball recruit in high school. Huang sent the script to Pop Smoke’s team and within a day, Pop and his crew came to Huang’s house and played some basketball.

As soon as he got to know him a bit, Huang said that he loved Dave East, but this is Pop Smoke’s role. “With Pop, I really felt a trust between us. Pop had scripted lines, and then he would just come off to the side and we'd talk and I'd throw him back in and he would improv and he would do things. He was a real joy to direct and we had a lot of chemistry.”

Sadly, Pop Smoke got murdered in a home invasion in February 2020, so he never got to see his own debut on the big screen. Pop Smoke’s album, Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon, posthumously debuted at number one the first week after it was released on July 3, 2020. The streets of New York have been on fire with his tracks since, and his song, ‘AP’ is the lead single for the movie.

Huang is making his directing debut with Boogie. Previously, Huang has been an attorney, chef, restaurant owner, Vice contributor, author, and executive producer of the TV series, Fresh Off the Boat, which focused on his childhood as an Asian kid who loved Hip Hop.