People can pass off the music of Lil Pump as a novelty, but in many aspects, it seems as though Lil Pump is speaking from experience.
In 2017, the then 16-year-old Miami native freaked people out with his thudding, hood-rat Soundcloud rap, amassing millions of streams and ingratiating into the South Florida underground rap scene.
In the same year came his self-titled debut album, which included “Gucci Gang,” a track that was, almost immediately, so memified, it reached beyond the rap genre and into multi-cultural timelessness.
Meme or not, Lil Pump took any opportunity for attention and solidified his meme status through bling, facial tattoos and formulaic songwriting, where each song could replace the last in terms of complexity. That’s not to say the songs aren’t different, as most contain playful enough beats and memorable lines to make them engaging. Lil Pump might as well be the Ween of rappers; he seldom sacrifices quality for novelty.
But, how can one recover from such a smash hit like “Gucci Gang,” and as a 17-year-old, no less? In the last two years, Lil Pump has released a song for the “Deadpool 2” soundtrack, a collaboration album with the recently deceased XXXTENTACION and several singles, including a track with the ubiquitous Kanye West.
To follow up the clout building, Lil Pump has released a new, full-length album, “Harverd Dropout” which made its debut last Friday. Seven of the songs on “Harverd Dropout” are previously released singles, leaving nine brand-new tracks. This overlap is a great move, giving listeners a chance to survey all of his past work in one, neat little box while staying consistently relevant with singles.
The closest thing to a title track is “Drop Out,” which opens the album with a terrifying, ascending synth lead. When the bass kicks in, the lead turns distorted and the mix becomes overbearing and shaken, like pulling up to a stoplight next to a souped-up 1984 Chevy Caprice in Hialeah, Florida. This is just one tool of many that Lil Pump uses to reflect his experiences and lifestyle in the music. The track ends with a righteous “By the way kids, stay in school.”
“Esskeetit,” short for “Let’s get it,” is a product of the way Lil Pump raps in quick blurbs with conviction. Sometimes clear enunciation isn’t necessary to get the point across. This track, like almost all of Pump’s efforts, features yelps and hollers that add to the hype factor. Occasionally, you’ll hear a “Skrrt” or a tongue rolled “Drrt” echo through the mix. As strange as they are, these oddities differentiate Lil Pump from the pack. Since “Esskeetit” was released as a single last April, the phrase has been memed nearly as much as “Gucci Gang.”
In fact, it often seems like Pump makes the tracks just long enough to stick in listeners’ brains. There are only three tracks on “Harverd Dropout” longer than three minutes. “Vroom Vroom Vroom” clocks in at 1:54 and could literally sound like a bunch of three-year-olds playing with Tonka trucks, if it weren’t for the topics of gun violence and drugs. “B****, convertible coupes / I'ma hop out and just shoot you in front of your boo,” Pump busts.
The lack of lyrical symbolism works in Lil Pump’s favor for the most part, as his compositional simplicity is enhanced by his extremely literal phrasing.
The track “I Love It,” the aforementioned collaboration with Kanye, walks home every time as the most memorable and engaging selection, particularly because Lil Pump seems to have forced Kanye to match his simplicity. The result is Kanye distilling his rap formula down to its most basic elements: tight flows and poignant lyrics. The track begins with a sample of Adele Givens on the Def Comedy Jam screaming about the female orgasm, setting the tone. “I’m sick a sick f***, I like the quick f***,” Kanye repeats in his verse. The one-dimensional themes force Kanye to confine his lyrical prowess to one specific topic. “I'm a sick f***, I'm inappropriate; I like hearin' stories, I like that ho s***,” he divulges.
While the singles on this album hold their value, many of the original tracks fail to progress musically past what was accomplished on the first album. The same themes, sound effects and rumbling bass are used to death, but not all recurrences are an evil. Lil Pump has no reason to change what he’s doing. Every step he takes forward is a further solidification of what he does best: create party songs about cars, girls and drugs.