Jesus Christ, this kid is 18 years old?
Lil Pump, captain of the SoundCloud colorguard, signifies conveniently musical trends that have defined the rap landscape in the 2010s.
Lil Pump was an overnight sensation, symptomatic of digital-age privileges afforded to content creators in the streaming era. Internet hits like “D Rose” propelled Lil Pump from failed high school dropout to a promising, if not divisive, musical outsider, thanks in part to antics put on display by talent-sleuth Cole Bennett in the track’s music video.
The nucleus of Lil Pump’s ensuing popularity was there. You had a rebellious teenager smoking on expensive cars, spouting braggadocios about his jewelry, over distorted bass and 808 synthesizers, a convenient and concurrent parallel to the comeuppance of Lil Peep or Lil Yachty. Precocious Lil Pump just happened to be ascending at age 16 and 17, redefining the term “child star” as we know it.
The ensuing debut album, 2017’s “Lil Pump,” realized in 15 tracks the first full identity profile of Lil Pump’s musical approach: a swagger-heavy, stripped-down, aggressive brand of trap that prized pugnacity and shunned its justification, no holds barred.
Much like fellow junkyard dog DMX before him, Lil Pump made up for in attitude what he lacked in lyrical content, and to me, it worked.
Yes, I liked the album. Sue me.
I invoke a discussion of Lil Pump’s background in order to discuss his newest release, “Harverd Dropout,” because unfortunately the South Florida rapper’s newest project consists of leftover cuts from his debut record, and most of them have sat out too long.
Sure, there’s a handful of good tracks here. “Be Like Me (feat. Lil Wayne),” “Drop Out,” and “Nu Uh” are surefire representations of the qualities (however few they may be) that make Lil Pump a compelling artist. You’ve got a conceivable degree of dorkiness and naivety in brags that he makes concerning the usual women, cars and money.
He’s a kid, after all. It’s evidenced in his delivery — metronomic, neither too melodic nor monotone, but undoubtedly excited. Or, imagine a kid who’s flunked fifth grade seven or eight times who brings his vape to show and tell to demonstrate how cool he is, fully aware of how uncool he actually is.
Still, “Harverd Dropout” lacks hard. Almost all of the album’s features grow stale after the first listen. Lil Wayne appears on “Be Like Me” for the LP’s best verse and a glimmer of hope in an otherwise banal exercise.
The track’s loosely-established father-son dynamic between Lil Pump and Lil Wayne hits home, as the two rappers groove through a bouncy piano lead. I can’t help but laugh at that “I’m a millionaire, but I don’t know how to read” line, too.
“I Love It (feat. Kanye West)” attempts to instantiate the dorkiness that enriches Lil Pump’s best cuts, and sure, Kanye’s verse is clever. Lil Pump’s autotuned crooning over a dull drum-and-bass renders clumsy, and without the accompanying music video, flops.
Really, whoever signed off on the record’s beats should no longer have a job. There are numerous instances in which I felt tempted to skip certain songs because of the grating nature of the instrumentals. If you think a lyrically-limited rapper like Lil Pump is assisted by a stripped-back, sour piano loop, a la “Too Much Ice (feat. Quavo),” you deserve to be fired. Period.
Apply the same criticism for “Who Dat” and “Stripper Name (feat YG and 2 Chainz).”
It goes without saying, Lil Pump presents few compelling turns of phrase worthy of anything more of a chuckle. Add a songwriting formula in which the hooks repeat to absurdity, and you’ve concocted the adulterated mess that is “Harverd Dropout.”
Outside of a few moments in which I felt that Lil Pump brought a show-stopping performance, and there weren’t many, I found “Harverd Dropout” a tiresome listen. Sixteen tracks felt like 60, and you can’t convince me that 40 minutes of listening should be that exhausting.
“86 Witness,” Sean Price and Small Professor: 3.5/5
“Nocebo,” 9T Antiope: 3.5/5
“Czarface Meets Ghostface,” CZARFACE & Ghostface Killah: 2.5/5