It’s been a rocky two years for Lil Pump since his debut self-titled album made waves outside of Soundcloud in 2017. He was featured on the 2018 XXL Freshman Magazine cover and released “I Love it,” an unlikely hit with the most unlikeliest of features in Kanye West.
The 18-year-old also found himself in legal trouble with film composer Geoff Barrow for sampling the latter’s “The Alien” track in Annihilation in the former’s single, “Racks On Racks.” On top of that, TMZ acquired a video of Pump shouting at Miami police due to possible marijuana possession.
His attitude, while infectious, can be virulent — especially when it comes to glorification of drug use and misogyny in his lyrics. His newest album, Harverd Dropout, features a provocative tone that could naturally be found on an old Kanye album — just without a thought-provoking narrative. Pump explores the same generic tropes that his contemporaries have used for years (the underdog story, becoming a famous high school/college dropout) and done nothing interesting with them.
He’s clearly not taking his content seriously, as shown on the intro track “Drop Out” where he satirically shouts “stay in school kids” after rapping about how he’s “beaten the system” (“Dropped out, then I got rich/Dropped out, then I put a patter on my wrist/Dropped out for my teacher, ’cause she ain’t shit”). It’s the type of memery that’s been built from a string of tweets conspiring that Pump dropped out of Harvard to “save the rap game.” The university even allowed the rapper to give a commencement speech this past week.
My intrigue for Harverd Dropout deteriorated after a string of obnoxious, synth-heavy tracks, where Pump mindlessly follows the same formulaic elements as some of his contemporaries in the trap sub-genre (i.e. Smokepurpp). His flows are repetitive, mirroring many of the pre-released singles for this album (“Drug Addicts” and “Esskeetit”). Without the bouncy 808s ringing through the record courtesy of underground Florida producer Diablo, Pump’s idiosyncrasies would grow unlistenable.
The album essentially becomes a collection of songs fit for a first-timer’s mixtape, trying to see what will stick for the public. The only time Pump attempts to take his outrageous persona to great lengths is on the Lil Wayne-featured “Be Like Me.” His sarcastic cadence is reminiscent of Eminem’s Slim Shady LP days, and Pump’s songwriting actually matches his colorful psyche (“Everybody wants to be like Pump/Everybody got fake dreads and love to take drugs”). Wayne continues his hot streak with the usual biting wordplay. The whole sequence is a solid breather for a record filled with unpleasant debauchery.
Pump also catches the recent Migos syndrome of monotonous hooks that fail to resonate. In Pump’s case, however, there’s no excuse for the laziness. There are 16 tracks on Harverd Dropout, with only 12 of them being new. Typically, this means no room for filler, which wasn’t the case on the Migos’ Culture II album (which featured 24 songs). Unfortunately, Pump has a difficult time keeping his themes exciting and expressive, namely on the braggadocios “Vroom Vroom Vroom” and “Off White.” Many of these cuts are two minutes in length, leaving minimal space for a viable verse and hook.
YG continues his surprising cold streak on “Stripper Name,” and drops his lyrical quality to Pump’s level (“I don’t know the bitch, but I know her stripper name/I don’t like hair on that pussy, I want it plain”). What happened to the Still Brazy rapper from 2016? The one who was making compelling street rap commercial and important? Clearly, he’s not here anymore. The beat itself has inklings of a club-banger, but fails to amount to anything because of it lacks the catchiness.
Lil Uzi comes out of retirement to bring his own lifeless verse to the table on “Multi Millionaire,” a song that tells me the Philly artist is doing just fine without making music. Not even his animated personality can save this slog of a mixtape (or whatever you want to call it).
As for Pump himself, maybe acting dejected towards society isn’t the best course of action on Harverd Dropout. He doesn’t have the same flare as say a Ski Mask, or Trippie Redd for that matter. It’s one thing if this shtick were funny, but it’s not. He needs to find his niche before the next wave of Floridian trap rappers overshadows him.
Otherwise, J Cole’s predictions may become a reality.