"Lil Pump makes music for people who fail lunch."
The comment sections on Lil Pump’s videos read like a shortlist of standout memes. Imagine something like inverted Chuck Norris jokes, where the subject is ridiculed for being kind of dumb. (A personal favorite: “Lil Pump make music for people who fail lunch.”) It’s impossible to know which of these comments are genuine insults, which are written by fans playing along with their favorite rapper’s internet persona, and which come from people who just want to join in the hysteria. Regardless of intent, these interactions serve the same function— increasing Lil Pump’s virality. And that, the gleeful, amorphous energy at the heart of your favorite viral trend, is what holds the center for Lil Pump.
With his ideology reduced to such a simple idea, Lil Pump’s first mixtape is remarkably cohesive, and remarkably unambitious. One-third of the songs are recycled singles, and the new material follows their blueprint: colorful, hyper-repetitive, and loud. Ambition has never been Lil Pump’s thing, though; and, in many ways, lack of ambition is one of his strengths. This is the guy who was kicked out of high school and went on to become an internet meme/rapper that crashes Porsches, gets head on Twitter, and sticks rifles in his mouth. And doesn’t someone need to represent those kids— the disaffected generation at the back of the class, the ones that didn’t give a shit and whom the teachers didn’t give a shit about in return?
Lack of ambition also means he digs deeper into, and understands, his own style. The song “Crazy” is one of the most conspicuous moments of brand self-awareness on the mixtape. The first (and only) verse opens with, “Jump in this bitch and go stupid, yeah,” before going on to celebrate diamonds and molly, exactly what Lil Pump’s life revolves around. And if that weren’t enough, the hook is an endless repetition of this mantra, reworded, “Jump in this bitch and go crazy, ooh,” chanted over a bouncing Big Head beat. It’s a command tailor-made for five hundred teenagers packed into a sweaty theater-concert, and, more importantly, it’s an invitation. Just one more way of increasing virality, of creating moments that can potentially become the week’s big meme.
Much like a meme, Lil Pump’s image and music is self-referential. Take a glance at the album cover: it’s a cartoonish combination of photos posted to his Instagram, including the famous crashed Porsche sinking into the ocean. The more subtle work is in the music. Like his surrogate older brother, Smokepurpp, Lil Pump’s songs are built on repetition, except Pump weaves it into layers that go beyond two-phrase hooks. He straight bites his own bars, at one point rhyming “Xan” and “Superman” in back-to-back songs (and using the same line to do it). He also borrows ad-libs and whole rhymes from Smokepurpp, so that their scene begins to form a dense lattice of self-references. Although, also like Smokepurpp, dense doesn’t mean intricate. These aren’t ideas revisited with new insights, they are just a substitute for content, filler to get us through the song. Because Lil Pump’s world isn’t big enough to hold anything beyond cars and drugs.
Along with virality, Pump’s music is unabashedly childish. Only seventeen, he’s known to chase Xanax with candy and soda, much like Smokepurpp, who has expressed distaste for alcohol. He’s a little kid with braces, hyped up on sugar, and his collaborators have the perfect sound to meet that energy. A number of producers are credited on this mixtape, but the standouts are Big Head, and Ronny J, SoundCloud rap’s most venerated beatmaker. Big Head excels at playful, elastic beats— the kind of production Lil Pump could shout his incessant hooks into forever (thankfully, most of his songs clock in at around two minutes). And when Lil Pump is too unruly even for that, Ronny J offers the kind of blasted-out bass that doesn’t require flow to navigate. Because, like a child, Lil Pump has designed a mixtape to indulge his every whim.
The guest roster is compiled like a spoiled kid’s Christmas list, with little regard for the artists’ song placement. Consider “Boss,” a cut that plays out the fantasy of Lil Pump being as successful as Rick Ross. Then, lo and behold, Ross appears two songs later, wished into existence by Lil Pump’s two-phrase hook (and surely Rick Ross’ unwillingness to become irrelevant). These dream guests highlight, at every moment, Lil Pump’s childishness— in the company of Chief Keef and Gucci Mane, Lil Pump’s raps become the harmless stunting of a pipsqueak, a little brother trying to imitate his tough, older siblings. And, unfortunately for these rappers, he’s not the little brother you can ignore. Even 2 Chainz, the superman of features, can’t find a groove and rap through his glaring boredom. On the song “Iced Out,” he tries everything, failing to the point that he’s left asking, “What’s up, Lil Pump?”
Only one artist is a fitting feature on this mixtape, and he’s also the only one to propose any ideas that step beyond its self-contained turn up. Lil Yachty has become a godfather and role model for SoundCloud’s next generation of rappers. He is the colorful-haired commodity that Lil Pump aspires to be, the guy whose joy and lifestyle are synonymous with the product. Maybe he doesn’t want to mimic Yachty exactly, plugging his own brand of chips and singing in Target commercials, but it’s a reminder that virality can easily transform to something real, because there’s something real at its core.