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‘Harverd Dropout’ disappoints with obnoxious dissonance

Courtesy Warner Bros

By Johnny Wang     3/1/19 12:08am

In December 2018, hip-hop artist Gazzy Garcia (Lil Pump) teased the track “Butterfly Doors” in an Instagram story. He’s seen making racial gestures by pulling back his eyes while singing, “They call me Yao Ming ‘cause my eyes so low” and ad-libbing “ching chong”. In lieu of backlash, Lil Pump issued a brief apology, where he attempted to prove his harmless intentions by claiming to “have Asian homies.” The version of “Butterfly Doors” released on his newest album Harverd Dropout censors Yao Ming’s full name and removes the “ching chong” adlib.

Lil Pump’s actions are on brand with the persona he’s created for himself in his rise from SoundCloud mumble rapper to self-proclaimed Messiah of the rap game. The 16-track, 40-minute Harverd Dropout seems to be Lil Pump’s headstrong attempt at the continued consolidation of his “I don’t give a f***” persona.”

What’s fundamentally attractive about the Lil Pump persona is the catharsis embedded within his musical expression. He blurts out profane catchphrases and snarky, demeaning comments, and then flexes his designer watches to proclaim his immunity to the real-world consequences of his words and actions. His music is an appeal to the lingering remnants of our obnoxious 11-year-old selves. His persona — face tattoos, goofy chains and exorbitant outfits­­ — is rebellion and defiance in their most decadent forms. Through it, he presents to his audience the opportunity to live vicariously through him, to glance into our imagined lives had we decided to drop out of school, dye our hair pink and rap about “smokin’ on dope.”

When at his best on Harverd Dropout, Lil Pump properly channels this viral energy and the spazzy convulsiveness of his delivery. Tracks like “I Love It” and “Stripper Name” are where he hits his rhythmic stride, finding his balance in uncluttered, pop-like melodies. On “I Love It,” Kanye West tempers the heaviness of Lil Pump’s uninhibited sensibilities with a minimalized production, producing a club banger. On “Stripper Name,” YG and 2 Chainz serve as much-needed palate cleansers to reinvigorate the freshness of Lil Pump’s delivery. These tracks manage to find that sweet spot where his adolescent ostentatiousness is not quite overwhelming but fun and playful.

Yet while I love hearing Lil Pump yell “ESSKEETIT” as much as the next guy, Lil Pump’s persistence in driving home his self-constructed image often becomes overbearing. Between the hyper-synthetic style of his production and saturated doses of immaturity, tracks on Harverd Dropout adopt a Fun Dip-like quality, far too sugary and overcolored for consumption. The Ronny J-produced “Vroom Vroom Vroom” is nearly two minutes’ worth of car sound effects. “Off White” is titled after the fashion label but uses the brand name as little more than a convenient end rhyme. On “Drop Out,” Lil Pump bragging that he “used to hotbox the bathroom at school” comes off as an overeager teenager who needs everyone to know he smokes. “Drug Addicts” is a highly repetitive, sonically abrasive excuse for a Charlie Sheen music video cameo. In summary, drugs, women, foreign cars, etc.; somewhere around the 25th mention of Xanax, Lil Pump’s lyrics and ad-libs devolve into loud, dissonant noises, and that’s something that he’s okay with. Because, at the center of it all, Lil Pump is standing up on a chair, aggressively yelling into a megaphone, letting you know that he doesn’t give a single f***.

So, Lil Pump doesn’t care. He does what he wants; he smashes windshields during video shoots and tells everyone he went to Harvard. Lil Pump rides his own wave; he raps (or shouts?) what he wants, how he wants, when he wants. He doesn’t care that he’s barely old enough to vote or that he is racist. Yet, Lil Pump, as much as he strives to embody not-caring, is ultimately a reminder of why we do care. While he gets high out of his mind and raps about coitus with your mother, we are reminded of the absurdity of his fame. Although we might sample what it’s like to say things without consequence and do things without inhibition, Harverd Dropout forces us to  take a step back and realize: wow, this dude is juvenile.

Harverd Dropout can be found on most streaming platforms.

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