The sophomore release from rap phenom Lil Pump fails to sate listeners in the midst of an uneventful start to the year for hip hop fans.
The record is every bit as outrageous, immature, and uncouth as its name suggests it would be. It’s an imputation of the extravagantly conflicting personality of rap phenomenon Lil Pump, who in 2019 alone, has already thrown a pizza party on Skid Row from the trunk of his Rolls Royce and performed “I Love It” to a 100-year-old WWII Veteran. But his sophomore release, a completely-stripped-back and half-assed cacophony of shameless Soundcloud rap anthems, fails to match the same level of emboldened heights that Pump’s personality stands above. For a project that aims so clearly to remind hip hop listeners that Pump’s self-righted ignorance is in itself a compelling narrative, Pump makes almost no effort to exercise any creative flexibility. For better or for worse, Pump draws upon a star-studded collection of features to birth Harverd Dropout, which serves little more than an amalgamation of shoddy attempts at hip hop iconoclasm.
In a world where Kodak Black can openly admit that he released a song with Lil Pump “just for the streams,” there’s little to suggest that Pump’s appeal is wearing thin among his core fanbase. Nevertheless, the opening sequences of the record consisting of “Drop Out” and “Nuh Uh” are both coarse and archaic reflections of Soundcloud rap’s monocultural downfall. “Real drug addict, whattup, wake up in the morning, wonder how to get fucked up,” Pump boasts in the midst of a barrage of recycled rhymes about his own house arrest and standing on a yacht with 10 hoes — two of which are your sister and your mom. Coupling these with the infamous “I Love It,” track number three that’s almost six months past its release and purposed for an entirely different artist, is an awfully strange way to begin a high-budget release that your core fan base has waited an entire year for.
The next two cuts are amateurish at best, carried only by the decent but unexceptional features from Offset and childhood friend Smokepurpp. This lethargic entrance into the album is followed up by “Racks on Racks” which showcases Pump saying — you guessed it — “racks” a whopping 48 times within 90 seconds of rapping. “Off White” is a cold-blooded track that just manages to reach Pump’s ceiling of potential given his uninspired production selection. Pump’s transfixed, toned-down "Off White" chant is an iconic layer above a thoughtless progression of synths. Still, Pump holds his own here — a testament to the appeal of his joyous ignorance within the larger rap community.
The album does carry an agreeable energy. But the greatest weakness devolving the record at every corner is the ostensible truth that nearly every beat sounds expired. Even beats from up-and-coming production heavyweights, including Danny Wolf and Ronny J, feel like they were produced by a 15-year-old toying with FL Studio. “Butterfly Doors” and “Vroom Vroom Vroom” are nothing more ad-lib-laced sleep inducers, devoid, soulless, and forgettable all at once. These seemingly leftover 808 Mafia drum kits are an infuriating touch, especially considering major label support, and serve no purpose in unison with Pump’s weak and repetitive deliveries.
Fortunately, Pump draws upon Quavo and Lil Uzi Vert through the midsection of the record, effortlessly shouldering the weight of the album. Quavo delivers a nostalgic verse reminiscent of his performance on Rich N*gga Timeline over an evocative trap beat, while Pump glimmers across the hook. The whirring “Multi Millionaire,” despite being nearly as old as “I Love It,” is the true takeoff of Harverd Dropout. Pump unleashes a jumpy verse recounting his abhorrent millionaire lifestyle and goes toe-to-toe with Lil Uzi Vert, who slides naturally across the album’s most grandiose production.
“Be Like Me” is an unbelievably deafening execution of a song that had “I Love It” potential minus the Kanye attraction. Lil Pump’s pre-pubescent vocal register is rivaled by Lil Wayne’s tone-deaf autotune, and his self-interpolation of “I’m Me” is a humiliating reminder that Wayne’s output today will never live up to what it once was. The blithe melody bleeds into a comatose strip club anthem, “Stripper Name,” making dreadful use of an off-tune hum and lackluster features from YG and 2 Chainz. It’s a particularly feckless track, and it sounds an awful lot like a song none of them wanted to be a part of.
The album draws to a close with no slowdown of its own grating, apathetic undercurrent. The two oldest tracks on the album, “Esskeetit” and “Drug Addicts,” miraculously still find their place here. Joined by the quaint “Who Dat,” Pump glides over the conventional, comme il faut outro with a slew of rhetorical questions about his bust down jewelry. If this album has any upside, it’s the pulsing reminder that rap is still the weapon of choice for youth culture: unforgiving, egregious, and hilariously unrelatable.
It’s not often you come across a project this long-awaited, yet this hollow. Harverd Dropout is a sometimes colorful, yet vapid train of repetitive attempts to reengage a disgruntled rap fanbase back into a Soundcloud rap wormhole. More, it reestablishes Lil Pump’s lack of dimensionality in any direction other than willful ignorance, especially in what should be a pivotal moment in his career. In the grand scheme, Pump hasn’t lost his touch — he’s only a dull pencil waiting to be sharpened.
Even the high points of the album are subdued by Pump’s formulaic approach to rap, which rusts away in appeal when it’s not being overcompensated by a stellar production output. Harverd Dropout is Lil Pump in his element — and that’s a morbid signal that Pump’s well will start to run dry sooner than later.
Sher Ali is a financial technologist democratizing annuity products for everyday investors. In his free time, he works closely with cutting-edge brands and labels in hip hop to identify burgeoning talent.