Since his chaotic and anarchic lifestyle and blaring, slurred style of trap rap exploded onto the underground music scene in 2016 with the release of his single “Gucci Gang,” industry hype has swirled around the idiosyncratic Lil Pump. His debut self-titled mixtape in 2017 held avid listeners over with a compilation of drugged-out, boastful tracks with heavy base and snapping synthetic melodies. While it was critically acclaimed as innovative and unique in the trap rap genre at the time, Pump’s lack of lyrical depth and intelligible speech drove many listeners away from his bandwagon. “Harverd Dropout,” Pump’s debut album, was originally slated to release in August of 2018, but was delayed until February 2019, when it was finally released to the public. While “Harverd Dropout” marks a clear evolution in Lil Pump’s style, the album offers next to nothing in the way of substance, foregoing evocative lyricism and instead focusing on making the next trap banger.
The record kicks off with “Drop Out,” a song substantiated on the fact that the 18-year-old rapper, who was expelled from his Miami high school, dropped out of Harvard University to explore a career in “the rap game.” Here, Lil Pump actually entertains the idea of weaving storytelling elements into his lyrics, but quickly descends back into his repetitive, chorus-dominated haunches.
While Lil Pump’s Platinum-certified collaboration with rap legend Kanye West, “I Love It,” is known for its viral controversy, it is easily the least listenable track Pump or Kanye have ever produced. The track displays more of Kanye West’s propensity for evolving his sound and style with the times and his willingness to collaborate with more modern, internet-born artists like Lil Pump. The track is also one of Pump’s dirtiest, most sexual tracks, again highlighting his raunchy lifestyle, drug usag, and supposed sexual prowess.
Meanwhile, Pump hits his stride on the consecutive tracks “ION (ft. Smokepurpp),” “Fasho Fasho (ft. Offset)” and “Racks on Racks.” Largely resting on his fast, slippery delivery, infectious beats and memorable albeit repetitive choruses, the three songs are some of Pump’s most energetic and enjoyable. “Racks on Racks” offers perhaps the album’s best instrumental, a bouncy, head-bobbing track that keeps on giving.
The momentum generated by these three immediately drops off, though, landing in the boring and flat “Off White,” a slow-moving attempt at some form of trap-infused “gangsta” rap that is more annoying than it is listenable. “Butterfly Doors” follows and attempts to regain the album’s rhythm, but again trips over itself in its lyricism due to the racial slurs which caused the rapper to take fire on social media earlier in 2019.
“Too Much Ice (ft. Quavo),” “Multi Millionaire (ft. Lil Uzi Vert)” and “Who Dat” round out the album’s back half with more fun, brainless earworm choruses and intense base, but begin to stretch the limits that Pump can take his relatively formulaic style.
Less successful tracks like the chaotic and noisy “Vroom Vroom Vroom,” which borrows flows and lyrics from Lil Pump’s SoundCloud contemporary Comethazine, fill in the space between Pump’s more enjoyable songs. “Be Like Me (ft. Lil Wayne)” and “Stripper Name (ft. YG and 2 Chainz),” the latter of which sees Pump taking another stab at “gangsta” rap underlaid by his humming the melody off-key, is saved only by the song’s features, the more established YG and 2 Chainz.
Throughout “Harverd Dropout,” featured artists seem to put in more work than Pump himself. Offset and Quavo, the two best-known arms of the Migos trio, Smokepurpp, Lil Uzi Vert, YG, 2 Chainz and, most surprisingly, rap legends Lil Wayne and Kanye West deliver fun, grounded verses about their wealth, women and drug usage. Each appears to craft their own take on Pump’s unique style, breaking up a few otherwise-monotonous songs.
Without these rapper’s additions to the project, the remaining tracks on “Harverd Dropout” don’t hold up. “Nu Uh,” Drug Addicts” and “Esskeetit” each have excellent instrumentals and base, but Pump’s vocal quality is so comically underproduced that the songs sound like they were recorded in a hotel bathroom, not in his record label’s multi-million-dollar studio.
At its core, Lil Pump’s “Harverd Dropout” is entirely meaningless, void of lyrical content, incredibly vulgar and unprofessionally produced, but is so irresistibly fun to listen to that its shortcomings seem insignificant. The glimpses of storytelling the rapper attempts are lost between dozens of choruses and wailing synthetic melodies and heavy base lines, but those melodies and choruses are so powerfully memorable and addictive that it doesn’t matter. The album explores a marked improvement into Pump’s amusing style, but the sheer number of similar songs, poor production and largely unoriginal elements that flood the record still hold it down from being the purely enjoyable experience that it tried to be.