On paper, Lil Pump’s long-awaited major label debut album Harverd Dropout has all the makings of a strong project; unfortunately, its shamefully atrocious execution culminates in one of the worst rap albums of the decade.
The rapper’s career has been marred by controversies over insensitive lyrics and feuds with other rappers. Despite his public infamy, he has remained one of the most relevant artists the last few years. Since his claim to fame — 2017’s “Gucci Gang” — Lil Pump has sustained a growing fanbase of rabid teenagers who disregard his problematic moments while worshipping him for his meme status.
With this heavily promoted and hotly anticipated release, Warner Bros. Records is looking to capitalize on Lil Pump’s infamy. Harverd Dropout is a quintessential streaming-era rap album. Its sixteen songs are not meant to come together cohesively like past albums of the same genre have — like Migos’ Culture, for example. Harverd Dropout sounds less like a complete project and more like a business venture by his newly joined record label. It seems like it was designed to be chock-full of forgettable garbage, such as the unlistenable songs “Too Much Ice,” “Be Like Me” and “Vroom Vroom Vroom.”
As a predominantly Black genre, hip-hop has been consistently labeled as “substanceless” and used as a scapegoat for the degeneration of today’s youth. While these problematic generalizations can be quickly disproved by modern hip-hop artists such as Young Thug, Future and Playboi Carti, it might just hold true for the likes of Lil Pump. The young upstart appropriates culture — reminiscent of contemporary Post Malone — and uses racial slurs with glee, remaining largely unchecked.
On the hook to “Butterfly Doors,” Lil Pump raps “Butterfly doors (Ooh) / Space coupe look like a UFO (Whoa) / Smokin’ on dope (Damn) / They call me Yao **** ’cause my eyes real low (Low).” Originally followed by a cliché and offensive “ching chong” ad-lib, this now censored line was a reference to NBA player Yao Ming in a tastelessly racist shot at Asian people. The fact that Lil Pump had to resort to such lowbrow humor in order to write a track goes to show how offensively awful this project can get.
Kanye West’s appearance on Harverd Dropout might be the album’s only bright spot. The club banger “I Love It” is playful and animated without being overly self-indulgent or overstaying its welcome. The song’s production — courtesy of West and longtime Lil Pump collaborator Ronny J — features a catchy beat the rappers’ voices float to with the help of quirky sound effects and a vocal sample from comedian Adele Givens. Although this song is admittedly well-done, West’s memorable verse overshadows Lil Pump’s parts. Even on this centerpiece from Lil Pump’s album, the rapper himself was not necessary for the song’s success.
The aforementioned caveat to “I Love It” is a major problem reflected throughout the album. Much of the production here works just as well as that of today’s SoundCloud rap mainstays. Unfortunately, Lil Pump does not have enough talent to match the album’s high-budget production value. He sounded leagues better on the Bighead-produced, muddy, bass-laden songs that skyrocketed him into popularity.
What makes this album such an aggressive disappointment is the ridiculous waste of talent shown throughout. It is astonishing that rappers like Offset, Quavo, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz — rappers known for their fantastic guest spots — could not carry this album with their features. Unfortunately, the featured artists’ verses all fall on a spectrum between phoned-in and decent, none of which are nearly good enough to save any of the songs they are featured in.
“Off White” sounds like a twisted nursery rhyme in the worst way possible.While Lil Pump has never been known for substantive lyrics, this track shows a categorical lack of effort by Lil Pump and crew. Where earlier Lil Pump songs “Flex Like Ouu” and “D Rose” employed simple structure to remain in listeners’ heads, a vast majority of the sixteen tracks that exhaust Harverd Dropout sound mind-numbing in comparison.
Lil Pump is the most focus-tested, virally-marketed SoundCloud rapper to ever exist — the categorical letdown of Harverd Dropout is a testament to this embarrassment of a hip-hop artist.
Justin Sidhu covers music. Contact him at [email protected].