Lil Pump

(Courtesy of Nabil Elderkin/Warner Bros. Records)

Lil Pump is the kind of guy people want to punch in the face. On his second studio album, “Harverd Dropout,” he returns to his usual schtick with irreverent lyrics about drug use and various sexual endeavors.

In general, these topics are nothing new, but it’s weird to hear them coming from a smug, 18-year-old kid. That’s obviously part of Lil Pump’s persona and appeal, but on this new full-length record, it’s sometimes hard to tell if there’s any substance to the music beyond its novelty.

The album’s title, with its deliberate misspelling, references an in-joke within the Lil Pump fanbase: that the artist, despite his age, has actually attended Harvard University. It’s a play on the whole “don’t judge a book by its cover” idea, and it confirms at least some self-awareness within Pump’s cartoonish character.

This off-putting character shouldn’t have to hold him back; plenty of artists have made successful careers despite their annoying and arrogant personas. Morrissey acts as a good example of someone who is both punchable and widely respected. Even Kanye West — featured here on the song “I Love It” — was once called a jackass by the president of the United States. Lil Pump, however, lacks the artistic merit of both these artists, yet he still chooses to act like an arrogant high schooler.

He’s the kind of guy that sits in the back of your math class who complains the entire time and just doesn’t care. And a lot of the lyrics on “Harverd Dropout” reflect that.

On the song “ION,” he sips lean in the classroom and asks his teacher “what that neck do.” On “Too Much Ice,” he brags about getting “high every day of the fuckin' week.” In other moments, he rejects girls for being poor and ugly.

At times, however, Lil Pump does achieve moments of humor with his excess. It’s genuinely funny to hear Pump talk about spending $2,000 on a white T-shirt or $10,000 on Gucci bed sheets, as he does in the song “Be Like Me” — which features a respectable verse from Lil Wayne. He also references getting hungry and casually taking a flight to Wingstop on “Multi Millionaire,” which is, of course, impractical.

And the song “Vroom Vroom Vroom” is so incredibly stupid that it could be nothing other than a joke. The hook is lazy and aimless, and the lyrics are so vapid that it ventures into self-parody.

It’s the same technique that allowed Lil Pump’s 2017 breakout hit “Gucci Gang” to work so well. The song dropped at just the right time, when mediocre Soundcloud rap was first hitting the mainstream. It was almost impossible to tell when and if artists — and their respective fans — thought the music was good or if they were simply goofing off and being ironic.

Nothing had to be that serious, and “Gucci Gang” embraced that philosophy. What a brilliant way to start off a song: “Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang (Gucci gang) / Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang (Gucci gang).”

If anything, “Harverd Dropout” proves how difficult it is to sustain an entire album off that same outlook and energy. If this is comedy-rap, it’s not that funny; if it’s a serious attempt, then it’s just sort of boring.

Nic is an Arts and Culture writer for the Daily Emerald. Mostly music stuff. You can also hear him screwin' around as a DJ on KWVA every Wednesday night.

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