“Lil Pump,” the self-titled debut by 17-year-old South Floridian rapper Lil Pump, is a waste of your time. This is not to say that it’s a bad mixtape — it is, but that’s almost beside the point — but simply that there’s barely anything new here, nothing of note that hasn’t been done better and smarter by Pump’s trap predecessors and contemporaries.
Lil Pump’s only innovation is to do everything faster and dumber, creating a raw sort of punk rap that’s almost charismatic in its shamelessness and flaunting of the norms of the genre. It’s a shame that Pump seems almost disinterested in rapping, song construction or really anything at all. “Lil Pump” is perhaps the laziest mixtape of the year — of the mixtape’s 15 tracks, not a single one feels finished, with songs lurching into gear and ending equally arbitrarily without leaving much of an impact. This is disposable music, too lazy to even be catchy.
These flaws, and the inherent disposability “Lil Pump”’s particular lane of Soundcloud rap, could perhaps be ignored if the musician at the heart of the tape showed any signs of life. Music as raw and elementary as this lives and dies on the charisma of its performers, but after 36 minutes of “Lil Pump,” Lil Pump remains an entirely anonymous presence.
This isn’t even a criticism of Pump’s limited subject matter, which consists mostly of his Xanax use, his family’s Xanax use, the Xanax use of his crew, and so on — it’s a criticism of the complete lack of panache with which he talks about it. It’d be one thing if Pump took to drug rap with the skill shown in Pusha T’s cocaine monomania, or even the dominant sort of glee that Migos and Gucci Mane bring to their dope talk, but instead he has nothing to say. Across the 36 minutes of his debut mixtape, Lil Pump uses only 500 unique words, and he strings them together without joy or wit of any sort.
“D Rose,” one of Pump’s more popular songs on streaming platforms, feels less like a coherent rap and more like the world’s least inspired free association. He spends most of the track repeating, mantra-like, the phrases “80 on my wrist, 100 on my wrist” and “D Rose, D Rose, D Rose, D Rose,” but these hooks are, frankly, preferable to his verse, which sits, inert, at the center of the track. It’s not offensively bad, but it’s not anything else either. It simply isn’t there at all, a set of bars that fill time but nothing else.
The problem at the heart of Lil Pump’s music is that he, and by extension his music, is not as interesting as he thinks he is. This problem becomes all the more apparent on any of the mixtape’s tracks with guest verses. The roster here is fairly standard of pop trap stars — Gucci Mane, Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, etc. — but their phoned-in verses feel revelatory when compared to Pump’s nonexistent craft. When Gucci starts his verse on “Youngest Flexer” with, “Somebody please tell me where my money machine at/My money dirty, I’m tryna think of ways I can clean that,” the sort of drug kingpin couplet he’s done on hundreds of tracks before, it’s as if the fog has lifted from the Xanned-out haze in which the rest of the tape is mired. Even Lil Yachty, who has received much of the same criticism from older hip-hop fans that Pump is currently getting, sounds like Kendrick Lamar compared to the weak offering Pump brings to “Back.”
But the most damning thing about this whole tape is simply how unnecessary it is. Even if you’re just looking for fun music to turn up to, you can do so much better than this. Migos’ “Culture” is, of course, the gold standard for this years’ trap releases, but Lil Uzi Vert’s “Luv is Rage 2,” 21 Savage’s “Issa” and Playboi Carti’s self-titled tape all represent more interesting variants on Lil Pump’s punk-trap. Carti’s tape is perhaps the most similar to Pump’s — they’re both new artists that seem less concerned with structured raps than some of their peers and predecessors, but the sonic palette of just Carti’s breakout single, “Magnolia,” surpasses the beats of Pump’s entire tape.
In short, “Lil Pump” is nothing more than a half-hour of filler and first drafts, anchored by a Xanned-out teenager who doesn’t tell us anything interesting about himself or his world. There’s no reason to listen to it.
Contact Jacob Kuppermann at jkupperm ‘at’ stanford.edu.