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Lil Pump & Trump: The Internet Generation

After the debut of his self-titled mixtape “Lil Pump,” I was certain Lil Pump could do no wrong. No one could compete with him in antics or apathy, he had it all - the outrageous diamond chains, the outlandish lyrical content and daily, if not hourly, absurd posts on his social media which made us all shake our heads in disbelief before promptly pressing play on his new release. It was a rush.

Of course, the fact he was still just a teenager only heightened his appeal. We’ve all known or heard of rappers like Pump, but none ever as extreme as Pump. He was on a relentless rampage of making it cool not to care again and to be as “ignorant” as possible, unabashed in his disdain for conventional wisdom.

Photo by Kevin Wong on Lil Pump’s Instagram.

Photo by Kevin Wong on Lil Pump’s Instagram.

As an artist, his growth paralleled X’s and Peeps, he was the ruler of his own domain. Despite the countless of hundreds, if not thousands, of clones who began to appear his rise was impossible to counter. But in retrospect, his ascent into modern folklore was possible to predict, it was endemic of a larger cultural shift taking place in America, not only in music, but in politics and in the society at large. The world of rap music, and popular culture, has always been endeared by the honesty of the rebel, not the sanctimony of his cause but the sincerity of his pursuit.

Whether it is Trump or Pump, it was obvious to the entire world both of these men said, did, and smoked whatever and whoever they wanted without remorse. As spectators and fans, while no one would admit it at the time, we were shocked not by their vulgarity - after all, this is America, the land built on booze, drugs and women - but by their zealous defiance of social principals through their heinous internet conduct.

In some sense, Pump began to set the blueprint for Trump. It was alright to be openly insane as long as you were consistently and openly insane. As outsiders and rebels against the status quo, there was no going back, they couldn’t turn around after making the Bill Board or taking the White House and then try to clean up their sound.  

But somewhere along the way, Pump forgot what he was about, and he signed away everything that made him interesting. Harvard Dropout is definitely the most disappointing project of the past two years, especially since it follows his breakout mixtape “Lil Pump,” a groundbreaking project upon its release. It’s been all downhill from there.

He should have doubled down on his amateurity, instead he traded it in for a program he once rejected: the mainstream. When he first burst onto the scene he wouldn’t listen to anyone and then suddenly he started taking orders from a label executive? It’s not like he couldn’t have remained independent - the SoundCloud community could have drained the swamp, the way it said it would - but I’m probably just a naive deplorable SoundCloud sad boy.

Above is a photo of Lil Pump off his Instagram.

Above is a photo of Lil Pump off his Instagram.

The real question is why did Lil Pump and Trump both emerge during the same year, had we as a country truly been off the xanaxs or had the path of conventionality, in music and in politics, pushed us to the edge?

The fact the country was willing to embrace a figure like Pump to begin with should have been a major sign to the political elite the people of America, and the world, were in desperate need of inspiration, of legitimate change. The music of Lil Pump seems to explode upon the weight of itself as a release of energy, an energy no one was used to seeing and were therefore caught off guard by its gravity.

When I first spoke to Lil Pump, it was my sophomore year at college. At the time, as a college kid with aspiring artistic ambition, I thought it was beneath me to pay more than twenty dollars for a feature, let alone from any SoundCloud artist. So, naturally, I couldn’t afford any decent features, no one was desperate enough, or indifferent enough to work at such a low price.

People don’t really compare me to anybody. They just say I’m a mumble rapper. I’m fine with that. I don’t really care.
— Lil Pump

This was the winter of 2015, or perhaps the early months of 2016, my college days are admittedly foggy, and I messaged Lil Pump at the time after hearing his only song, the self titled track “Lil Pump. Finally, I thought, here was a guy who would do a verse for the little money I had. After all, he only had to shout some ignorant shit into a microphone, he could do it first try and be done in two minutes. In my brain at the time, twenty dollars was actually a decent wage for the amount of work he needed to do.

Many of you by now are probably thinking I was insane - but I wasn’t. I was just a little conceited, the way most college students are. Most people at the time weren’t openly interested in “SoundCloud rap”, Lil Pump was still considered a parody, rather than an actual rapper.

But from what I had heard listening to his music online, Lil Pump was undoubtedly intriguing. Not in the sense he would become famous, but in a comical way where I couldn’t tell he if were serious. Undeniably, at the most basic, he was at least incredibly disturbing and naturally gaining an initial buzz.

In the description of his profile, I distinctly remember him listing an email address to contact for purchasing a feature. “Finally,” I laughed to myself, “an artist I can afford”.

After sending an email, I got a response from him directly saying to facetime him to discuss pricing of the feature.

I was hesitant at the time of picking up the phone to call him him and thought about abandoning the idea entirely. It was half-baked and was I seriously considering paying this guy, Lil Pump, any amount of money to do anything, let alone make a song with me? I mean, wouldn’t you think this way too? But I was also intrigued by him, it was impossible not to be, sure he had only had perhaps fifty thousand viewers and fans but it was obvious to everyone this guy’s entire persona from the beginning was based off not giving the slightest fuck. While it was a simple message, he did it well. As an aspiring artist, and kid who wanted to take more risks then he actually took, I told Lil Pump I would get on the phone.

Sitting in my dorm room with the door closed, trying my hardest to look like I was a smooth artists he might want to work with, I dialed the number Lil Pump shared with me and after a couple of hesitant rings, I immediately recognized his double gucci tattoo and beaded hair (at the time, Yachty wasn’t well known so this hairstyle was still peculiar, and knew I was looking at Lil Pump).

He was clearly groggy, his braids in his face and draping his forehead, but didn’t seem displeased by my call.

“Ay” I tried to tell him casually, “what's good?”

“Ayyyyy brobro” he drawed out, “you still want that feature bro”

I was caught off guard, I had never bought a feature before so I didn’t know what was appropriate.

“fifty for a hook, the most ignant shit you ever heard, il; make it hell ignant” he told me in the way only Lil Pump, ‘i promise you bro, or a hunnid for the verse, they going fast” I somewhat doubted his statement.

“Ah,” I groaned to Pump, “sorry man, thats outta my price range”

“that’s cool bro thats cool,” he told me, unconcerned, not seeming to mind that I didn’t want to purchase it. We then said our goodbyes, it was over in a under a minute and half at best, and I left the conversation satisfied to still have my thirty dollars in hand and not haven given it to someone who called himself “Lil Pump”. Proudly, I walked into my friend Seb’s room, who knew the conversation was happening and told him how I didn’t think it was worth it. Ever since, Seb has laughed at me.

This photo is classic Pump - at a gas station using the pump.

This photo is classic Pump - at a gas station using the pump.

But at the time, my friend and I were already looking to South Florida, particularly Pouya, Denzel Curry and Smokepurpp, and I wasn’t really sure Lil Pump would blow up anymore than other artists making waves in south Florida. While it didn’t seem ridiculous at the time, it was more of a fantasy of mine rather than something I believed was possible. I was somewhat familiar with the music scene in South Florida, and while Pump had the most wild aesthetic, it was tough to say with any certainty that he had enough going for him besides an unfiltered social media page and ridiculous music to have any staying power. However, I underestimated him and also misunderstood the power of his brand.

And now here we are, years later, and Pump isn’t so little anymore. A lot has changed. The young man has grown up and the same tricks he used have gotten a bit stale sadly, which is always inevitable in rap but particularly apparent in today’s internet climate of artists coming and going by the week.

But my main objection to the Harvard Dropout tape is this: why is Lil Pump seriously trying to rap and abandon his brash recording process? It’s almost like he is trying to write his lyrics, and rehearse them, and even polish his mixing afterwards - does he not realize we loved him for his amateurity? The label bought him out for millions but clearly misunderstood the value of Lil Pump. He does not need a Quavo feature, the song itself doesn't even have to be longer than 100 seconds. The only appearance we see of classic Pump is slightly on vroom vroom vroom which sure, is a characteristic Pump track, but it lacks any of the hitting power of a traditional Pump track like Drum$tick or D-Rose. Dam, I really and truly miss that Pump. There is truth to the old maxim: you never know what you have until it’s gone.

As his popularity declines plenty of less intriguing characters have tried and failed to capture his vibe. But the magic is gone.

We took Pump for granted. All the songs on Harvard Dropout are too clean. The tape is further evidence Pump couldn’t sign a deal with a major label, the symbol of corporatocracy, while retaining his Pump-ness, the brand of conceit and ignorance which drew us all to him in the first place.

I can always appreciate his reckless abandon but it used to also translate into relatable music. When the music's gone, the life of Lil Pump doesn’t look as glamorous as it once did.

I’m glad for Pump, he has come along way and obviously has a lot to lose, and I hope he is successful for many years to come but that doesn’t mean he has to continue pretending like he’s still a rapper to get a paycheck.

He used to be the ultimate individual entrepreneur, barely working and effortlessly bringing in priceless attention without even trying. Now it’s the opposite, his album was a flop, the old Pump is gone and never coming back, the label he is working with is clearly having a hand in the music and ruining his musical direction. He should go back to being slightly broke and recording in a kitchen rather than go to a studio, because come on, a guy like Lil Pump should not be recording in a proper studio.