If someone had told you at the beginning of 2017 that Lil Pump would be the most successful newcomer on South Florida’s booming hip-hop scene, you would have thought they were joking. How could a Fruity Pebbles-haired, goofy-ass kid who mumbles lyrics over busted, cookie-cutter beats possibly have a chance in hell against veterans like Rick Ross and Denzel Curry?
In a year that saw many rookie rappers come and go — some, like XXXTentacion, for terrible crimes, and others, like Lil Peep, in tragic circumstances — Lil Pump has somehow outlasted them all. His self-titled debut LP went to number three on the Billboard 200 albums chart, and his track “Gucci Gang” is the shortest Top 10 single in 42 years.
As it turns out, people really like jokes, and Lil Pump is laughing with them all the way to the bank. In fact, that descriptor basically sums up all that makes him appealing: He is a big, dumb joke.
Lil Pump’s public persona rests on the fact that he is a dunce, a moron, a clown even. His idiocy is so great that he cannot even fathom the concepts of speed and time. There is a notable video of him answering a simple math problem: “If you’re going 70 miles per hour, how long does it take to go 70 miles?” He says the answer is 70 hours, because 70 times 1 is 70. And he does it with a smile on his dunderheaded face.
That’s what makes Lil Pump so captivating: He’s stupid, but he knows it and his fans know it and nobody cares. This is a young man who crashed a new racing-yellow Porsche and posted about it on Twitter with the caption “I just crashed the Porsche ouu.” He even posed for a photo with the wrecked car.
His fans make ironic memes and art of him going to Ivy League schools and wearing Harvard sweaters. The video for “Gucci Gang” shows him at a high school. The joke is that he will never set foot in such a building. A tiger — a real one, with teeth and claws and a beating heart — walks beside him. The opening line of the song is the title repeated seven times.
Speaking of Gucci, it’s likely that he reps the Italian brand less because he’s enamored with the flamboyant, vintage-inspired designs of Alessandro Michele than because it’s expensive and the branding — the double-G logos, the bee, the red-and-green stripes — is very conspicuous. He wears it to show off the fact that he can afford it, which is something a lot of rappers do with expensive styles, but Sir Pumpington does even more obviously because he has no true sense of style.
If the outrageous success of Lil Pump is indicative of anything, it is that we do not want to think about what we consume. The garish extravagance of Pump’s lifestyle and music is pure, mindless entertainment to us, a decadent fantasy of fast cars, fast times, and easy access to drugs. Lil Pump doesn’t need to know how fast the Porsche goes; all he needs to know is that he can afford to replace it.
And none of this is meant to be nihilistic. The nature of Pump’s wealth and the ways in which he torches it are not exactly aspirational, but neither are they offensive. Many young people are beginning to shrug off the great American myth that they are temporarily inconvenienced millionaires. They are accepting the fact that they will never be wealthy, that prosperity is locked away from them, hoarded by their decrepit, aged parents and grandparents who fucked up the world and have left their children to clean it up. So to see Lil Pump, a 17-year-old, make an immense amount of bank and then shred all of it is thrilling, even if we understand the rapper's shortcomings. It’s youth in revolt.
Lil Pump is successful because we do not want to think about what we consume. We cannot afford to, because in 2017, all of that mental space is needed to resist the system that made him famous.
Also, his real name is Gazzy Garcia.
Lil Pump. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, November 28, at the Hangar, 60 NE 11th St., Miami; 305-702-3257; hangar305.com. Tickets cost $27 via ticketfly.com.
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Douglas Markowitz is a former music and arts editorial intern for Miami New Times. Born and raised in South Florida, he studied at Sophia University in Tokyo before earning a bachelor's in communications from University of North Florida. He writes freelance about music, art, film, and other subjects.