Cover Story: Lil Pump for Clash Issue 111

Publication: Clash Print and Online
Date: April 2019
Photography: Daria Kobayashi Ritch
Fashion: Lisa Madonna
Creative Direction: Rob Meyers

Lil Pump is the living embodiment of a teenage fantasy: a rapper with all the wealth and fame he could ever desire. But, with his talent questioned by countless self-appointed gatekeepers of ‘real music’, is he really living the dream?

Gazzy Garcia is rich, and he’s very happy about it. In fact, wealth is one of the only things he cares about, and he would tell you the same. This is because he grew up in project housing in South Florida, and now he lives between a mansion he owns in Miami Beach, and another he rents in LA. Three years ago, when he uploaded his first material to Soundcloud as Lil Pump, he was a 16-year-old high-school dropout with little more than a few years of drug dealing on his CV and a penchant for prescription pills.

As the story goes, on the day he was finally kicked out of school, Garcia incited a riot that shut the entire place down; such is the infectiousness of his energy. That was the same day on which he and his childhood friend Smokepurpp went home and recorded the inaugural Lil Pump song. Then, just a few years later, he would pull up to a high school car park in a Lamborghini, walk inside, and gleefully toss fairground candy floss-sized bags of weed into lockers in the hallway.

He was shooting the video for the now infamous ‘Gucci Gang’; formerly the most streamed track in the world, and the track that blasted him from an exploding online reputation, into a reported $8 million record deal with Warner Bros. Now he is one of the most talked-about, and most streamed artists in the world, inspiring both rancour and reverence through his Instagram antics and prolific musical output.

He is 18 at the time of writing, and has already outsold most of your favourite artists, has more cars than you would ever care to own (without being able to drive) and, he says, is the proud owner of the world’s “richest dog ever.” And, just like any rags-to-riches tale, Lil Pump’s is one of unquestionable dedication, and while many try to hold up his music to that which they consider to have higher artistic worth, the numbers do not lie: Lil Pump is a phenomenon that cannot be ignored.

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The fateful day that brought an end to the troubled relationship between Garcia and school saw an aspirational young mind turn his back on the ‘normal’ ways to earn all the money in the world, and instead find himself at the forefront of an exploding online rap scene. With a DIY mentality at its core, Soundcloud, a streaming platform that has since struggled to sustain itself in the face of rising commitment to paid-subscription services, offered a rare opportunity for artists to circumnavigate the record industry, and find their audience directly, which Lil Pump did with almost immediate results.

With no A&R, no label-dictated quality control, and little more than a cursory glance towards intellectual property laws, he became part of a vanguard of bedroom-based creators who were able to take beats they could find online, rap and record whatever they like, and share the result to the world in a matter of hours. Garcia went from school dropout to figurehead of an online rap community who perfected a lucrative art of translating an enthusiasm for sex, drugs and violence into music with unparalleled directness: material that is energetic, idiosyncratic and obsessed with lifestyle choices that school tried to coach us all against.

With his vibrantly coloured dreads, gleefully childlike face tattoos, and compellingly ignorant lyrics, Lil Pump represented a long-distance sprint over a line that his countless young fans would only dare to dream of crossing. Unshackled by social expectations and fiscal responsibility, “doin’ drugs, fuckin’ bitches, buyin’ cars and houses,” he says, are what makes him most happy.

He’s a daydream avatar that committed to living a life he too could only imagine, and in turn knows exactly what his fans want. Imagine a life without school, without a curfew, without the threat of detention or ever going broke; where hyperactivity pays, and then imagine that personified in a rough-edged and cheeky troublemaker. Pump’s fans’ adoration for him isn’t limited to music, but manifests itself in memes, viral dance videos and instantaneous reactions to whatever he uploads.

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His second studio album, ‘Harverd Dropout’, was released earlier this year and was named after a joke which started online, suggesting Lil Pump is so intelligent that he got accepted to Harvard early, only to drop out because, well, fuck school.

The album features tracks like ‘Off White’, ‘Nu Uh’, ‘Racks On Racks’, and ‘Vroom Vroom Vroom’, which each run at around two minutes and provide total escapism via raucous trap beats and a total commitment to unconscious consumption.

It isn’t only Pump who delights in these exercises of ignorance, attracting the likes of Quavo, Lil Wayne, Lil Uzi Vert and Kanye West to join him for guest verses. ‘Drug Addicts’, a single released in 2018, received a video starring actor Charlie Sheen, whose on-camera meltdown, propelled by substance abuse, caught the delight of Internet-dwellers who like their comedy to be stranger than fiction. This is a cartoonish world full of hilarious and surreal possibilities, a world of pure imagination that birthed and continues to nourish Lil Pump, and one that he continues to own and command. 

Vital to his brand as a feeling of closeness between him and his fans – members of the Internet generation who consume content quickly and tire easily – his regular live streams and daily posts offer almost permanent access for his 18 million Instagram follows, and his charming “dumbass” (by his own admission) personality enables him to maintain interest better than most. Importantly though, he does so without giving anything away about what might constitute his inner-being.

An air of mystique surrounds Lil Pump not because he is especially private or secretive, but because he keeps everything he wants you to know about him strictly at face value. Life for Pump is on the surface, and going deeper in an interview or in a heartfelt lyric is not only uninteresting, but also unrealistic. In surrendering to a codeine-drenched teenage fantasy, you could say he underwent some kind of ego-death that left Gazzy’s life in the complicated and dull real world, and created a much simpler, pleasure driven, Pump-augmented reality in its place.

As such, getting hold of Lil Pump for a magazine interview is not only a difficult task, but one that will always be pretty much fruitless. There’s nothing he could tell us that he hasn’t already made clear beyond that he likes what he likes and dismisses what he doesn’t without dwelling on it. There’s no bullshit in that, and when he says he doesn’t give a fuck, he really means it.

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So people can proselytise for conscious consumption and careful lyrics as much as they like, but they need to understand that Lil Pump is not here for that, and he will never pretend to be. Fame, money and notoriety came quickly, and he’s not going to switch up a winning formula for success just because it upsets a few people.

In conversation with someone from his management team, recorded with an unreleased track motioning something about a jet ski (his preferred mode of transport) playing in the background, Lil Pump answered the questions Clash emailed to him in the realest way possible: without much consideration or over-complication and with no feigning of interest – just three minutes of delightful ignorance.

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