By Geoffrey Rowlands
It has taken Lil Pump just over a year to become one of the hottest rappers in America.
Still just 17 years old, Lil Pump, real name Gazzy Garcia, began uploading his songs to SoundCloud in 2016. The fan response was such that, within months, he was co-headlining the No Jumper tour with fellow Miami rapper / producer Smokepurpp.
“It was Smokepurpp who got me into rapping,” said Lil Pump. “My cousin introduced us when I was 13 and Smokepurpp was 16. He was already making beats as a producer but wasn’t selling anything.
“I was hanging out at his house while he was making this beat. He encouraged me to do a free style on the track. I just used a headphone mic rather than a normal microphone. We called the song Pump and it sounded good. It was the first track I put on SoundCloud.”
His association with Smokepurpp, real name Omar Pineiro, has played a major role in Lil Pump’s rise to stardom.
Problems at high school were a common bond. Although Smokepurpp claims to have been a quiet individual, he admits to having been regularly suspended for fighting.
Lil Pump was considerably worse. Having been expelled from all the regular schools in his district, Pump was given a place at an opportunity school. These are institutions which seek to help students who have encountered a range of problems. Yet Lil Pump was even kicked out of this school in the 10th grade for fighting and inciting a riot.
Although Smokepurpp had his sights set on a career in music production, Lil Pump had no plans to become a rapper.
“I loved rap and I’d sometimes freestyle over Smokepurpp’s beats but I didn’t really want to record. It was only Smokepurpp pretty much making me record Pump which made me realize I was a good rapper.
“I had my other (illegal) means of income though so I still wasn’t thinking about rap as a career. It was only when Pump suddenly had 10,000 views on SoundCloud that I started to think differently. That number is nothing now. By the time it reached six million, I thought why not give rap a shot.”
Lil Pump was not discouraged by the SoundCloud people removing his lyrically controversial work. With Smokepurpp’s help, he released a string of hugely popular tracks such as Elementary, Broke My Wrist and Movin’.
This kind of interest did not escape the attention of record labels. Two weeks before he turned 17, Lil Pump signed his record deal with Tha Lights Global and Warner Bros.
The former used its network of 60 social media ‘influencers’ to push his music to their 160 million followers. The latter were looking to establish a bigger presence in the urban music market.
This combination saw a six-fold increase in Lil Pump’s SoundCloud and Instagram following. The major label marketing offered by Warner Bros. led to high profile guest artists such as 2 Chainz, Gucci Mane and Lil Yachty appearing on Lil Pump’s self-titled debut commercial mixtape. It hit number three on the Billboard 200.
His latest single, Gucci Gang, matched this position on the Hot 100. It also reached number two on Billboard’s Hot R&B / Hip Hop Songs chart and has become a solid hit throughout much of the world.
Lil Pump’s style has been described as ‘lo-fi rap’ and likened to the D.I.Y. music of 1970s punk bands. Other artists such as XXXTentacion and Ski Mask the Slump God also hail from south Florida and pursue a similar mode of performance. But it is Lil Pump who has emerged as the pack leader.
“Those other guys might be good but none of them has achieved what I’ve done. I’m the special one.”
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