Let’s recap the week Lil Pump had leading up to the 18-year-old viral sensation’s headlining set at South Side Ballroom on Thursday night. On Sunday he partied hard in a Miami nightclub with Houston Rockets superstar James Harden, which got the attention of TMZ. He then bought $15,000 Cartier sunglasses out of boredom Tuesday, throwing cash around the jewelry store, and later in the day he posted this sweet message on Instagram stories to his nearly 18 million followers: “Nobody has done what I’ve done at da age of 18 I’ve broke records on YouTube, platinum records So suck my dick.”
It’s safe to say Lil Pump doesn’t live in our world (or has any interest in it) bu he seems to know exactly what he’s doing.
Nobody wants to hear it, but Lil Pump is simply a genius who gamed the system. When everything is an algorithm, it’s not impossible to hack your way to success. It’s only a little scary to think that his fans may not be 100 percent in on the ruse. Leading up to Pump’s set, his fans wedged themselves deeper and deeper into the barricade of the front row to make sure they could get clear video of the “Gucci Gang” rapper for social media clout, disregarding dehydration and personal space when there was more than plenty of room in the venue for them to roam. Some came to their senses or were bailed out by security, but even those on the outskirts would randomly blurt out his tagline, “ESSKEETIT!” Some even randomly repeated the artist’s name in their best Migos flow imitation — fully indoctrinated in the cult of Pump. It all just seemed a little too serious for an artist who really doesn’t take anything at all very seriously.
Lil Pump deserves a ton of credit for delivering an entertaining show. He certainly knows how to play to a crowd. Offering handshakes and high-fives, bouncing around the stage like any teenager should and overall creating an air of fun in the venue. At one point he was performing atop the crowd in a huge pool floaty. Lil Pump stage dived countless times and broke up the monotonous sonics of his catalog with a trivia game à la Double Dare for a fan who eventually got slimed. Well, who was supposed to get slimed but chickened out and dodged it. Not that anyone should be mad at Lil Pump, but even his most staunchest haters would have to admit he puts together a lively set better than most rappers.
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A lively set is also easier to put together when you have numerous hits to back it up. “D Rose,” “Gucci Gang,” “Arms Around You (cover)” and of course, “I Love It.” The latter features Kanye West and is the standout track from Lil Pump's sophomore studio album — a project that solidified his place in the machine. The thing about it is that it’s such a polished project that it goes against Pump’s original image of a freewheeling wild teen just having fun. Now there exists a weird limbo of not giving a fuck and continuing to generate revenue for his label, which kinda makes all his wild viral antics make sense instead of just living his life of luxury in peace like he says he wish he could in interviews.
It also makes the message he posted on Instagram this week all the more curious. Yes, Lil Pump is breaking YouTube records and has a platinum record, but that’s all online activity. Things aren’t hitting the same in real life. Travis Scott, for example, has nearly as many Instagram followers, does better streaming numbers, sold out American Airlines Center in November and just headlined JMBLYA, which pulled in more than 10,000 fans to Fair Park. Lil Pump did not sell out South Side Ballroom. So going viral doesn’t beat patience and consistency.
That’s serious talk about an artist who may not be taking it that seriously, but Lil Pump is doing fine in an environment that allows him to profit. Just a few years ago he was a kid caught up in a scene where absurdity in both music and image became the formula for success. After the deaths of contemporaries like Lil Peep, XXXtentacion, the incarceration of Tekashi69 and continuous legal troubles of Kodak Black, Lil Pump seems to be doing fine and made it out unscathed so far. All in all, Thursday night’s show was harmless fun, and that’s all Lil Pump needed to deliver.