On November 15, 2017, Lil Peep passed away from a suspected drug overdose. He was 21 years old.
In a death that has shaken the underground rap scene, a rising star has suddenly ceased to exist. Though I am a somewhat newer fan, I still loved him and listened to him excitedly, and when news hit, I could not immediately believe it.
I first got into Lil Peep last year, when a friend of mine sent me his Pitchfork feature and said “This sounds like it might be up your alley.” It was. I devoured the article and fell in love with Lil Peep—his style, his lyrics, his pink (my constant favourite colour) hair and his music, which was an effortless combination of the stuff of emo days long gone and rap days currently beloved. I consumed all the songs on his Soundcloud immediately, blasted “giving girls cocaine” on train rides home after work, and feverishly waited for more. Almost overnight, I became a huge fan. It just happened.
Lil Peep was passionate about his music. You could sense it from the way he first walked on stage, from the way he interacted with his fans. I was lucky enough to see him perform live twice, both times at legendary Toronto venues—once at the Velvet Underground, a haven for jaw-dropping music, and most recently, at the Phoenix Concert Theatre, where he performed with passion, donning the red and black Hello Kitty hat we were so familiar with from his Instagram photos. At the Phoenix, his fans were rabid and their fierce loyalty and excitement knew no bounds. He was loved and respected in every sense of the word.
The first time I saw Lil Peep live at the Velvet, there’s a scene that sticks out in my mind. Amidst the cheering, screaming crowd (wearing their homemade GBC shirts and hats), he stopped singing for a moment, and looked out in front of him. The Velvet is by no means a large venue, but it is an eager and excited one, and every single person who came to his show was a true fan who wouldn’t have been anywhere else. His fans sung along to every lyric from songs he had posted on Soundcloud and nowhere else — this, I know, is dedication. Amidst all this, he stopped singing, and he looked out at the crowd—pink and black hair dripping with sweat—and he smiled this crazy, goofy smile; almost like he couldn’t believe it, at all of us singing and dancing at his show, and him, just a kid on a small stage doing what he believed in. It was adorable, and it showcased his innocence, and I still remember this moment so vividly and how I loved him even more because of it.
He stood for a lot of goodness in the scene— he was colourful, he was bright, he was innocent and cute. He likely inspired a lot of weirdos out there. He might have reminded some of us that it was okay to be different— he certainly wasn’t ashamed of it, and why should we be?
Lil Peep spoke to and for a generation of kids and misfits. For people suffering with depression and anxiety issues, knowing that they could talk about them and still be seen as strong, and knowing that they could talk about these issues at all, removed the taboo. It was inspiring. If I was still a teenager, he might have been my version of My Chemical Romance. He stood for a lot of goodness in the scene — he was colourful, he was bright, he was innocent, and cute. He likely inspired a lot of weirdos out there — he might have reminded some of us that it was okay to be different; he certainly wasn’t ashamed of it, so why should we?
When he came out as bisexual in August 2017, he took a huge step forward for the underground rap scene. He was so unabashedly himself; this announcement, for a rising star, even in 2017, was huge. Growing up, I had little to no queer music icons to look up to. It was nice knowing that the kids who listened to him at least had someone so unique to believe in. He was, as described by Steven J. Horowitz in the Pitchfork feature from above, like an emo Kurt Cobain, or maybe even a modern day Bowie. He was, really, just a fucking weirdo who loved being weird, and we loved him for it. I think we needed someone like him. He brightened the days, and seeing the pictures of him on my Instagram feed brought smiles to my face daily.
But I can’t talk about Lil Peep without mentioning drugs, though, and that’s where it gets difficult. He had always been transparent about his problems with drugs and his mental health issues. For example, I remember this post from last February, which brought in a flood of supportive messages from his fans and friends alike.
I am a depressed drug addict and I'm nearing my breaking point. Everything I love is disappearing
— GOTH ANGEL SINNER (@Lilpeep) February 17, 2017
For those of us who have suffered from our own drug problems and issues in the past, and maybe I am only speaking for myself, having someone talk so transparently about their mental health problems and drug issues was a breath of fresh air. It reminded me that even when I was at my worst, in too deep, I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Of course I only wanted the best for Lil Peep. I remember tweeting at him after this post and letting him know that I had been struggling too, that I got help too, even after I waited what I thought was too long to do it.
But the problem with Peep was that he made drugs look cool, and those of us who had gotten too involved knew that they weren’t. With a large, young fanbase, his constant posting of drugs (while maybe therapeutic), also glorified a lifestyle that, ultimately, was not something young people should be aspiring to. Yes, Lil Peep was an incredible, wonderful, and talented person, but he also suffered from a severe drug addiction that hurt him and so many others in the end.
I think A$AP Nast said it best when he said this:
I JUST WANT YOU ALL TO KNOW THAT I MEAN ABSOLUTELY NO DISRESPECT TOWARDS THAT MAN NOR ANYONE IN HIS FAMILY OR FAN BUT TIMES LIKE THIS IS WHEN WE NEED TO SPEAK UP AND SAY SOMETHING ABOUT THE TYPES OF LIFE STYLES WE ALL GLORIFY TODAY !
— EL SUCIO GUAPO (@ASVPNVST) November 16, 2017
IM GOING TO LEAVE U ALL WITH THIS LAST ONE HOW MANY GOTTA GO BEFORE WE ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND SHIT IS REAL ?
— EL SUCIO GUAPO (@ASVPNVST) November 16, 2017
Lil Peep was inspiring, brilliant, hilarious, and great. His music and image brought so much joy to so many people — myself included. Seeing him perform, reading his interviews— despite all the pain, he just seemed so full of love; he seemed so loveable.
Lil Peep didn’t seem like an untouchable celebrity— he seemed like a friend, with his transparent posts regarding his depression, sexuality, and drug problems, and constant openness to his fans regarding everything about him. Perhaps that’s why it hurts so much to lose him.
I believe Lil Peep was a true artist, a creative who made original art and put it out into the world for delicate, honest consumption.
Listening to Lil Peep’s music brought me back to a place I thought I had forgotten. With my emo days long gone behind me, when I listened to my old favourites of Motion City Soundtrack and blink-182, I still felt a little like the old me. When I found Lil Peep, that part of my life seemed refreshed, and I felt re-energized. His music was different, new, and exciting. I found new lyrics to connect to, and I wanted to listen to him all the time. Lil Peep was a true artist, a creative who made original art and put it out into the world for delicate, honest consumption.
I hope that this loss will allow the music industry to talk more about drug problems and addiction. I hope that recreational drug users will not be seen as brainless junkies — because they’re not. Drug addiction needs to be treated properly, because drugs are interwoven into the fabric of society much thicker than we expect. I hope this will encourage people to acquire training to stop overdoses, or to learn how to spot them quicker. Living in Toronto, especially, where the province’s opioid crisis is constantly in headlines, and having suffered from drug issues myself, and having watched several of my friends suffer, a reported drug overdose death from a favourite artist hits close to home.
Goodbye, Lil Peep. Rest in peace.
I’ll wear my Lil Peep shirt with pride as the days go on. You will be forever missed. Thank you for the music.