Who Was Lil Peep? How the 21-Year-Old Rapper Showed Us What 'Gone Too Young' Looks Like in the YouTube Era
Lil Peep Dead at 21 -- Who Was the Up-and-Coming Rapper?
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Lil Peep may not have been a name you knew.
But the 21-year-old up-and-coming rapper's death from a suspected overdose on Wednesday -- just three months after releasing his debut album, Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 1 -- sent a wave of sorrow through the music community, reminiscent in some ways of the "gone-too-young" artists of eras past. Outpourings of mourning came from all over, from ex Bella Thorne, to Pete Wentz, to Sam Smith, to Marshmello, who revealed he and Peep had been in talks to collaborate just days before he died.
And for fans of the young rapper, the tragedy is something that played out right before our eyes, even up to the moments right before his untimely demise.
MORE: Lil Peep Died From Suspected Xanax Overdose, Police Say
Themes of death permeated Peep's -- real name Gustav Åhr -- short-but-meaningful career. A member of the Goth Boi Clique, Peep made music in a genre that has come to be known as emo trap, hip-hop that wears its heart on its sleeve, with droning guitars overlaying the beat. Some of Peep's samples, for instance, include Underoath, Radiohead and The Postal Service.
It's a sound that's getting increasingly mainstream attention, one example being Logic's chart-topping hit with Alessia Cara and Khalid, "1-800-273-8255 " -- a song titled using the real number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, where Logic croons, "I don't wanna be alive/ I don't wanna be alive/ I just wanna die today."
But where Logic finds a hopeful conclusion, Peep's music often sinks into despair and stays there. In "Awful Things," a video that has garnered over 14 million views on Peep's YouTube channel, he reflects on a relationship gone awry, proclaiming, "Burn me down 'til I'm nothin' but memories." As with many of Peep's lines, the flow feels as though it'd fit just as well on a Taking Back Sunday track as it does over a trap beat, and it's hard to listen to without finding yourself in a place of heartbreaking emptiness. The video itself only reaffirms that feeling:
MORE: Rapper-Singer Lil Peep Dies at 21: Diplo, Pete Wentz and More React
Elsewhere on the album, Peep explores death in ways that feel hauntingly prophetic, such as "The Brightside," with a hook that goes from "Everybody telling me life's short, but I wanna die," to its inevitably maudlin resolution: "Now I'm getting high again, tonight."
To be fair, it's not exactly out of the ordinary to hear an emo artist explore morose themes in very straightforward ways, and many, if not most, don't live out tragedies that mirror their songs. Furthermore, drugs and depression have been the undoing of artists for generations, including the eerily-large number of "27 Club" members like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse -- whose portrait is featured in Peep's video for "White Wine."
But while dying at a young age immortalized those artists in their prime, musicians and YouTube stars today are immortalized by virtue of living most of their lives on the internet -- part of why Peep's work and social media presence already plays like a eulogy of his life.
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Looking back at Peep's posts in the days and hours leading up to his death is chilling. On Monday, the rapper smokes a joint in an Instagram video, captioned, "I just wana be everybody's everything I want too much from people but then I don't want anything from them at the same time u feel me I don't let people help me but I need help but not when I have my pills but that's temporary one day maybe I won't die young and I'll be happy? What is happy I always have happiness for like 10 seconds and then it's gone. I'm getting so tired of this."
"I just took honey and shrooms," the Long Beach, New York, native writes shortly after, air-grinding along to Green Day's "American Idiot."
"When I die You'll love me," Peep heartbreakingly captions another post. In the second to last picture he shares, he appears to be consuming pills -- the rapper's verses and social media posts featured frequent references to Percocet and Xanax -- writing, simply, "f**c it."
In his last post, however, Peep illustrates perfectly why so many are so heartbroken to have lost him. Sharing a picture of three fans in GBC gear, he writes, "Look at my beautiful fans awwwww."
As the comment sections of his Instagram pics and YouTube videos will show, those fans are looking back, and they won't soon forget him.
MORE: Chester Bennington's 15-Year-Old Son Appears in Suicide Prevention Video: Watch
A spokesperson for the Tuscon, Arizona, Police Dept. confirmed Peep's death of a suspected Xanax overdose to ET on Thursday.
ET has learned that drug paraphernalia was located inside the tour bus where the rapper was found. The spokesperson says it appears Lil Peep died of a suspected drug overdose from Xanax, however, the official cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner following an autopsy. There were no signs of foul play.
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