Lil Peep Saved My Life
by: Cam Thomson
I’m not going to argue that Lil Peep cured my depression. What he did do, was open me up to a whole side of myself that I wasn’t in touch with. Not only that, but I admired him, even idolized him. He dropped everything in a small town, moved to LA with nothing but the clothes on his back and somehow found his way to the international spotlight. Peep was everything I wanted to be but wasn’t. And as time went on, I followed his music, his Instagram, and his twitter, I found myself more and more infatuated with this guy. I envied his ability to act on impulse, to say and do whatever he wanted, to cover his face with a plethora of easily regrettable tattoos, even telling his Trump-supporting fans to “fuck off” on one occasion. I saw someone who was deeply troubled, struggling with addiction and depression, and I saw myself. The fact that he seemed to overcome these obstacles to find himself living his dream only gave me hope for my own future.
Two summers ago I was struggling with the worst depressive episode I’ve ever had. I found a mediocre minimum wage job at a bourgeois grocery store and ended up quitting after only two weeks. I didn’t enjoy the things I used to; hanging out with friends, making music, being with family. Everything sort of came to a standstill in my life, and I felt more lonely than ever before. I had no money, no fulfillment in what I was doing, and every day became the same monotonous struggle to find momentary happiness. I didn’t want to be alive. At the beginning of this tumultuous summer, I had practically given up on making music, virtually all of my tracks came out the same; stale and uninspired. Then I listened to Lil Peep for the first time. I found this new mishmash of two of my favorite genres that completely reinvigorated my love for creating music. In the past year or so since then, Lil Peep has been my single largest musical influence. I saw Peep living his dreams and thought, maybe, I could too. I found hope in Lil Peep.
Now I’m forced to reckon with the truly heart-wrenching fact that Gus wasn’t living his dream. He was hurting, badly. Coming from a family that struggles with addiction, this should have been clear to me from the very beginning. I confused Peep’s sadness to be a part of his aesthetic brand, as I think most of us did. I feel like I have wronged him for not taking this more seriously. I don’t know exactly what I or anyone else could have done, but something, I would think, could have prevented this. It’s not fair to project blame on any of his friends as potential enablers. What happened to Gus is more reflective of the culture that surrounds the youth in this era than it is of any individual moral failing.
I do really hope that we can remember Gus for the good that he bestowed upon us. I know people say all the time that “such and such musician saved my life,” even I’ve said it flippantly. But I say this with more conviction than ever before in my life; I don’t know if I would be here if it wasn’t for Lil Peep. His music gave me company, empathy, he inspired me to create things, to embrace the parts of myself that I wasn’t comfortable with, to continue doing what I love. He bent the rules of how a male musician should act; his vulnerability, honesty, and candidness virtually flipped the script for what is acceptable in hip-hop. I will forever feel indebted to Lil Peep and his music for pulling me out of my slump when I could barely get out of bed or look my mother in the eyes. If Gus didn’t save my life, he at least gave me more courage to live.
I’m also endlessly grateful for everything that Gus did to subvert the typical expectations of masculinity that are projected onto young men. There’s an entire generation of music fans growing up who idolized a singer/rapper who wore nail polish, identified as bisexual and notoriously referred to himself as a “crybaby”. We’re all “crybabies” sometimes, and thanks to Peep, young boys are hopefully more free to express that without fear of taunts, marginalization, and ridicule. Rather than portraying himself as a cold-hearted, give-no-fucks macho male that is so common in hip-hop, Peep was constantly doing the exact opposite; expressing his regrets, insecurities, and failings on almost every single song. He spoke out on LGBTQ+ issues, homophobia and mental illness without inhibition. He never hesitated to pour his heart into a track, no matter how many memes he became the subject of. Eventually, the mainstream would embrace him for just that. Because of Peep’s eccentric persona and emotional honesty, I feel a little less pressured to push emotions aside and act like everything is fine when they aren’t. I feel a little less inclined to subscribe to traditional ideals of masculinity. As lame as it sounds, I feel more comfortable expressing myself.
I’m holding out hope for Gus’ friends and family, especially his mom. I won’t lie and say I knew Peep personally, but at times it genuinely felt like I did. Maybe you did too. Lil Peep’s influence on the underground music scene will last much longer than any of us. At the age of 21, his passing is a tragic shock to music fans across the globe. Rest in peace, Gustav. I will never forget you and the impact you had on my life. Thank you, forever.