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How Lil Peep Forced Me to See My Ugliest Self

The moment you stop talking about your demons is the moment they’re best positioned to consume you.

I have been scared to call myself a Lil Peep fan. Each time I let one of his singles prattle on, I would shy away from his music. I wasn’t ashamed to like him; rather, I was afraid of how much of myself I could hear in the warbly hooks and disjointed verses.

There’s no hiding that Lil Peep was a magnetic artist. I was drawn to his various hits (“Star Shopping,” “BeamerBoy,” “White Wine,” “Witchblades”) but could never sit with a full project. Spending too much time with Lil Peep's music was the equivalent of his holding a spit-shined mirror inches from my face, forcing me to see all of the past struggles I’ve suppressed.  

The night Peep passed, I anxiously waited for the currents to change course. Watching his fans and loved ones’ hearts break in real-time haunted me through the night. The morning after, I kept waiting for Lil Peep to somehow come back to life on a bed of minor chords and with a fresh tattoo from the underworld. But nothing came.

Twitter seemed to care and then moved on, but I couldn’t. I spent the following five days seeking out and deep diving into every piece of music Lil Peep laid his hands on. What was meant to be a memorialization turned into a series of existential discoveries featuring Lil Peep, myself, and the mirror he would not put down.  

After juggling Crybaby, HellboyCastles II, Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 1, and Lil Peep Part One, the one project I couldn’t keep away from was Hellboy. The 2016 mixtape is by far Lil Peep’s most thought-out and holistic work and the best distillation of the wanton and vexed star's essence.

I fell through Hellboy’s mirror early on. The project's third track, “OMFG,” was also my first point of resistance. Opening with the leveling “I used to wanna kill myself / Came up, still wanna kill myself,” the song left me unhinged. I can admit that happiness isn’t entirely circumstantial, just not for myself. Instead, I tell myself I’m too old—meaning I should be too emotionally refined—to still have suicidal ideations. But not in Lil Peep’s reality.

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“OMFG” was not a moment of affirmation as much as it was the blunt truth. Whether it’s alright or not to carry the weight of these feelings is secondary to the fact that I just have to, and for no noble or profound reason, either. This is just a part of myself that I have to accept. Laden in the haphazard writing and vocalizations ripped out of 2003, Lil Peep was showing me that recovery is not about right and wrong, but about acceptance and plodding forward.

The next point of resistance, “The Song They Played,” was a near-identical retelling of how I spent the winter of 2015, shut in with blackout shades to block out the sun. Naturally a person of excess, that winter I was drinking just to see if it would kill me. The reasoning: if I were to die, that was just how my cards were meant to be dealt. The winter passed, and I began starving myself—again, just to see what would happen. Hellboy forced me to question if I ever stopped self-harming, or if my methods just sophisticated over time.

While listening to “The Last Thing I Wanna Do” I was forced to resolve conflict constructively. The notion that a love isn’t valid until it’s bled made my skin crawl because it was so familiar. On paper, the lyrics “Blood drips down falls from my hand / You never bled for me” read as incredibly manipulative, but in the universe of Lil Peep, I’ve come to understand this as a moment of misguided sincerity. I think he really felt this way because when I was much younger and much angrier, I also felt this way.

For better or worse, we’ve all hurt so deeply we’ve wanted someone else to hurt with us, not out of malice, but in a lousy effort to commune. With Lil Peep and my past selves so entrenched in these dark spaces, that reaching out can only take on the most familiar forms: self-harm and self-destruction.

After the viscera of Hellboy, Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 1 sounded less like an evolution and more like a coping mechanism. Apart from sounding glitzy and A&R’d to death, the project was missing Peep’s cocaine and blood-tinged lyrics. Instead, we got a score of hollow and accessible emo tropes, only accented by the Lil Peep I couldn’t bring myself to face. Of all the albums, looking back, Come Over seemed like the biggest cry for help. The moment you stop talking about your demons is the moment they’re best positioned to consume you.

That’s the moral of my Lil Peep binge: reaching out is the best way to recover. Looking back is the only way to leap forward, and there’s no age restriction on feeling bad and wanting to feel better. With Peep assuming a new role in my own recovery, and despite not fully embracing his music while he was still alive, I’m proud to call myself a fan.

With Lil Peep passing, a lot of young people have lost their hero, but when they’re ready, those same people will still be able to find themselves.



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