When Lil Peep died after an accidental overdose in 2017 at age 21, we had still only just touched on the life and aesthetic of the neophyte emo-trap-punk-rap king. We were just beginning to find out how he went from an Allentown, PA working class youth with an absentee father, and a child of mental health distress and incremental drug addiction, to becoming a 2015 mixtape master and recording artist. There were gloomy breakthroughs such as “Hellboy,” hit singles with XXXTentacion (“Falling Down”) and iLoveMakonnen (“I’ve Been Waiting”) and streams into the billions. And then he was gone, even as posthumous sensations such as “Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2” continued to come down the pike. He was the Leonard Cohen of goth emo-angels.
The latest assemblage of released and unreleased Peep material, “Everybody’s Everything,” timed to come out alongside a genuinely stirring documentary of the same name, is more focused and poignant than what might be available in a cynical commercially marketplace: a heartfelt, curated collection of songs from his sadly short career, including fan favorites never before available on all platforms, and tracks never released in any form.
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Unlike other doom-and-death obsessed works of his, one of the first things that come across to the listener (and viewer) of “Everybody’s Everything” is the duality that playwright Dominique Morisseau talks of in her author notes to “Sunset Baby” and its relationship to the late Tupac Shakur. With Shakur, and the Peep revealed in “Everybody’s Everything,” tenderness, missed opportunities and unrequited love exist simultaneously with rap’s usual “bitches and coke” tropes.
With a flat-line baritone vocal and a laconic, sing-speaking flow that resembles Joaquin Phoenix’s “Joker” speaking voice, Lil Peep tackles the demos of “Ratchet” and “Aquafina” with a chilling nonchalance. Good, but not great.
While those demos capture Peep at his most cliché-ridden, four raw duets with Virginia Beach rapper-singer Lil Tracy are a different matter altogether, far more revelatory in their lyrics and impactful in their sonics. While an acoustic version of “Walk Away as the Door Slams” looks at a bitter love affair that Peep would rather embrace as cool and calm than tempestuous (“We fight every night / Baby I don’t wanna do that”), “WitchBlades” slowly and creepily looks at bipolar disorder as the thing which makes him a loner obsessed with very real dungeons and dragons of druggy design. “I was a reject, I was a poser… / When I die bury me with all my ice on / Witchcraft, love chants.”
Along with celebrating Nirvana’s Kurt on the crestfallen “Cobain,” Lil Peeps takes to the grunge giant’s flinty guitar riffage and his lonely planet boy demeanor on the ultimately anti-romantic tour memento, “Belgium,” and the album’s first single, “When I Lie,” the latter a disturbing malcontented bout of self-reflection that looks at the high as a fantastic resting place. “Stick that needle in my eye, just lost my peace of mind / I’m not evil by design but I feel dead at times.”
As a young man looking for love in collaboration, Peep’s three duets with Gab# (including the poppy, down-tuned “Fangirl” and the original version of “I’ve Been Waiting” with iLoveMakonnen) are lovely and worth the price of admission. Still, nothing satisfies like hearing and feeling Lil Peep on his own, be it the long-suffering “Live Forever,” the aforementioned likes of “Belgium and “When I Lie,” or the tearfully prescient “ghost boy,” with its forlorn finale of “When you are on your own / Just know that I love you / I won’t pick up the phone / Just know that I need you.”
Lil Peep’s sad and beautiful world is something dear to behold. If his estate is going to keep releasing posthumous works, they must keep them of this caliber and level of discovery.
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