Lil Peep enters the mainstream

“Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2” is a statement that was never supposed to be final

ae-lilpeepreview-courtesywikimediacommons

 "Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2," the latest album released under Lil Peep's name and the first posthumous work for the recently deceased artist, contains significance that it would not have under other circumstances.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

When Lil Peep died last year at the age of 21, he left behind a burgeoning musical legacy. At the vanguard of a generation of SoundCloud rappers, the rapper fused punk with hip-hop and lyrical vulnerability with a lo-fi aesthetic. Unlike his contemporaries, he took more inspiration from alternative than rap, more from Good Charlotte and Green Day than Biggie and 2Pac.

Lil Peep died at the precipice of fame. Following a record deal with an independent label and a high-profile relationship with actress Bella Thorne, the rapper was on the verge of mainstream success. After his death, recognition poured in from eminent places — Pete Wentz, Lil Yachty and Sam Smith all paid tribute, his estate signed a three-album deal with Columbia Records and his single “Awful Things” charted in the Billboard Hot 100. The rapper attained in death what he never did in life. “Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2” — his first posthumous album — seems certain to continue this legacy.

More than most other genres, hip-hop is preoccupied with death, tracing its global rise to gangsta rap and horrorcore. As the genre has matured, it has dealt with more psychological trauma — the “beautiful death” from suicide in Kanye West’s “Power” or the “suicidal weakness” in Kendrick Lamar’s “u.” Lil Peep charts his own path of mortality on “Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2” with uncanny lines like “I think I’ma die alone inside my room” and “I don’t wanna die alone right now” — a callback to a lyric in “the song they played [when i crashed into the wall].” The rapper, whose cause of death was an overdose from fentanyl and generic Xanax, also references his drug use, “[k]issing on styrofoam,” “[p]oppin’ pills for free,” doing “16 lines of blow” and, on “Life Is Beautiful,” staging an overdose. In a genre preoccupied with death, this is a rapper acutely aware of his own mortality.

Death has a way of mythologizing artists, elevating the haphazard and making mere utterances prophetic. Whatever a late artist leaves unreleased becomes a final statement — something “Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2” acknowledges when it begins with the line “I gotta go right now, that’s all” and ends with “I’m not gonna last long.” Although Lil Peep claimed before his death that “Come Over When You’re Sober 2 is done,” producers worked on the album after the rapper’s death, and his estate posted a photo of a test cassette dated Sept. 14. Tasked with assembling order from a vault of unreleased material, his collaborators landed on a track list that leans into his loss. When Lil Peep talks about death, his lyrics have a gravity inaccessible to living artists. While West’s “I Thought About Killing Myself” feels exhibitionist, Peep’s “Life Is Beautiful” is a dignified paean to human mortality — “There comes a time when everybody meets the same fate.”

The release of “Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2” was timed near the one-year anniversary of Lil Peep’s death. In the SoundCloud rap scene, which prioritizes immediacy, waiting can seem like a contradiction — but here, it works as a statement of relevance. Still, it’s difficult to listen removed from the context of 2018 — the references to death feel postmortem, and when Peep says, “I wanna burn my old high school into the ground,” it at first sounds like a crass reference to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Lil Peep has always written melodies that seem inevitable, and this album further proves his ear for hooks. “Broken Smile (My All)” and “Life Is Beautiful” are at least as memorable as anything on “Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 1,” and the vocals, filtered through GarageBand, are as frothy and layered as ever. The album, with a longer gestation period than any prior release from Peep, cements a legacy restricted by the throes of death. On “Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2,” Lil Peep adds his name to a lineage of artists — Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Nick Drake — who peaked after death.

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