Last night around midnight I was listening to, “The Brightside,” by Lil Peep when I came across a tweet that read, “RIP lil peep.” My initial thought was that this was just another media scam, but I refreshed my timeline and my feed was flooded with the news that Lil Peep had actually died.
It didn’t feel real to me. I was literally listening to his voice through my headphones when I found out that he had just lost his life.
For those who don’t know, Lil Peep (Gustav Åhr) was a SoundCloud rapper on the rise. He found a way to create an unique sound within his music by blending emo and hip-hop. Lil Peep had been recording in his bedroom from the skid row of Los Angeles – making something out of nothing – Lil Peep was one of the most promising and influential artists emerging from SoundCloud. In addition to rap, Lil Peep was also a fashion icon who had just begun making runway appearances. He was only 21. Only 21 years old and lost his life due to an alleged overdose.
It had been known for quite some time that Lil Peep had been struggling with depression and drug addiction. Those who knew him personally knew it, and fans heard it through his lyrics.
It is also no surprise that in 2017, our generation has glorified the use of drugs and hyped up the idea of death, creating a dark and cryptic romanticized outlook on mental health and addiction.
We see it all the time on social media and we hear it in almost every hip hop song today – the “relatable” jokes about depression and suicide, and the glorification of pills and Xanax. We’ve become so normalized by it that none of it even seems real at this point. On top of that, a large amount of the people hyping up these issues have never actually dealt with addiction or depression first hand – it’s just a cool and trendy thing now, and that is not okay.
I’ve seen the damage that comes along with drug addiction first hand. I grew up watching it tear up my family, and I saw it destroy my older brother. I watched my nieces and nephews lose the innocence of having a real childhood because of it. I’m 20 years old and I still haven’t been able to build a real relationship with my older siblings due to their addictions. It’s not a joke. It’s not trendy. It’s not cool.
I remember going to a Blackbear concert over the summer and watching a group of girls who couldn’t be any older than 13, rap along to lyrics about being strung out on coke and using pills as a coping mechanism. 13 is too young to already be normalized to drug use. With a smile on their face, those young girls rapped along as if what they were saying didn’t hold a deeper and darker meaning. It’s sad and it’s scary.
To make matters worse, another issue that has evolved out of this mess is the stigma that addiction and depression is a choice. We all know that person who has tried drugs once and then changed their twitter bio to something related to popping Xanax. Kids are mixing up the difference between being sad and being depressed and claiming to have mental illness when they have never been diagnosed with anything. It is nothing but a false representation of what it actually means to have an addiction or an illness, which leads to people thinking others can, “just stop being depressed,” or “just stop abusing drugs.” This is not a game and people need to stop treating it as if it is one.
This false representation is so frustrating and dangerous to those who are truly struggling. An addiction is a physical and mental dependence on a particular substance, and can cause those to be unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects. People cannot just stop having an addiction like it’s nothing, and addiction is not a choice. Nobody just wakes up and thinks, “today I’m going to develop a pill addiction,” or, “today i’m going to start being depressed.” It’s an awful numbing feeling, and those who are actually struggling are being overlooked due to the trends, making it harder for them to get actual help before it’s too late.
If drugs and addiction were not as glorified as they are, people might have been more alarmed and aware of what Lil Peep was saying in his music and the content he was posting. It was a cry for help. Some people understood that which is why they found his music to be so relatable. But there was a large amount of others who overlooked it because they’re so used to hearing about drugs that they didn’t even think twice about what he was saying.
Lil Peep was a good person. He addressed issues on homophobia, women abuse, and the toxicity of hyper masculinity. He pushed boundaries artistically and socially, and openly talked about being apart of the lgbtq+ community. Regardless of your opinion on his music, he deserved a happy ending. My brother deserves a happy ending. Anyone who is suffering with addiction and illness deserves a happy ending and a chance at recovery.
People who are suffering from mental illness will find ways to self-medicate in search of happiness. Please understand that saying, “just don’t take drugs,” will not solve anything. If you know someone who struggling, please urge them to seek out professional help. Do not take your friends and family for granted, tell them that you love them, and reach out to them when they need help. Be understanding, be patient.
Most importantly, stop glorifying drugs. Stop romanticizing depression. Illness and addiction are real and they are serious. It’s not cool or edgy, nor will it ever be. The sooner we end this trend, the more lives will be saved.
Rest easy, Lil Peep. You deserved better and your impact will not be forgotten. Much love.
My name is Tara and I put out articles for UIC Radio every Thursday. I’m a communication and professional writing major at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and I miss Lil Peep. If you want to keep up with my saucy life you can follow me here:
twitter – https://twitter.com/tarabolar
instagram – https://www.instagram.com/tarabolar/