Opinion: Lil Peep’s Death Is Not A Drug PSA

By: Naomi Metoyer

On November 15th, 2017, the music industry and the world lost upcoming hip hop revolutionist Lil Peep, or Gustav Ahr, to drug overdose. The passing of this twenty one year old American SoundCloud rapper and singer was not the only thing to come from the tragedy, but also the onslaught of countless drug PSA’s over every media outlet from Twitter to Tumblr to local news.

In the uproar after the rapper/singer’s death, countless fans and non-listeners alike took to the media the issue of drug use in popular culture and music in an attempt to dissuade the young from supporting this romanization of addiction. And while these reminders are not wrong to promote this message, if we are to make anything more from this tragic loss, it should address the real underlying problem: awareness of mental illness and depression.

Topics such as self harm, mental illness, and drug use came up consistently within his new age style of music that blended the ideas of hip hop, rap, and emo punk. With a tattoo over his eye that reads “crybaby” and a mix of songs all centering upon deep sadness caused by challenges with his sexuality and other factors, the artist’s persona was built upon an ultimately bleak image. But this ideal only perpetuates the minimization of mental illness. Maybe this is why nobody saw this coming, or tried to help stop it.

A post on his Instagram hours before the icon’s tragic death highlighted the very same themes of depression, loneliness, and suicide that are found in his songs, the mention of drugs only an aspect of the bigger picture that is mental illness. If his lyrics were the signs and his cryptic twitter posts were the symptoms of depression, then his last moments on Instagram were the very definition of a cry for help.

 

Day N Night
ANAHEIM, CA – SEPTEMBER 08: Rapper Lil Peep performs onstage during the Day N Night Festival at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 8, 2017 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

The idea that Peep could only find “happiness for like 10 seconds and then it [was] gone” supports the reactions of his followers on the idea of drug abuse. Yet the real issue lies within the fact that this mental state creates the dilemma within a person of “I don’t let people help me but I need help,” as he also confides about his life in his final Instagram post.

 

This condition is not one fueled by loss or change, but rather a feeling of emptiness and hopelessness that arises seemingly from nothing, and that’s what so many fail to understand. Peep was not only driven to a life of pill popping and counting the hours between Xanaxes due to the influence of hip hop or SoundCloud culture, but the endless struggle against depression as well.

We have to remember, in a society where every emotion we feel is either publicized, minimized, or dramatized, we are still people. We are more than just profiles, but living and breathing beings.

We also have to realize that although drug addiction, popular culture, mental illness, and whatever else is wrong in our world are important to talk about, a person who was once in our world is no longer here. An artist, a friend, a son is gone. That is the real tragedy.