‘Lil Peep: Everybody’s Everything,’ Reviewed
It takes a world health crisis, a pandemic, to make me watch a documentary about emo rapper Lil Peep on Netflix. Why not? Even if you are like me and have never cared for Lil Peep’s music, the low key documentary ‘Lil Peep: Everybody’s Everything,’ directed by Sebastian Jones and Ramez Silyan, is a very human story that you will watch with a heavy heart. It’s nevertheless a story heard many times before, a talented musician finds fulgurant fame, wants to change the world and dies of a drug overdose, burning his life before even reaching adulthood: Lil Peep, real name Gustave Elijah Åhr, actually died just 2 weeks after his 21st birthday. There is also the absent father – a friend will even say that Gus hated his father – but there is a very encouraging and loving grandfather, Marxist historian and Harvard professor John Womack, Jr., who becomes a male figure when his parents separate, and writes letters to little Gus, always telling him to have faith in himself,’The wounds your father gave you did not heal…I see pure gold in you.’
The film is built around plenty of home movies of this adorable blonde kid who will slowly transform into this face-neck-back-hand heavy tattooed charismatic performer with neon pink hair. The film even starts with a concert in New York on April 17, 2017, with Lil Peep performing in front of an ecstatic crowd inside a packed-to-the-roof Webster hall. People love him, adore him, but during another record-label show in Los Angeles, he can barely perform when he hits the stage, he mumbles his lyrics, looks disoriented in a daze, but he finally wakes up and finishes the show with great success. But you can tell there are still problems and he will eventually overdose on Xanax and Fentanyl a month later.
Since childhood, Lil Peep felt different, he was a cute creative little guy growing up into a rebellious adolescent with a lot of insecurities, especially after the divorce of his parents. His mother, family members, friends, and teacher describe him as a very sweet person, who didn’t want a normal job and didn’t want to be a normal person. ‘You are smoking pot, you are not an athlete,’ his mother tells him, but he felt like an absolute loser. Lil Peep was also a walking contradiction, getting more face tattoos and complaining about people judging him. ‘He wanted to make himself an outsider,’ says his grandmother, echoing, ‘A tattoo on your face is gonna stop you from getting a lot of jobs.’
After moving to Los Angeles from his native Long Island, Lil Peep became a real phenomenon, with absolutely no industry support and not even an album out. With the help of many friends including Brennan Savage, producer JGRXXN, rappers Ghostemane, Craig Xen, collective Schemaposse, Lil Peep is the new god of LA’s underground scene, and suddenly 3000 Russian fans are there to see him, he plays sold-out shows everywhere in Europe, but he is still surprised to have a Wikipedia page, joking about the fact they can’t even define his new form of music, emo rap,… pop-punk,… hip hop, … trap, alt-rock. There was real childlike quality and innocence attached to his persona, he was still a kid, even called the Kurt Cobain of lo-fi rap, making an undeniable connection with his fans thanks to his lyrics, which were touching subjects as profound as mental health, depression, sexual identity, abuse, and bullying.
Even though he had more tattoos than a metalhead, his heart was big and we are told he had an innate sense of justice, as he wanted to change things and was struggling with the materialism of music business,… he never got the chance, Lil Peep’s duality, because the vulnerable and sweet kid behind the scene and the charismatic performer on stage died on November 15th, 2017 before even finishing his Come Over When You’re Sober tour.
The story is told through people who knew him very well, his mother and grandfather are very present throughout the movie, and even if you didn’t have any attachment to his music and even fail to see the appeal of the music (like me), the humanity behind the scene is palpable. Lil Peep had found an outlet for his creativity, and he seemed to be the next hero of a generation. But with pressure, success, money, and people telling him ‘If you want to achieve what you want, you have to leave people behind,’ tragedy is at the corner, or in a bus, when everyone failed to check on him for a few hours thinking he was just sleeping.
Lil Peep’s story is a narration we know too well, the story of a sensible artist who dared to be different, was celebrated by plenty but could not handle the usual heavy fame package. He left this comment on his Instagram shortly before his tragic death: ‘I just wana be everybody’s everything I want too much from people but then I don’t want anything from them at the same time u feel me I don’t let people help me but I need help but not when I have my pills but that’s temporary one day maybe I won’t die young and I’ll be happy? What is happy I always have happiness for like 10 seconds and then it’s gone. I’m getting so tired of this.’ And in the middle of this virus shit storm, I ended up connecting with Gus without even having listened to Lil Peep.