#PopRocks by Joshua Minsoo Kim Music

Lil Peep | Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2

January 2, 2019

The music that Gustav Åhr made as emo-trapper Lil Peep was confessional, misanthropic, self-loathing, bringing fans some solace just by showing them that their pain was understood by somebody. Given the personal nature of Peep’s music, it’s especially challenging to hear Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2 and not have the rapper’s untimely death weigh on the mind. With this posthumous collection, it’s almost as if the ghost of Gustav Åhr has returned to console listeners; and yet, the circumstances surrounding it are troubling. While Peep released the first part of Come Over When You’re Sober on First Access Entertainment, certain aspects of this new release are likely a result of Columbia Records’ recent acquisition of Åhr’s archived music. Most controversial is “Falling Down,” a single that features XXXTentacion — who Åhr never wished to collaborate with during his life. The two artists were supposedly on the path to resolving their beef, but X’s verse was still recorded after Åhr passed. Questions regarding Columbia’s upholding of Åhr’s artistic vision are certainly valid — especially on tracks that feel like a markedly more polished version of Peep’s signature sound. This is most evident in “16 Lines,” a song that was clearly edited from the leaked, original version to make it sound more accessible. Moreover, Pt. 2 also features reworkings of previously released material: two old Peep verses are combined to craft opener “Broken Smile (My All),” and a completely new beat accompanies the verse from Feelz track “Life” for “Life Is Beautiful.” This all amounts to Pt. 2 feeling like, at least partially, a post-mortem cash-grab.

But this release is still built on the foundation of Lil Peep’s music: monotone singing ruptured by wails; emotive guitar melodies and trap production; and lyrics that are equal parts catharsis and self-inflicted dehiscence. While Peep wasn’t the progenitor of emo rap, his approach to the style often featured a poignant marriage of monotony and viscera. The result: a blunt reminder that the response to deep pain isn’t always hysteria. More than anything, Peep’s music depicts a precise portrait of persistent depressive disorder, a chronic form of low-grade depression that can lasts for years. And that’s innately present here in the mundanity of tracks with straightforward song structures and laconic vocal deliveries, which mirror the actual, undramatized nature of depression. Listening to Pt. 2 thus recalls how depression chips away at one’s self-worth, how suicidal ideation can gradually transition from corny off-the-cuff comment to justifiably sane solution. Peep’s music helps one become aware of that subtle process, and consequently reassures listeners that they aren’t alone in their suffering. Part and parcel to this has been the work of Peep’s producers, including Smokeasac (who has production credits on every track here), and occasional appearances from IIVI and Lars Stalfors, who all create an insular atmosphere that evokes a particular numbness.

No artist deserves to be remembered for their work exclusively as it relates to their death.

Each track’s musical trajectory may be immediately predictable, but that’s also fitting given the lack of lyrical development too. On tracks like “Cry Alone” or “White Girl,” Lil Peep leans into his vices, finding comfort in self-pity. If there’s any emotional release, like that found in “Leanin’” or “Sex With My Ex,” it only results in an expectant despondency — best captured in “Life Is Beautiful,” a song where Lil Peep lists off life’s disenchanting realities: the mundanity of work, the death of family members, the prevalence of police brutality in America. He raps about overcoming these forces, but he soon finds himself with another challenge: a kind of emotional paralysis (“You think you can do it, but your chances are improbable / Once you feel unstoppable, you run into an obstacle”). The inevitable frustration of a return to lethargy, and to apathy, infuses every song on Pt. 2 — and is exacerbated by these tracks’ instrumentals. It’s not often that pop music can succinctly express the fight to function in the real world, despite consistent depressive symptoms. As such, it’s challenging to separate what Peep’s music portrayed from his accidental overdose on fentanyl and Xanax last November. Still, no artist deserves to be remembered for their work exclusively as it relates to their death. (Åhr’s brother even commented that “He was not as sad as people think he was,” pointing to how there was more to Åhr than what his music presented.) The simultaneous familiarity of Pt. 2’s sound, and of the label’s handling of it, make for an uneasy work. But nevertheless, Pt. 2 serves an important function, providing the rare (maybe last?) opportunity for fans to connect with this artist, to again experience the feeling that there’s someone telling their story.

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