Review Summary: i'll be inside, i'm making music to cry to.
Whenever the video for “white tee” dropped, I wasn’t sure what to expect with the blatant Postal Service sample bleeding in the background with Nedarb Nagrom’s signature production being the only slight alteration to the beat. A bold yellow Toytota FJ Cruiser then pulls up, with two figures jumping out of the backseat, and without missing a beat, a newly tatted up Lil Peep begins his verse. By the time Tracy’s (fka “yung bruh”) bass-blown hook smashes through the speakers, I still couldn’t help but be fixated on the massive “Crybaby” tattoo that now rested on half of Peep’s forehead. At first, my surface-level thought was something akin to “jesus christ, these SoundCloud musicians are really taking liberties with these face tattoos huh,”
but once the mixtape bearing the same name dropped just a couple of months later, all preconceived notions of vanity and hedonism that I had previously associated with Lil Peep had almost dissipated entirely. While some argue that he overstated a lot of his mental health issues and drug usage as being part of the aforementioned vanity/hedonism associated with Peep, it’s when you start reading in between the lines of crybaby
that the vulnerable truth starts to come to an ethereal, yet somewhat unsettling fruition.
In interviews that followed the release of crybaby
, and even afterwards during press runs for HELLBOY
as well as Come Over When You’re Sober Pt. 1
, one of the most consistently asked (and answered) questions that would be thrown at Peep usually teetered around the lines somewhat of ”aye Peep, love what you’ve been doing with your past couple of projects man, but what’s the deal with that massive Crybaby tattoo you got on your forehead?”
To which, he would typically answer, “I got the Crybaby tat to keep me grateful, to remind myself that even if I’m going through a lot, there are kids across the world that don’t even have clean water or know when their next meal will be, so I got it to remind myself that I need to be grateful for what little I have, and to keep pushing through for those who can’t.”
With this context now surrounding the whole ethos of this project, it seems fitting that the whole mixtape essentially focuses on Peep’s hopes, dreams, and overcoming the emotions that ever so powerfully bled through nearly every song on here one way or another. Whether it’s through the haunting coke lines on “Lil Jeep” and the Radiohead-sampled “Falling 4 Me”, or through the ambitious glimpse into the future that initially got him signed in the first place with the Smokeasac-produced signature track “Nineteen”, he flips blatant samples and turns them into his own songs. For example, there’s a borderline “Wonderwall’ cover (and hear me out on this one) in the shape of “Yesterday,” where he paints a bleak picture of getting out of a toxic environment with the chorus ”Change my name, shave my head // Tell my friends that I’m dead, run away from the pain // Yesterday is not today, it’s not the same,”
that winds up adding to the source material more often than it taking away anything. More notably though perhaps, is that he never conveys a sense of giving up when singing/rapping about any of these topics, and that only aids the sense of triumph found in moments all throughout the record. While it may seem like Peep is promoting all of the wrong things, what people don’t seem to realize is that he never condones it; it’s almost as if he’s telling the listener to not make the same mistakes as he did, which eventually led to his untimely death just over a year later.
While it’s still debated if Lil Peep was truly “the future of emo” as dubbed by Pitchfork, I think there’s one moment that you can see clearly of the torch being passed. This moment on the record comes from former member of the indie-emo powerhouse Tiger’s Jaw passing off the song to his then-emo-rap protege Lil Peep, as Adam Mcillwee (now known as WICCA PHASE SPRINGS ETERNAL) and Peep share one line together as a mantra in the impeccably produced “Absolute in Doubt” as the song transitions from WICCA’s half into Peep’s, with the line further emphasizing the song’s theme of an unstable relationship, the two are heard belting out ”It wasn’t something that I thought about, but knew that you were absolute in doubt”
. It was at that moment that I knew that Lil Peep wasn’t necessarily “the future” of emo, but rather the blunt, hedonistic, and honest evolution of emo and rap respectively that each genre more than desperately needed. Now with a massive hole left in not just emo, but pop and rap respectfully also, Peep’s impact remains there in a cultural stasis, with his gift of “making music to cry to,” that so many of his collaborators and those influenced by his sound try to replicate, but can’t, nor will ever genuinely succeed in doing so.
”I found myself complaining a lot, being very ungrateful for the things that I have in my life.. so I got the Crybaby tattoo on my face to remind me that I have been doing really good, and there’s a lot of people on earth who would love to be in the position I’m in, so it keeps me really grateful.”
- Lil Peep in an interview with GQ about the meaning behind his tattoos.