Fans reflect on drug substance abuse and depression after SoundCloud rapper’s death

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Photo Credit: Melanie Westfall | Daily Texan Staff

Found unresponsive in his tour bus after a drug overdose, emo rapper Lil Peep died three weeks ago, shocking his fans and the music community.

But to some, his death was not a surprise. Lil Peep’s fan base, which stretches to over 448,000 followers on SoundCloud, were aware of the lyrics of his songs, which frequently referenced his use of Xanax, among other drugs, and his lifelong struggle with depression.

His reliance on prescription drugs places him among the 11.5 million Americans aged 12 and older who misused prescription pain medicine last year, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The Center of Disease Control reports 91 Americans die every day from opioid abuse.

In the wake of Lil Peep’s death, not only have fans and notable artists such as Post Malone expressed their sorrow, but Ariel Alexander, social work junior,  said they’ve begun a conversation about the need to take seriously cries for help present in rap music.

“His lyrics were totally clues,” said Alexander, a fan who discovered Lil Peep’s music through SoundCloud. “If someone is talking about wanting to die, he probably needs to talk to somebody.”

Alexander said Lil Peep’s heavy blend of emo and rap resonated with young listeners because his music echoed typical adolescent struggles, such as loneliness.

In his song “Praying To The Sky,” Lil Peep raps, “I found some Xanax in my bed, I took that shit, went back to sleep. They gon’ miss me when I’m dead, I lay my head and rest in peace.”

“I think there is a tendency in this genre to use self-medication for mental health issues,” Alexander said.

James Gorczyca is a metal rapper with 535 followers on SoundCloud. He said both his and Lil Peep’s music share heavy, instrumental sounds. The rapper’s death, he said, made him reflect on what listeners thought of Lil Peep’s drug use.

“People who listen to his music and take Xanax think it’s all part of the culture,” James Gorczyca said. “They don’t see that when (Lil Peep) does it, it can mean something darker.”

As someone who takes antidepressants himself, Gorczyca said their abuse is a neglected topic of discussion in music. Sometimes, the music itself encourages their abuse, he said.

“The music doesn’t help the Xanax culture… this dude really needed help,” James Gorczyca said. Although Lil Peep has 1.9 million followers on Instagram, “they’re not someone you can talk to about your problems.”

Anthony Gorczyca, computer science senior and James’ older brother, said over the Thanksgiving break, he noticed how sad James was over Lil Peep’s death.

Anthony Gorczyca said Lil Peep is an example of a person who endured common teenage woes in an unlucky way.

“This is a broader issue,” Anthony Gorczyca said. “Fans need to learn not to repeat his mistakes.”

Lil Peep, born Gustav Ahr, was raised in Long Island, New York. He told numerous publications that he struggled to fit in during school, and admitted to battles with drug abuse and suicidal thoughts.

After he dropped out of high school, he began pursuing music, uploading songs on SoundCloud. Lil Peep later grew to prominence and has over 35 million views on YouTube for his music video, “Awful Things.”

“His death brings up a lot of discussion,” Anthony Gorczyca said. “He lived a rock star’s lifestyle.”