Album Review : Lil Peep - Come Over When You're Sober, Part 1 (2017)
SoundCloud rap is a fascinating beast. It’s something that just organically happened, without the approval of a music label’s board room or any significant financial investment whatsoever. Broken, but intelligent kids poured their heart into their music, shared it online and it went viral like in a corny movie about the American dream. Several young rappers found success almost overnight through SoundCloud, but not all of them are actually good. The freewheeling nature of the platform gave a voice to strange, volatile dudes who could randomly share 40 seconds of themselves screaming over an acoustic guitar riff online *.
My favorite SoundCloud rapper is the late Lil Peep. He’s perhaps the only one I would call conventionally talented even if his music is anything but conventional. Let’s examine the album that turned him into a cultural phenomenon, Come Over When You’re Sober, Part 1.
One of the specificities of Lil Peep’s sound is that his beats don’t provide any melody. They’re moody and barren, consisting often of a couple guitar notes and 808 drums. Although he used samples in the past, there isn’t any on Come Over When You’re Sober, Part 1. There is occasionally a synth line that provides some melody, but it mostly comes from Peep’s singing. Of course this is not unheard of, but it’s a crucial element that makes his music so memorable. Whenever the legacy of Lil Peep is discussed, the conversation always revolves around emo and glorification of depression and self-harm, but his songwriting skills are often overlooked **.
Come Over When You’re Sober, Part 1 is a unique and moody mixture of grunge influences, goth rock, emo, new wave and, of course, hip-hop. On songs like Benz Truck and The Brightside, it’s tough not to hear artists like Brand New or John Frusciante influencing the creative process. But I particularly loved Save That Shit and U Said, which have in common to be Lil Peep’s most infectious signalongs. His voice, delivery and charisma carry these songs so effortlessly, he might as well have recorded them acapella. Perhaps the only song that doesn’t have a strong identity here is the closer Problems, which is thematically and sonically too similar to The Brightside, a more polished song that comes right before it.
A common criticism against Lil Peep’s writing is that his songs aren’t deep. I would agree that they’re not deep and counter by saying the experience of singing them out loud is. Lots of classic rock songs aren’t that deep either, but the powerful, liberating feeling of singing lines like: Sometimes life gets fucked up/That’s why we get fucked up is. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Lil’ Peep’s negativity notwithstanding, it’s a great thing that such a cathartic and spontaneous artist became so popular in the age where we tend to overanalyze things in 5,000 words thinkpieces on Medium.
The other major criticism hovering over Lil Peep’s legacy is his romanticization of depression and death. He’s neither the first or the last goth musician guilty of that. It’s a 250 years old aesthetic. The first ever gothic novel Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto is filled with fucked up romance and death. Albeit his death was ruled accidental, Peep will obviously serve as a cautionary tale for the dangers of falling in love with death ***.
But I believe there is something deeper to his legacy. By combining the bravado of hip-hop and the vulnerability of emo, he created music that was about confronting your problems. Peep couldn’t run away from his problems because he sold them to people, but saying them out loud and not hiding them away is often the first step to solving them.
By dying so young, Lil Peep accidentally became a twenty-first century James Dean. It happened to the likes of Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain in music. It also happened to David Foster Wallace in literature. His passing will keep his memory pristine to his audience. Come Over When You’re Sober, Part 1 was a solid debut album the foreshadowed the promise of only deeper and more sophisticated music as Peep would grow older and more artistically mature. It’s nonetheless an atypical hip-hop record filled with memorable singalongs. The instrumentals are original albeit a little underdeveloped at times, but Peep himself carried the record with a charisma and an intensity that we will remember him by
* I’m looking at you, XXXTentacion.
** My man wasn’t exactly John Lennon, but he and his producer Smokeasac developed a sound that was clever and memorably.
*** Should have he known better? Fuck no, he was 21 years old.