Lil Peep, the young rapper whose mix of intimate emo lyricism and foggy underground hip-hop resonated with a young crowd that loved both genres, has died. He was 21.
His death Wednesday while on tour in Tucson was confirmed to The Times by Sgt. Pete Dugan of the Tucson Police Department.
Dugan said the the rapper, born Gustav Ahr on Long Island, N.Y., had been booked to perform at a Tucson bar called the Rock.
His tour staff had not seen the artist before the scheduled show time, Dugan said, which prompted his manager to check on him. Ahr was found unresponsive in the tour bus about 9 p.m. Wednesday. The Tucson Fire Department and local police were called to the scene and could not revive him.
Based on paraphernalia found at the scene, Dugan said the suspected cause of death was an overdose of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, which some rappers in underground hip-hop take as a party drug. Dugan said there were no other signs of foul play.
Ahr grew up in the Long Beach area of Long Island, the son of a college professor and elementary school teacher. He dropped out of high school to pursue music (though he later obtained his diploma) and moved to Los Angeles to create an unlikely but appealing mix of early-aughts emo samples and cutting-edge hip-hop. For fans of local clubs like Emo Nite, where DJs play trap music and My Chemical Romance back-to-back, it was an instantly appealing new sound.
With his striking face tattoos — including a gothic-script “Crybaby” above his eyelid and a red anarchy symbol on his cheek — and colorful street-punk-meets-expensive-streetwear fashion sense, he had obvious star power. Ahr quickly gained popularity in 2015 on the streaming site SoundCloud.
Ahr admitted his persona was a bit of an exaggeration. “It’s like professional wrestling — everyone has to be a character,” he told Pitchfork in an early interview. But he also spoke frankly about suicidal impulses and his heavy drug use. In the burgeoning world of SoundCloud-famous rap, “Xanax” has become a popular metaphor for wanting to feel dissociated from the world and pain.
In 2016, he released his first mixtapes, “Crybaby” and “Hellboy.” They were largely recorded in his skid row apartment in downtown L.A.; the proximity to glamour and despair provided the backdrop to his writing.
He told the New York Times that during those sessions, he would record “when I was high enough to hear something and get inspired.” Fans responded to that candor about drugs, his emotional swings from bravado to desperation, and the intimacy of his performances, which included a stage setup featuring the actual mattress from his bedroom. In August, he also came out as bisexual on his Twitter feed.
On the popular single “Crybaby,” Peep mixed the hip-hop cockiness and depressive tendencies that defined his world view: “And I got this vibe, I swear it's perfect to ride to / I wanna die too, we all wanna die too.”
He released his debut album, “Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 1,” to wide acclaim in August. Peep last performed in Los Angeles in October at the Echoplex.
After news of his death broke, musicians including rappers Juicy J and Post Malone, electro-punk singer Alice Glass and super-producer Diplo wrote condolences online.
Post Malone said: “in the short time that i knew you, you were a great friend to me and a great person. your music changed the world and it'll never be the same. i love you bud. forever”
“Beyond devastating that Iil peep has passed. He was by far the best thing in music this past couple years and he was just a lil baby at 21,” Glass wrote.