The late Gustav Åhr, better known as Lil Peep, created music that offer a haven to the disenfranchised. His early records were a little corner of the internet that ensconced fans within warm melodies reminding them that they’re not alone. With each release, it became apparent that his ceiling was nowhere in sight. Here was someone willing to think of boundaries as imaginary; instead, utilising what sound was necessary to reveal the suffering that lay inside him.
And this was never more apparent than on his fifth and final mixtape, ‘Hellboy’. Four years to the day of its release on SoundCloud, and almost three years since the Arizona rapper tragically died from a drug overdose at the age of 21, ‘Hellboy’ was recently re-released on streaming services.
‘Hellboy’ paints a surreal portrait of an artist – and, more importantly, a young adult – who is struggling. On ‘fucked up’, Åhr sings: “I ain’t gonna lie, I’ma keep it real / I don’t wanna tell you how I feel”. It’s a confession to his fans and himself that, despite his best intentions, he can never truly reveal what goes inside his anguished mind.
On his previous projects, Åhr hid his vocals around a production consisting of alternative-rock samples. But on ‘Hellboy’, he shares his experiences of rampant drug use, suicidal declarations, depressive tendencies in a powerful and abrasive manner.
Åhr amalgamates several genres here – alternative rock, indie electronica, hip-hop and the emotional vulnerability of emo – to craft a wholly unique sound. His lyrics are affected by a certain strength; a sense of surprise rises in his voice as if he’s telling himself more than anyone how to find light in a dark room. On ‘we think too much’, he reveals: “Nobody knows me, nobody knows one thing about me / Everyone doubts me / But I’ma make it all come true, and I do it for you / I know all about the pain that you go through.”
Elsewhere he explores the depths of his depression, singing on ‘OMFG’: “I used to wanna kill myself / Came up, still wanna kill myself / My life is goin’ nowhere / I want everyone to know that I don’t care.”
Here he exposes the tumultuousness whirlpool of emotions a brain can go through in one day. ‘Hellboy’ artfully and tenderly places this gamut of emotions into a project that portrays its authors as at once audacious and apathetic. The importance of ‘Hellboy’ is marked through its timelessness; it feels as necessary today as it did four years ago. With its re-release, ‘Hellboy’ serves as yet another reminder of the immense talent this unique artist possessed.
Release date: September 25