Emo rapper Lil Peep embodies sadboi aesthetic in new album

Zach Bermejo

Lil Peep is a sadboi.

Portrait of rapper Lil Peep
New York based emo-revivalist rapper Lil Peep. (Photo courtesy of Miller Rodriguez)

Listening to his music, it is not hard to understand that the New York rapper focuses on the melancholy and dramatic. What may be harder to understand is his image, which does not always match his sound.


Lil Peep looks as if the concept art for Jared Leto’s Joker jumped off the page and into the music scene. He is an amalgamation of emo and urban, and it is reflected in his music which gained popularity through SoundCloud and YouTube.

His debut album, “Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 1,” certainly muddles that divide. The opening track, “Benz Truck,” sounds like a trap-hop inspired tune, complete with the stereotypical hip-hop motifs of sex and expensive cars. However, the rest of the album sounds more like a hazy, emo ballad with tinges of rap elements.

In fact, it is arguable that Lil Peep does not actually rap at all in the album. His depressingly monotone verses are interspersed with drawn out melodies, which gives the impression that is he trying to sing rather than have word flow. It works well with the demoniac instrumentation that is emphasized throughout the album, yet can be confusing as to what sort of music you are listening to.

Lil Peep, whose real name is Gustav Åhr, sounds like he would be some goofy and gimmicky rapper and not a member of something called the GothBoiClique. Some of his older singles on his SoundCloud page certainly rely on time-worn lyrics about the rapper lifestyle: sex, money, success, flashy things, etc. The bulk of Lil Peep’s lyrical content is almost the opposite: the consequences of trying to chase such a lifestyle. Sad guitar riffs sulk underneath moody anthems about suicide, broken relationships and excessive drug use. These themes want you to think that Lil Peep is a complex individual victim to the problematic habits of youth, but perhaps they are too strong to be entirely relatable.

As a relatively new artist on the rise, Lil Peep could still go in a different direction with his music. However, his current genre-bending style is consistent enough to suggest that he will not be abandon the emo-rapper persona. He is one of a handful of underground rappers behind what can be called emo revivalism, which is more or less taking emo and somehow making it work within other genres.

Does it work for Lil Peep? Well, I could not imagine listening to Lil Peep’s music with friends, unless we were all ready for a night of heavy drinking and sharing feelings. The sometimes subversively chill rhythms are not to enough to forget the fact that you are listening to someone share their sadboi tragedies. Surprisingly, that can kind of be a buzzkill for a Friday night.

Should you listen to Lil Peep: Maybe.

Lil Peep’s music shoots for a very narrow crowd. At first glance, he appears to be the definition of trying too hard. Though, if you can get past the obnoxious image and histrionic lyrics, you might be able to hear some surprisingly decent punk rhythms. You only need to listen to a reasonable amount of his debut to get a feel for what Lil Peep is: a sadboi.

Available on: YouTube, Spotify, SoundCloud, IHeartRadio 

Collegian reporter Zach Bermejo can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @zach_bermejo.