If you were going to bet on the young musicians most likely to soon be superstars, until yesterday, a lot of smart money would have been on Lil Peep. The rising trend on the Billboard Hot 100 is a woozy-slow mutation of rap, obsessed with drugs, emotionally open but still marked by macho posturing. Gustav Åhr, the Long Island–raised 21-year-old who went by Lil Peep, spiked that brew with the catchy yelping and self-loathing sensibility of emo and pop punk, just at the moment when a popular revival of those scenes seemed imminent. And he arrived as a fully-formed, totally watchable generational symbol. To dive into his world, as hundreds of thousands have done in the two years since he started uploading his music to SoundCloud and YouTube, is to be magnetized.
Lil Peep died Wednesday night in Tucson. The Guardian reports he’d been hospitalized for an overdose, and the last 24 hours of his Instagram is a chronicle of drug-taking and death notes. The same, though, could be said of many 24-hours periods in Peep’s packed social media feeds. He is, of course, not the only rising star of his—or any generation—to take addiction and suicidal thoughts as lyrical inspiration, and he’s not the first to obsess over Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. Fixating on mortality was part of the act, but as important to his appeal was his delivery style: the enveloping haze, the singalong center, the specific attitude and look, all of which earned him notices in The New York Times and GQ.