(By: Sarah Chew)
“I got a feelin’ that I’m not gonna be here for next year / So let’s laugh a little before I’m gone.”
Those heavy lyrics are from “The Way I See Things,” a song released in 2015 by Lil Peep, a rising rapper who passed away last week.
CNN reported that the 21-year-old was found unconscious in his tour bus in Tucson, Ariz. on Nov. 15, and that there was evidence of a possible drug overdose.
Despite his foreboding lyrics, fans were still shocked and deeply saddened by his sudden death.
A Ryerson student’s personal reaction
Razi Syed, a business technology management student at Ryerson, said he found out about the news through a Reddit thread, posted by a friend of Lil Peep.
Syed had attended Lil Peep’s concert just three weeks before, so he said his first reaction to the news was denial, shortly followed by despair.
“The death of anyone is really sad, but someone that I can really connect with… it just hit stronger,” Syed said.
Syed said he had related to Lil Peep’s songs about the rapper’s mental illnesses and frequent drug use because he has had similar struggles.
“I’ve been addicted to a lot of different pills and different drugs,” said Syed, “so [his music] was therapeutic.”
A night of remembrance
Some Toronto fans wanted to pay their respects on their home turf. Stas Ivanov was the first of his friends to create a vigil for the artist.
The Flock Rotisserie + Greens prep cook said the idea came after he woke up to a text message from his friend on Thursday morning.
After reading the news, he said he became “extremely upset” and made a Facebook event “very spontaneously.”
“Almost within the first half hour, I decided to make the event, because I was like, ‘Oh shit, people in Toronto are not going to be taking this well,’” Ivanov said.
“Even though we never met, it still felt like losing a family member or something,” Ivanov continued, sniffling.
“Just being so close to him through all these different connections, following him and listening to him everyday, and he’s just gone…,” he trailed off, his voice thick with emotion.
Daniel Tabak, Ivanov’s friend and second host of the vigil, said after finding out about Lil Peep’s passing his “heart sank, and I stayed up all night listening to his music.”
Together with their friend Karin Desu, the three decided to hold the ceremony at Cherry Beach, south of downtown Toronto. Ivanov said he thought other Lil Peep fans in the area needed the vigil to “let go and find a way to be happy and come together and celebrate his life and who he was.”
Despite never putting together a vigil before, they seemed to have checked off every box by having a “bonfire, [playing] pretty much every song he’s ever made, and everyone brought candles and photos and things they made and put it all around the fire.”
Ivanov said he delivered a speech, they held a moment of silence and a devoted fan even brought a large sheet of fabric for the nearly hundred people at the vigil to sign and leave messages.
Tabak said he had expected the possibility of Lil Peep’s tragic death due to the rapper’s tormented lyrics, but he didn’t want to believe his thoughts.
“You hope that once someone makes it out of there, once you achieve success like that, he can focus on being an artist, but of course the lifestyle that a tour brings encourages more drug use,” said Tabak.
“I hate to say it but everyone thought [so]. He sung about [his mental illness and drug addiction],” Ivanov said. “He sung about it in so many songs and he was so depressed.”
Substance use and abuse starts young
Young adults between the ages of 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group, according to Ontario’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
CAMH also reports that men have higher rates of addiction than women, and that those who suffer with mental illness and addictions have a higher chance of dying prematurely than the general population.
The connection between musicians and substance abuse has been well-documented in the media. Prince, Janis Joplin, and Elvis Presley are just some of the musicians who were gone too soon because of drug addictions.
A study by the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that musical performers could use drugs for reasons such as enhancing their strength and endurance, fighting physical or emotional pain, as well as reducing stress and boosting their confidence. Opioids have a soothing effect, said the study, although they “significantly lower average age at death.”
A student musician’s take on drugs
A student musician at Ryerson, who spoke to RUtv News on the condition of anonymity, said he uses drugs – specifically marijuana – to enhance his music.
“I personally love making music when I’m high off weed,” said the Rye musician. “I feel like what I create is much better than the stuff I write when I’m sober.”
He retold the story of the second time he got high off weed, and how he “noticed that music sounded different,” like he could “feel the music more.”
In his stoned state, he recalled listening to a song he had recorded and thinking “it was total garbage.”
“I kept on beating myself up mentally to a point of self hatred,” the artist said. “So I just picked up my instruments and wrote. When I hit the playback button, it was exactly what I wanted to hear – it was actually music, not just some generic noise. I ended up showing that song to my friend, and he said it was the best song at that time that I wrote.”
A haunting legacy
Regardless of personal music tastes, Lil Peep’s death should give people something to think about.
The average lifespan of substance-using celebrities is 38.6 years, according to the CAMH study, and 75 per cent of those deceased were male.
Should this pattern continue?
Syed, who’s been clean from drug use for two years, said his message to anyone suffering from substance addiction is that “life is very precious.”
“Your life is worth much more than the pleasures you can possibly get from any drug.”
As for Lil Peep’s legacy, Tabak said he’s going to keep his albums on replay.
“I hope his friends carry on the torch in his name, [because] he’s certainly inspired a lot of up-and-coming artists,” said Tabak. “He’s truly a unique artist, and that doesn’t just disappear.”
(Header photo courtesy of Billboard)