Mental health issues ran rampant in 2020 with COVID-19 taking away social interaction and leaving everyone to cope by themselves in quarantine. I personally found myself delving more into the genre of emo rap headed by Gustav Åhr, stage name Lil Peep, since I started listening to him in the Summer of 2017. I went on a Lil Peep binge so heavy in 2020 that I even tattooed “hellgirl” above my knee in honor of his mixtape, “Hellboy.” Peep died Nov. 15, 2017 in an accidental fentanyl-laced Xanax overdose but his reach to this day is long-lasting.
Massachusetts lockdown started on my 21st birthday, March 17, 2020. No one knew what we had coming for us. UMass Boston sent us home the Thursday before Spring Break and we’ve been online ever since. The US National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health’s “Effects of COVID-19 on College Students’ Mental Health in the United States: Interview Survey Study” states, “Of the 195 students, 71 percent indicated increased stress and anxiety due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Multiple stressors were identified that contributed to the increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depressive thoughts among students. These included fear and worry about their own health and of their loved ones, difficulty in concentrating, disruptions to sleeping patterns, decreased social interactions due to physical distancing, and increased concerns on academic performance. To cope with stress and anxiety, participants have sought support from others and helped themselves by adopting either negative or positive coping mechanisms.” Okay, so we have the data on how much this pandemic wreaked havoc on our systems; but what does this have to do with SoundCloud rappers?
People turn to many different things in times of need or despair. Music is always there for people, whether you’re listening to “Such Small Hands’’ by La Dispute, “money machine” by 100gecs, or “STOOPID” by 6ix9ine, music is there for you. In “The use of Music Therapy in the treatment of Mental Illness and the enhancement of Societal Wellbeing” by Shentong Wang and Mark Agius, they state, “simply listening to Music is said to reduce symptoms of depression in adults. Music listening over a period of time helps to reduce depressive symptoms in the adult population.” Whether listening to depressing music (such as Lil Peep) is going to make you feel better is another question, but people take comfort in collective experiences. In his music, Peep talks about dealing with depression and addiction, two things many people deal with. As seen from these studies, an increased amount of people are struggling with what Lil Peep sings and raps about. Of course, he also sings about railing bitches in the back of a G-Wagon but it’s such a good beat!
All jokes aside, Lil Peep was a trailblazer in this genre of “emo rap.” The revival of “emo” as a genre has been instrumental to hundreds of thousands of emo kids out there. From the 2007 MySpace days to My Chemical Romance’s heyday to GothBoiClique, emo is here to stay. Lil Peep joined the clique after moving to Los Angeles in 2015. The distinctive beats, samples from all over (including from pop-punk bands like Brand New), and catchy yet depressing lyrics keep musicians like Lil Peep relevant throughout 2020 and beyond!
Every time another musician dies, conversations about drug addiction, mental health, and society are brought to light. Everyone knew Peep was depressed and struggling with drug addiction but conversations about mental health in the music industry only come forward when people die. In this pandemic, life was upended and people were faced with the worst parts of themselves that only come out when alone. Music helps people sort through that and come out on top.