This past Thursday marked a year since Lil Peep died. Last November, the rising sensation (real name Gustav Åhr) was found dead in his tour bus, sending shockwaves through the hip hop world and his dedicated following, who had been captivated by his cathartic brand of emo rap.
But Peep’s family and creative circle are trying to keep his flame alive. Last week, his estate released Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt 2, the posthumous sequel to his debut album, which arrived last August. And to our surprise, just like other rappers in the game, Peep’s got a knack for sampling, too. But unlike Drake, who borrows classic R&B hits, or Travis Scott, who prefers injecting old-school hip hop into his own works, Peep’s technique to sampling is more of a call back to his earlier materials such as features and unreleased tracks.
We take a listen to COWYS, Pt 2 and pick apart three songs below:
“Unbreakable” by Craig Xen and “Broken Smile” by PatrickxBlue on “Broken Smile (My All)”
“Unbreakable” by Craig Xen
The album opener “Broken Smile (My All)” sets the themes that run throughout the entire record: death, hopelessness and heartbreak. It’s a hefty track by Peep standards—it runs close to five minutes and is the longest song on COWYS, Pt 2.
The moment “Broken Smile (My All)” begins, it instantly sends a chill down your spine, reminding that you are, after all, listening to the ghost of Gustav Åhr. A haunting melody of fuzzy synths and dramatic keys open the track before Peep enters with the grimmest line to kick off the posthumous album: “I gotta go right now, that’s all / Nothing to it, don’t expect no call.”
The ominous intro borrows Peep’s verse on Craig Xen’s “Unbreakable,” a collab recorded and released back in 2015. Produced by Roca Beats, the song was never released as an official single. In fact, Xen had deleted it (as suggested by this SoundCloud user) and the track only resurfaced last year when fans re-uploaded it onto music streaming platforms.
“Broken Smile” by PatrickxBlue
“Unbreakable” isn’t the only song sampled, though. As the track pans from despair to troubled romance, the beat changes, too. The chorus featured on “Broken Smile (My All)” extracts Peep’s verse from a 2017 track of the same name, “Broken Smile” by PatrickxBlue. It also lifts the song’s alt-rock-infused hip hop melody. “She was the one that was worth my time,” Peep cries out over a moody guitar riff.
Although slightly let down that it’s more of a remix than a brand-new song from Peep, “Broken Smile (My All)” is still a soaring production from Smokeasac and a poignant start to the album.
“Devil Speaks” by PRXJEK on “Cry Alone”
Released as the first official single from COWYS, Pt 2, “Cry Alone” is an eerie, bittersweet track that centers on Peep’s desire for comfort and company—as well as his constant fear of dying alone. “I don’t wanna cry alone right now / Kissing on Styrofoam right now,” he sings at the top of the track in his uniquely monotonous voice.
Also produced by Smokeasac, with help from IIVI and Dylan Cooper, the beat featured on “Cry Alone” is quintessentially Peep: There are guitars and a drum machine, and there are hints of goth and punk rock influence. And if you squint hard enough, there’s a sample of PRXJEK’s “Devil Speaks” underneath the glossy production. It isn’t prominent, but a hint of the track (namely, the soft bell that rings in the background) adds to the haunting vibe of “Cry Alone.”
Peep isn’t the first to borrow the gloomy HKFiftyOne-produced melody. Since its release in 2017, the track has been sampled multiple times by rappers. Some of them include Bhad Bhabie (on “Gucci Flip Flops”), BlocBoy JB (on “Don’t Say That”) and Reese LAFLARE (on “Moody Ring”). But what makes Peep’s version stand out is the subtle use of the sample, which blends into Smokeasac’s beat.
“Life” by Lil Peep on “Life is Beautiful”
“Isn’t life beautiful? I think life is beautiful.” So goes the sardonic hook of this COWYS, Pt 2 single. Peep’s stark articulations of suffering (“Doctor walks in and he tells you that it’s terminal / Tumor in your brain and they’re sayin’ it’s inoperable”) and ruminations on death and suicide on this track might be too grim to bear, but they’re also the reasons why his fans loved him and his music so much.
“Life is Beautiful” is, as many have noted, a remix of “Life,” which Peep actually released in 2015. That track, which you can hear above, isn’t much different from the new version, though there are some stylistic differences: Michigan producer Drip-133’s dusty, whirring production is more front-and-center on “Life,” whereas “Life is Beautiful”—understandably—chooses to foreground Peep’s voice.
This 2018 version certainly sounds cleaner than the original track, which might displease fans who love Peep’s lo-fi, low-maintenance aesthetic. But whereas “Life” feels like a fragment, “Life is Beautiful” sounds more like a fleshed-out vision.
Stream Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt 2 here.