Film Review: Lil Peep: Everybody’s Everything.

Film Review Series by Lance Sinclair.

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This week State Library of Queensland’s cinephile, Lance Sinclair, reviews Lil Peep: Everybody's Everything, directed by Sebastian Jones and Ramez Silyan.

Image from the documentary Lil Peep: Everybody's Everything, directed by Sebastian Jones and Ramez Silyan, produced by Benjamin Soley, streamed on Kanopy database.

Lil Peep: Everybody’s Everything

Gustav Ahr, unknown at the age of 19, dead and famous at 21, is at once the manifestation of a new age of music and simply another chapter in a seemingly endless cycle of rise and fall biographies as old as the notion of showbusiness itself. Better known by his stage name Lil Peep, the story of Gus and the ripple effects of his tragically short life are chronicled beautifully in Everybody’s Everything, a documentary of often uncomfortable intimacy.

A disenfranchised teen, carving out some small space in the world for himself through the new century’s accessibility to home recording, Gus would find himself over the space of two years accelerating from releasing self-made, rough recordings to being heralded as the newest shining light in the worlds of both music and fashion. The milieu of Soundcloud Rap, from which Peep sprang, is a fascinating deep dive into a branch of the music world completely separate from the industry that for so long has acted as a middleman between artists and their audience. By recording their music under relatively primitive conditions, and releasing it often for free directly to those who hold an interest in that music, it’s a community that operates in real-time, with no gatekeepers attempting to filter, sanitise, or otherwise manipulate the relationship between musicians and their fans. It is, as is often mentioned in Everybody's Everything, the next evolution of Punk music and it’s supposed ethos of operating outside the constraints of tradition. And while Punk inevitably fossilizes into the deeply conservative institution it was destined to be, a new spawn has arrived, fed a diet of culture at a volume and scale unlike anyone before them, meshing all of the disparate influences sounds and experiences available to them into strange new forms.

This is a documentary that provides – both good and bad – a human face and voice for a genre that is either ridiculed or not even on the cultural playing field for a huge percentage of music fans over a certain age.

Lil Peep, who infused the clicking, paranoid pulse of Trap music with his stamp of raw vulnerability to create something genuinely new is the anomaly that occasionally pops up in the music world – a genuine, unvarnished underdog with the potential to cross over to a staggering global fan-base. This documentary, which takes it’s time immersing the viewer into its hazy world, follows this lost soul’s journey not only through the talking head post-mortem interviews with collaborators, hangers-on and family members that are now the standard for music film, but also by literally looming over the shoulder of Peep through the tumult of his brief ride. The portability and accessibility of contemporary equipment allowed not only him to create and release music as quickly as it was being composed, but also the many hands involved in this project to capture in real time the events surrounding it. There is a visceral immediacy to the ample concert footage in the movie, from grimy warehouse shows to small arenas, that is a million miles distanced from the way we are often used to seeing filmed performances.

And it’s this staggering archive of footage that allows this story to meander, at its own pace, from set piece to set piece as Gus’ life spirals out control, despite the contemporary scenario, into a story that keeps repeating itself. The sensitive artist, burdened with the demons that make their art possible, succumbing to the trappings of money, of parasitic cliques, and especially here, drugs. The way Peep almost seems to disappear into the spaces he occupies is one of the most haunting take-aways from this collage of imagery.

Constructed in a gently impressionistic manner, it’s a testament to how new ideas can be married with old – the recurring use of voiceover from Gus’ beloved grandfather, as he reads aloud excerpts from the many letters he would pen, ruminating on faith, love, honor and virtue to a boy teetering on the edge of something are the spine that give the movie a greater resonance beyond the immediacy that will dull with each passing month it exists.

At the time of his death – completely open about his bisexuality, refusing to work with homophobes in a genre long plagued by these ideas, his face permanently altered by deliberately exclusionary tattoos, formulating theories about how best to remove the capitalist machinations from an corrupt and sagging industry, this was an idealist in a world becoming more and more comfortable with nihilism. A young voice, speaking to a young audience about making something more. Taken by an excess that still seems entrenched in the world of music.

A haunting story that will sit with the viewer long after it’s finished. A new story, also a story as old as any of us, a story worth re-telling.

Further reading

  • Lil' Xan, Lil' Peep and the breakout of emo-rap. 2018, Jan 18. Las Cruces Sun - News; p.T.1. (article
  • Reality of Trap: Trap Music and its Emancipatory Potential. Jernej Kaluža, 2018. IAFOR Journal of Media, Communication & Film, Vol.5(1), pp.23-41. (article
  • Who Is Lil Peep, the Trailblazing Emo-Rapper Dead at Age 21?: Why the rapper’s unique blend of brazen hip-hop production and the emotional angst of “emo” lyrics made him such a phenomenon with young fans, and a lightning rod in the industry. Fallon, Kevin; 2017, Nov. 16. The Daily Beast. (article)
  • ‘Everybody’s Everything’ is a raw portrayal of the late emo-rapper Lil Peep. Turkel, Lucie; 2019, Nov. 19. University Wire. (article)
  • The Torment & Tragedy of Lil Peep. Peisner, David; 2019. Rolling Stone; Iss.1326,  pp.62,64-67,94. (article)
  • Metaphysical graffiti : rock 'n' roll and the meaning of life. Kaufman, Seth; 2019,  New York ; London : OR Books. (ebook)
  • Hip-hop : a cultural and musical revolution. Oswald, Vanessa; 2019, New York : Lucent Press. (ebook)
  • Fentanyl, Inc. : how rogue chemists are creating the deadliest wave of the opioid epidemic. Westhoff, Ben; 2019, Melbourne ; London: Scribe. (ebook)

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