Deegan Poores | Markus Becerra

Lil Peep, the emo-trap artist who passed away just over three years ago, was a pioneer in the genre that has continued to grow since his passing. During his life, he was rejected by hip-hop fans for not being rap enough and emo kids for not being true to the genre’s roots. Regardless, his popularity and fame have soared over the last few years. I think that this largely comes down to the content of his songs. Peep was a sensitive, thoughtful person who cared deeply about those around him. He recognized early in life that being a sensitive person in America and in modern society, in general, can be exhausting and defeating. This comes through in the way he writes and frames his songs, using typical trap lyrics of over-indulgence and self-destruction to soundtrack his attempts to cope with this realization. At its best, his songwriting was deeply personal but intimate and relatable with choruses that were made to be screamed alone in your car. Some people may pick songs that lean toward the mainstream, but we tried to strike a balance between these two branches of Peep’s output. These are our picks for the twenty-best Lil Peep songs. – Deegan Poores and Markus Becerra

20. Cobain:

“Cobain” references the late “Kurt Cobain” and has Peep rapping about his pain, drug usage, and the troubles of love. It’s a staple Lil Peep track that perfectly encompasses his aesthetic and does a good job of defining him as an artist. The track also features a great verse from Lil Tracy and highlights the great chemistry between these two.

19. The Brightside:

Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 1, Lil Peep’s official debut album and the only one released during his life, was divisive upon release. Many critics found his emo-tinged vocals to be monotone or annoying and his lyrics to be retreads of his earlier work. Some fans took the more accessible song structures and cleaner production as signs that he’d sold out. However, I think it has a lot of great songs, and “The Brightside” is a great example. It’s like an emo ballad with trap drums and production. The featured guitars are palm-muted and liquidy, then transition to big and anthemic during the choruses. The lyrics find Peep jealous over a girl and are similar to The Killer’s “Mr. Brightside”, but filtered through the drugs and depression of Lil Peep’s music. COWYS was a big step for Peep, and it was never supposed to be his final work. I hope it one day receives a critical reevaluation like other major label breakthrough emo albums such as Jawbreaker’s Dear You.

18. Walk Away As The Door Slams:

“Walk Away As The Door Slams” contains one of Lil Peep’s most memorable choruses in his discography. Not only is it well crafted, but contains an amazing hook, and a fantastic vocal delivery fueled by raw emotion. You really can’t get more emo than this. Lyrically, Peep expresses his frustration with the constant fighting and troubles he has with his relationship. Tracy’s verse adds to the theme of the track by addressing the stress of a long-distance relationship and dealing with the pain and uncertainty that comes with an unhealthy lifestyle. Peep and Tracy try to tell their significant others that they have “something to do.” They simply cannot be present all the time in their relationships in order to pursue what really matters to them.

17. The Song They Played (When I Crashed Into The Wall):

“The Song They Played (When I Crashed Into The Wall)” is one of the more upbeat and cathartic songs Lil Peep has in his catalog. It is the kind of song that makes you feel like the rest of the world is happening underneath you, and the consequences of your actions feel like they’ll never manifest. On a track built around an acoustic sample of Blink-182’s “The Fallen Interlude” and wavy bass, Peep and Tracy address moving on, growing out of one’s environment, and not wanting to return feeling like a failure. It’s escapist through nihilism, and it shows an acceptance of the fate this way of living brings by ending prematurely midway through the last chorus.

16. Lil Jeep:

Along with the track “Crybaby,” this is also one of Peep’s more simple tracks. The beat consists of a sample of “Two People” by Jacques Siroul, some percussion, and a hard-hitting 808. This track goes along with the general production-style found on the Crybaby mixtape. Peep’s performance and the flow on this track really help make this track stand apart from the rest. The chorus is catchy, features a unique flow, and the sparseness of the instrumental helps it stand out from the rest.

15. Hellboy:

HELLBOY, Lil Peep’s second mixtape of 2016, is generally regarded as Peep’s best release, and there’s a strong argument for that. It cleaned up some of the murkier aspects of his music, emphasized the anthemic hooks, but still kept the unlicensed emo samples and some abrasive elements. The opening title track displays this clearly. It opens the mixtape on a cinematic note with a sample from the 2007 film Hellboy: Blood and Iron, and then transitions into a sample of Underoath’s “Too Bright to See, Too Loud to Hear”. Peep’s lyrics ride the line of being lonely but independent and being both tender and insular as he rejects love while longing for compassion. No other song captures the core of the themes and sound of Peep’s music quite like this one.

14. Skyscrapers (Love Now, Cry Later):

The instrumental on “Skyscrapers” is beautiful, and Peep gives us a very well-crafted hook to go along with it. This song does a great job evoking powerful emotion and really makes me think back to when things were a bit more simple, in my life at least. It’s often expected of us to really take advantage of our lives by living in the present, as looking too much into the future can lead to a ton of pain. Having experienced something like this, I relate heavily to Peep’s lyrics here. A great performance and melodic instrumental really makes for a powerful listening experience that makes me feel like I’m astral projecting. The emotion I feel from this song is sometimes too much where I have to skip when it comes on.

13. Awful Things:

The most commercially successful single Lil Peep released during his life, even though it didn’t peak on the Billboard Hot 100 until after his death, “Awful Things” was the last collaboration he released with Lil Tracy. The music video features Peep and Tracy in a cartoony high school as Peep pines for a girl and ultimately burns himself alive for her acceptance. The song is one of Peep’s more instrumentally dynamic. This song features live guitar that changes between sections, has one of his most anthemic choruses and when compared to his early songs that would just be a single verse twice, is much more constructed and developed. After his death, fans started streaming the song sending it to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 as a tribute to his life. Although it didn’t quite make it and peaked at #79, it was the first sign of the imminent pop culture breakthrough and popularity that would follow with his posthumous collaborative releases.

12. Driveway:

Driveway is Lil Peep’s commitment to not let fame or money change him, but at the same time, he struggles with his current relationship as he constantly finds himself being hurt. The closing track on his 2015 mixtape CryBaby, Driveway is one of Peep’s more lyrically extreme tracks, with his lyrics painting images of him (CONTENT WARNING) blowing his brains out  “just for fun.” This very intense and vivid imagery is accompanied by a somber guitar sample of “I’ve Given Up on You” by Real Friends and results in a fantastic closer to one of Peep’s best projects.

11. Better Off (Dying):

One of the hidden gems in Peep’s debut album “Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 1,” Better Off (Dying) is one of Peep’s faster songs in his discography.  Featuring a melodic guitar, Peep really seems to give no f***s here. He’s set on living life and “diving in” but seems to be aware of his reckless lifestyle and the things he’s dealing with. He wants the person he’s talking to to know that they probably “won’t make it” and that they would be better off lying to each other or even dying at that point. This song shines during the second verse when the guitars pick up speed and makes the track exciting and a bit more diverse than its standard structure. Overall, we have a very lyrically extreme track that showcases Peep’s ability to deliver aggressive vocals and encapsulates the emo-fueled aesthetic that this album contains.

10. Crybaby:

“Crybaby”, which was tattooed above Lil Peep’s right eyebrow, is one of his most startlingly spare tracks. The beat is made up of little more than a sample of Brand New’s “The No Seatbelt Song”, hi-hat and snare, and a loan 808 every few bars. With his vocal drenched in delay, Peep lets us in on how his emotional detachment keeps him from opening up in relationships and causes him to hurt his partner, even though they’re just as detached as he is. Placed at the beginning of Crybaby, the 2016 mixtape that I think was the best project he released during his life, offered a summary of the music that resonated with his fans and cemented his legacy: “I’m making music to cry to”.

9. Star Shopping:

One of the most iconic Lil Peep songs, “Star Shopping” was ultimately the song that put Peep on the map. Driven by a sample of Yppah’s “Never Mess With Sunday”, Peep expresses his love for, presumably, his long-time girlfriend Emma Harris asking her to give him some time while he figures things out. He asks her for a chance, and even though he isn’t the man her family wants her to be with, he will do his best to fill those shoes while still being himself. I remember discovering this song on Soundcloud back in 2015 and was my first introduction to Peep and emo-rap. This is a landmark track not only for Peep’s career but for the emo-rap genre. This lo-fi melancholic beat along with Peep’s melodic flow does a great job at showcasing the raw emotion and hope that Peep asks for in his relationship.

8. 4 Gold Chains: 

Featuring amazing production by Clams Casino, “4 Gold Chains” highlights Peep’s loyalty, as well as bringing to light his struggles with fame and relationships. Casino’s beat is slow and woozy, with nice melodic synths and a booming bass that really compliments Peep’s delivery here. We are reminded how much Peep struggled with fame and meeting the expectations of others. In this track, it seems that he doesn’t want to be famous, but embraces it in order to provide for those he cares about the most even if it means indulging in substance abuse and meaningless relationships in order to escape the pain. This posthumous release is very bittersweet for this reason. Peep’s vocals and Casino’s production come together seamlessly and give us a very authentic yet different Lil Peep experience. This song reminds us of how much Peep was struggling before his passing, especially with his rising fame.

7. Gucci Mane:

Gucci Mane was a big influence on Lil Peep and he shouted out the Atlanta trap god on many early tracks. This track from Peep’s 2016 mixtape HELLBOY serves as his greatest tribute. The beat, one of the first made by producer Charlie Shuffler, combines midi acoustic guitar with woozy trap production to create a landscape for Peep’s croons about dying and being high since last Friday. The song doesn’t have much light lyrically, but the guitar provides a bittersweet hope to get better that puts it in the best Lil Peep songs.

6. White Tee:

On the first song they made together, Lil Peep and Lil Tracy instantly found a spark. The pair collaborated on many tracks through GothBoiClique, and “White Tee” sets the template for them. It features a free-associative and elemental hook from Peep and a quick but melodic verse from Tracy over a sample of The Postal Service’s indie anthem “Such Great Heights”. How well they work as foils for one another was apparent from the very start, as they went on to work with each other on many other tracks, many of which are on this list. It’s a short and sweet song that’s more prioritized with flexing than emoting, but it has an energy that serves as a nice break from the darker moods of a lot of Peep’s catalog.

5. Life/Life Is Beautiful:

“Life is Beautiful”, a posthumous remake of an early loosie called “Life”, is one of Peep’s more morbid and direct songs. It seems jarring at times, but it’s also very real, honest and well crafted. Life becomes extremely painful at times. Sometimes we enter a place so dark that we really cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it feels like when we enter this place, we are confined to it forever. However, through all the pain and suffering, we still are tasked to be grateful and find beauty in the darkness. On “Life is Beautiful” Peep uses juxtaposition to describe just this. There are a bunch of horrible, seemingly unsurpassable scenarios that we can find ourselves in, yet we still find that “Life is Beautiful.” We can only try to convince ourselves of this so much. Peep is brutally honest about his experience with this, and the result is a dark track that is oddly comforting, and, for me at least, serves as a reminder that it’s okay to admit that life can suck sometimes.

4. Witchblades:

Witchblades has a very melodic trap beat that hits subtly but hits hard. Peep and Tracy don’t shy away from talking about the culture and lifestyle of the GothBoiClique. They’re committed and loyal and this really fuels the track. This track has some of Peep’s and Tracy’s best chemistry and contains Peep’s HARDEST hook: probably one of the most memorable in his discography. This is one of those tracks that really just gets me moving and makes me feel like I’m living a life that I’m currently not, but in a weird and aggressive way. It’s a fantastic track where Tracy and Peep embrace their differences in society.

3. Kiss:

“Kiss” is the song that introduced me to Lil Peep through a “Best New Track” designation from Pitchfork. I remember listening to the track on my headphones on SoundCloud on the bus going to a marching band competition and showing it to my friends. I was instantly hooked by the way it combined the trap production I was starting to get into at the time with the emo guitars I was raised on by my parents through bands like Fall Out Boy and Taking Back Sunday (and those sleigh bells!). I was intrigued by the single’s cover art, was that what Lil Peep really looked like? It looked more like a blurry picture of Link from The Legend of Zelda to me. It offered a lot to dive into, and dive I did. As I learned more about Peep and listened to his mixtapes and EPs, “Kiss” stayed with me as one of my favorite songs of his, and I went back to it repeatedly. It was one of Peep’s most ambitious tracks with four distinct sections. The intro, featuring a prominent sample of Better Luck Next Time’s “Shoebox Memories” (Acoustic), has an epic filter sweep in the SoundCloud version that was taken out of the official version that sets the scene perfectly for the love-struck but bittersweet tone of the rest of the song. Peep layers hooks throughout the other sections as the instrumental shifts halfway into a sample of “How Do I Tell a Girl I Want to Kiss Her?” by Modern Baseball. “Kiss” is one of Peep’s brightest and catchiest songs and set the stage for the more streamlined sound of his official debut album, Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 1, the only album released during his life. It’s not one of his more popular songs, at least by Spotify standards, but it highlights the anthemic quality that was the light at the heart of Peep’s music’s depressing nihilism.

2. White Wine:

Built around a sample of The Microphones’ “(Something)”, “White Wine” was the song that introduced a lot of people to Lil Peep, Lil Tracy, and emo-rap in general. It introduced people to the hypnotic yet anthemic qualities of Peep’s hooks and their offhanded cold, detached nihilistic lyrics with suicidal overindulgence. It introduced people to the foil to many of Peep’s best songs, Lil Tracy, who comes as an almost comical but no less druggy foil to Peep’s never-ending despair.  Before his passing, it felt like it was just one of Peep’s best songs to scream-sing along to, with his most anthemic hook and best pregnant-pause in emo rap. After his passing, Peep screaming “Lord why do I gotta wake up” just feels tragic. On top of everything, this song introduced people to a theme Peep captured very well in many of his songs: the perpetual mental health crisis and self-aware self-destructiveness of substance abuse. Everything about the song now feels linked to loss, especially considering it features a Phil Elverum sample the same year he released A Crow Looked At Me under his Mount Eerie moniker, a devastating album about the loss of his wife to cancer. While scream-singing this song now comes with the heavier heart of lessons learned from seeing what happens when one gleefully and fearlessly stares into the abyss, it still holds up as an anthem for those who’ve learned those lessons but don’t care, just like those who have come before them.

1. Gym Class:

Putting this song at number one felt controversial to us, but it was the only song that felt right. “Gym Class” floated around on SoundCloud and YouTube for years without being officially released due to its sample of UK electronic group The Boats’ “The Ballad For The Girl On The Moon”, but it gained a mystique as Lil Peep became more popular due to its early lo-fi video (with a much less heavily tatted Peep!) and anime girl single cover. It was one of Peep’s most spare tracks, with a just single verse repeated twice, morose piano and strings and deep cavernous 808s, but captured the hypnotic nihilism that defined Peep’s music during his life better than any other song. However, rather than diving into hedonistic pleasures like most Peep tracks do (without completely abandoning them), it’s nostalgic and finds him reminiscing on his experiences of f*****g, taking drugs and anxiety with a girl in high school, dreaming of the kind of heights and stardom that he never got to experience. As the second verse is about to end, Peep’s vocals suddenly cut out without finishing the line as the beat rides out. This was the first song I turned to the night Peep died, and that moment grabs me each time. Although it was released almost two years before his passing, it felt prophetic that Peep’s time would be abruptly cut short before he was able to share everything he had inside him. I miss Peep and often think about how much potential he had and what he could have done. I’m grateful for all the moments and feelings he was able to capture during his life.

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