Image Courtesy of Pitchfork Magazine
By Isa Pardino
Seven years ago, a 19-year-old Gustav Ahr, also known by the stage name Lil Peep, moved to Los Angeles, California from Long Island, New York to pursue his dreams of becoming a rapper. Since then, he has released three albums, a few singles, and many collaborations. Despite his many successes, he died in 2017. On Friday, September 25, the fourth anniversary of the album Hellboy by Ahr, which was exclusively released to SoundCloud, was released to all major streaming platforms. The definition and the sounds have been revamped to allow listeners to enjoy a clearer, better representation of what Ahr would have wanted his fans to hear from him.
“We are proud to be able to offer to all of Gus’s fans his beloved ‘mixtape’ called Hellboy across all digital streaming platforms,” said Ahr’s mother Liza Womack on Instagram. “For the first time, Peep fans will be able to listen to all sixteen of the Hellboy tracks in the highest quality form possible. Our goal was to leave all of Gus’s original work unscathed–only to master it so it can be enjoyed on any medium. This is both an original and an ‘ultra’ version of what Gus released.”
The album features artists such as Smokeasac, Nedarb, Xavier Wulf as well as Horsehead and Lil Tracy, both members of Gothboiclique, the emo-rap collective group that helped Ahr jumpstart his career. Hellboy holds a wide array of emotions to which many listeners can relate. Suffering from anxiety and depression himself, Ahr, as someone who understood what they were going through, wanted to make music that made people feel like they were not alone in their struggles. It is evident through the music on the album that Ahr was struggling, but it is clear that his motive was to make others feel loved, wanted, and not alone.
“Hellboy,” the album’s title track, begins with a clip from Hellboy Animated: Blood and Iron. The chorus begins with, “You don’t even know what I’ve been through” talking again about the real issues that he faces, and how many of his listeners feel when they face the world.
This track is based on the comic book character that Ahr loved growing up.
“He felt a kinship with him,” said GQ Magazine on the character. “As a heavily tattooed, polarizing underground rapper, the sweet-tempered introvert felt a growing chasm between how he was portrayed and who he was, similar to the way the Mike Mignola superhero’s looks inspire fear even though he just wants to help.”
“The Song They Played [When I Crashed Into the Wall]” is about choosing a career path that is difficult to succeed in and being afraid that you will not come out the other side on top. This song is about the fear of failure, which is something that most people can relate to. Failure is a scary part of life, but the fact that this album came out, and that Ahr’s name is widely known solidifies the idea that it requires big risks to get the reward.
The album’s final track “Move on, be strong” was just that: a farewell to the album. When you listen to this song, you can hear the influence of punk/emo music that he so admired. The lyrics “Move on/I’m gone baby/I’m not coming back, nah” show this kind of goodbye from Ahr to the album, as a definitive end, saying “I’m not coming back.”
Overall, the album’s re-release has been successful and has portrayed the message that Ahr wanted to give his listeners. It is a difficult thing to keep an artist’s true spirit alive and music in a posthumous album release, but those who worked on the album had his purpose in mind, creating a unique listening experience for Ahr fans new and old. Ahr was one of the first artists to tap into this world of emo-rap and make it mainstream. Hellboy is an accurate representation of his music and his personality. Ahr created his own genre of music that still lives on today, and that is a part of his legacy.