On Thursday, news of rapper and Long Beach native Lil Peep’s death spread across the internet as quickly as his music had.
Born Gustav Ahr, the 21-year-old was an up-and-coming force in genre-bending hip-hop music.
His death of a suspected overdose in Arizona shocked fans and introduced his name to those who hadn’t heard of him. On Thursday, Lil Peep’s death became a trending topic on Twitter on Long Island and nationally, and also became one of Google’s most searched for topics.
Here’s what you need to know about Lil Peep and his work.
Who is Lil Peep?
The rapper grew up in Long Beach but didn’t launch his music career until 2015, when he moved to Los Angeles after leaving high school. In interviews, he described troubled teen years and struggles with his mental health, which later influenced his music.
According to The New York Times, the moniker Lil Peep came from a childhood nickname his mother gave him. He began releasing music on the audio platform SoundCloud in August 2015, joining a deep subculture of young, independent hip-hop artists distributing music there.
How popular was he?
Lil Peep built a dedicated fan base on the internet, using YouTube, social media and SoundCloud. His singles and mixtapes — moody tracks he posted on SoundCloud — amassed as many plays as 6 million per song, earning him a perennial spot on underground music blogs.
He also boasted more than 1.1 million followers on Instagram, and one of his most recent music videos, for a track called “Awful Things ft. Lil Tracy,” had more than 11 million views on YouTube as of Thursday.
Internet fame turned into mainstream acclaim in 2017. Music publication Pitchfork called him “the future of Emo” and The New York Times labeled him “something like the scene’s Kurt Cobain.”
Lil Peep’s distinctive appearance, with his tattoos and ever-changing hair color, also grabbed the attention of the fashion world and he appeared in GQ, in the front row at Paris Fashion Week and even as a model in a few runway shows.
What is a SoundCloud rapper?
Founded in 2008, SoundCloud is an online platform that allows users to upload and share audio, from podcasts to mixtapes.
SoundCloud allows artists to bypass record labels and had led to more experimental sounds. The platform is considered a cheap, easy way to promote music.
Over the last several years, the platform has fostered a community of independent rappers and hip-hop musicians who build massive internet followings. Some, like Chicago’s Chance the Rapper, Philadelphia’s Lil Uzi Vert and New York’s Princess Nokia, achieved international fame, festival headlines and sold-out tours after their music racked up followers on SoundCloud.