If you want to see a document of Lil Peeps life, much of it was laid out on social media. The rapper streamed his life and music to millions, and fans latched onto that immediacy and intimacy. The documentary Everybodys Everything adds some context and backstory.
DIRECTOR: Sebastian Jones and Ramez Silyan
The new doc traces Lil Peep’s ascent and its consequences while also serving as a meditation on grief and loss.
Sebastian Jones and Ramez Silyans film, which debuted at SXSW, opens with a chaotic scene: Peep trying to find his way to the stage at a New York City show in 2017, the camera struggling to focus on him. Its an interesting vantage point into the life of Gustav Ahr, whose Long Beach, New York, childhood seemed idyllic, at least in archival footage. Hes seen at roughly 4 or 5 years old trying to grab a toy microphone, and his creative streak started early, according to mother Liza Womack, who gave him the nickname Peep and co-produced the film. The doc paints his parents divorce as a pivotal moment, sending teenage Peep into his bedroom and his feelings. He evidently knew of his fathers infidelity, but the film doesnt dig much deeper into why their relationship was so fractured.
The film zooms out on the chapter of sadboi SoundCloud rap that spilled out of L.A. in 2016 and 2017, framed by interviews with associates and collaborators with varying degrees of face tattoos. Peep, who was briefly homeless, moves into a loft on L.A.s Skid Row, where he and other lost boys embrace filth and chaos. No one has their own bedroom, and boundaries are fairly nonexistent in this found-family dynamic. People follow Peep everywhere he goes, and so do drugs.
Peep was often lumped in with Xanax rap, but thats a bit of an oversimplification. His music obviously connected with people on a more emotional level, and its jarring to realize his ascent happened over roughly a year. But less than two years after his death, it feels too soon to assign him any deeper cultural significance.
The thread that gives the film structure is Peep’s maternal grandfather, John Womack Jr., who reads encouraging handwritten letters he sent to Peep as his profile was rising. Womack is a former Harvard history professor and author of the book Zapata and the Mexican Revolution, and its clear he fostered some of Peeps ideas about equality, such asmaking sure those around him had the same things he did. But that mindset also became a trap for Peep. In Womacks scenes, the influence of the films co-producer, Terrence Malick, is more pronounced. How did he get involved in a doc about a SoundCloud rapper? That also links back to Womack: He appeared in Malick’s 1973 film Badlands and is a longtime friend. (Jones also worked with Malick on his 2017 music dramaSong to Song.)
Peeps from an accidental overdose of Fentanyl and Xanax in November 2017 shocked fans, and the film always has that in its sights, which makes it doubly hard to watch Peep walk at Paris Fashion Week and start shaping his career away from negative influence months before his death. Everybodys Everything derives its title from one of Peeps last Instagram posts, but the film still shows what happened in the months before his death with a sort of detachment, a reluctance to jump in and say something.
Everybody’s Everything addresses the surrounding Peep’s death: How could his friendsthe ones always therenot notice he was dead for hours? Near the end of the film, one early collaborator calls out some of the clout chasers who didnt really care about Peep. But this isnt a document of judgement or blame. Its a familys meditation on grief and loss; it starts with chaos and ends with calm.
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