Lil Peep is Everybody’s Everything

Lil Peep is Everybody’s Everything

A forthcoming documentary takes intimate look at the brief but impactful life of Lil Peep. 

A forthcoming documentary takes intimate look at the brief but impactful life of Lil Peep. 

Text: Shannon Davenport

Premiered at SXSW, the Terrence Malick-produced documentary Everybody’s Everything offers a personal look at the life of the late Gustav "Gus" Åhr, better known as cult rap icon Lil Peep. Through home videos, letters penned by Peep's beloved grandfather, and interviews with surviving loved ones, directors Sebastian Jones and Ramez Silyan reconstruct the rapper's brief but wondrous life, from his Long Beach, NY roots to the musical movement he'd just begun to foment before his death in November, 2017 at 21. Following his breakout mixtape Hellboy, Peep courted worldwide fame while battling drug addiction and depression—a tension that was part and parcel of his heavily tatted appearance back when V shot him just prior to his untimely passing. But the documentary illustrates new revelations, from details about his wounded past, his relationship to his Harvard-grad father and his reverence for his fans. Here, we catch up with Jones and Silyan about capturing Peep in a new light.

V The film includes so much footage from social media and family videos. Was it challenging to narrow it all down?

Ramez Silyan As this project came together, the intent was always to focus on Gus’s relationship with his family. The story of Lil Peep has been seen through social media. [This is the] pulling back of the social media curtain to show an intimate portrait of Gus.

Sebastian Jones I wrote down, on paper, a rough outline [breaking down] the film into chapters that were based on [Peep's grandfather's] letters. We made decisions very quickly [but] there are always things that you wish you could keep... I'll forever love the shot of Gus jumping the fence at school). But we had to make hard decisions and ask ourselves what was serving the [larger] thesis.

We see Gus transform from a dark, misfit teen to a true artist. It’s clear that his music and lyrics were a form of therapy. Do you think there was a specific catalyst that caused him to dive into music?

SJ In some ways it was gradual. I think he was pretty unhappy with his music at the start, so it took him time to find his voice. But at the same time there was always this pain that was driving him to make music. I think he’d had his heart broken a lot in life, and the divide between him and his father was definitely one emotional catalyst.

RS It definitely seemed like a gradual response to the hardships in his life—this building up of courage, as his grandfather Jack Womack puts it beautifully, “to get it out and say what he had to say.”

Despite Lil Peep being very active on Instagram and Twitter, we only see a few [of his] tweets onscreen. How did you weave in his own firsthand narrative of his life without explicitly [citing it]?

RS Social media will always be this sort of exaggerated avatar of ourselves. Not to say that it cannot be authentic, but the very idea of us deciding what is shown creates a version of who we are online. That version is readily available and we made the choice to let that live separate to the film, rather taking up the space to showcase vérité footage that is meant to make you feel present, living a memory.

SJ We used some of Gus’s interviews to help weave his voice in, but what was most exciting to me was when the vérité footage of him was able to tell the story, and then also echo what the interviewees were saying. It really creates the experience of being there, so I always like to lean into vérité when possible. With the help of his videographers and [mother] Liza who gave us access to all kinds of footage, including what was on Gus’s computer, we were able to use a good deal of material that wasn’t from social media.

If you could sum up what exactly made Peep so magnetic to so many people in one sentence, what would it be?

SJ I think he resonated because he was brutally honest about his pain and spoke the truth—he wasn't afraid to be vulnerable in the process either. So for young people that means he’s a voice they can trust.

RS Gus is honest and he revealed his soul through his music in a completely original way. It’s incredibly rare to find that sort authenticity and artistry.

Lil Peep in V109 (PHOTOGRAPHY: MARIO TESTINO; STYLING: NICOLA FORMICHETTI)

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