At the beginning of the video for “4 Gold Chains,” the camera watches Gustav Åhr place a small pill on his tongue and make it disappear it with a brisk swig of beer, then light a joint, all before uttering a word. The camera feels drunk, swaying a little as it zooms in on him. When he looks up, his eyes pierce us like a little kid’s: way too open for comfort, slightly accusatory in their clarity.
The song is one of the first full songs we’ve heard since Åhr, better known as Lil Peep, died of a fentanyl and Xanax overdose last November. New music from the recently dead always arrives trailing unwelcome ghosts, and now what might have been just another hazy, downcast little jewel of a song from a promising artist has to be understood, at least partially, through death. “Call me on my iPhone, I don’t pick it up much/I been losing friends, I don’t feel right,” he mutters. It hurts to hear it.
In life, it would have simply marked another dimension to his still-developing sound. It is produced by Clams Casino, who is old enough now in internet-rap time that to someone as young as Peep, he might as well have been DJ Premier. Clams brings out one of his most alluring and atypical beats: just a few warm blots of guitar barely connected to isolated drumhits. It’s one of the slowest and most experimental-sounding things Peep has released, completely lacking the big hook that usually injected some swagger into his sway. In its place is the matter-of-factness that always distinguished Peep, a mixture of deadpan honesty and vulnerability that was impossible not to be moved by once you noticed it. He wants four gold chains, but only to give “two to my brother.” “Fame bring pain but the pain make money,” he observes. In its fuzzy way, Peep’s music was always tender, a hazy light of empathy glowing through the fog.