Illustration By: Ellen Fabini
Lil Peep's Legacy Lives On Through #FuckXanax Instagram Tribute
#FuckXanax has become a tribute for Lil Peep, as well as a space for users to share their own experiences with the prescription drug.
Next month marks a year since Lil Peep passed at the age of 21 from a Fentanyl and Xanax overdose. Peep's death served as a warning to the dangers of prescription drug addiction, as well as incited a discussion on the larger opioid crisis occurring in the United States. Numerous rappers declared that they were no longer taking Xanax following his death including Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Pump, and Smokepurpp.
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In the past three years, Xanax has become rap's go-to drug. Used to treat anxiety and panic disorder, the prescription drug rose to prominence alongside SoundCloud rap, the subgenre named after the music sharing platform where artists like Peep, Pump, Smokepurpp, XXXTentacion, and many others started off. The drug has been referenced in numerous popular rap songs: Uzi's "XO Tour Life," Pump's "D Rose," and Lil Xan's "Betrayed." The seventh most popular song on Billboard's Top 100 — Travis Scott's "Sicko Mode" — references the drug during one of the track's most memorable and popular parts, via featured guest Drake: "I did half a Xan, thirteen hours 'til I land/Had me out like a light."
Xanax's takeover in rap comes at a time when America is dealing with an opioid epidemic. According to a report from Visual Capitalist, the United States has the highest percentage of drug-related deaths in the world, with drug overdoses being the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. The report goes on to say that one-third of people who've abused prescription painkillers in the past year received the medication from a physician.
"The hard truth is that, unless bold action is taken, the opioid epidemic is projected to claim nearly 500,000 lives over the next decade," Visual Capitalist states.
A drug that has contributed significantly to the recent spike in overdoses is fentanyl, an opioid used as a pain medication. Fentanyl — which is 50 times stronger than heroin — contributed to the deaths of Prince, Tom Petty, and Peep, with all three dead from an accidental overdose.
Peep was open about his Xanax use. In an interview with i-D, the rapper revealed that he took the prescription drug before the conversation to help him with his anxiety.
"I used to abuse it really badly, like 20 pills a day, having seizures in my sleep, waking up in my own shit. I don't abuse it anymore," he said. "It's just when I have something like a concert or an interview…if I'm nervous, I'll just do one and I'm chill. I'm doing better, drug wise. I was really bad earlier this year, and last year, and the year before that. I feel better now."
The days leading up to his death, Peep made several troubling posts that foreshadowed his unfortunate fate. One was a video that showed him smoking a cigarette and smiling into the camera. The video was accompanied with the following caption:
"I just wana [SP] be everybody's everything I want too much from people but then I don't want anything from them at the same time u feel me I don't let people help me but I need help but not when I have my pills but that's temporary one day maybe I won't die young and I'll be happy? What is happy I always have happiness for like 10 seconds and then it's gone. I'm getting so tired of this."
Then there was an Instagram video where he claimed to have taken six Xanax as he made his way to a concert in El Paso, Texas. Following that was an image where Peep's tattoo-covered stomach can be seen along with a background of a crying bird enveloped in a banner that read "Cry Baby." The picture was captioned as follows: "When I die You'll love me."
Peep's shortlived legacy lives on through his music — he released his debut album Come Over When You're Sober, Pt. 1 on August 15, 2017 — and social media, specifically Instagram, where countless fans continue to post pictures and videos of the rapper. Although #LilPeep is the most commonly used hashtag for posts about Peep, there's another one that not only serves as a tribute to him but a call to action against the drug that took his life — #FuckXanax.
The hashtag existed prior to Peep's death, with some of the earliest entries dating back to 2016. The posts range from ironic to sincere, with the latter ones often accompanied by an anecdote about no longer taking Xanax. Two such posts were made in February 2016, where one person posted a picture holding Xanax in their hand with the following caption: "I'm soo done. With everything and these stupid pills! Nothing but negativity! Negativity is a thief that steals happiness."
Since Peep's death, most posts featuring the hashtag are now dedicated to the late rapper. XXXTentacion, the Florida rapper who was murdered earlier this year, likely played a part in the hashtag becoming associated with Peep when he posted a video calling for fans to stop promoting Xanax use.
"I'ma start a whole new wave and a whole new movement called fuck Xanax," XXX says in the video. "If I see anyone post them doing Xanax online, you're fucking stupid. If you promote drug use, if I see you promoting Xanax after Lil Peep died, you're fucking stupid. Stop doing Xanax 2017."
A few months after Peep's death, there were a few posts that showed people flushing their Xanax down the toilet. Although none of the captions mention Peep, it's no coincidence that they were posted shortly after his passing.
Other posts mentioned Peep while declaring they were done taking Xanax. One user uploaded an old video of himself throwing a Xanax in the air and catching it in his mouth. The caption contrasts the video, with the person saying "I can officially say now fuck Xans 2k18" and that they lost some close people to the prescription drug, before concluding with "Gotta always stay on point fuck Xans."
Two of the most frequent users of the hashtag are hellboy_peepster and _lilxpeep_. Both accounts function as Peep fan pages, with the latter having over 1,000 posts dedicated to the late rapper. The images vary: some are of Peep as a child while others are of him performing or with a fan, each one accompanied by numerous hashtags including #FuckXanax.
The identities of either account are unknown. An inquiry to speak with hellboy_peepster about Peep and the hashtag went unanswered while _lilxpeep_ declined to talk via a direct message. But the #FuckXanax continues to grow; currently, it has been used in over 6,000 posts.
Still, rap and Xanax's relationship exists and has caught the attention of the Justice Department. Recently, Michael Jones, better known as rapper New Jerzey Devil, was arrested and charged with distributing heroin and fentanyl that resulted in the death of Diana Haikova, a 29-year-old woman, last year in December. According to TMZ, Jones gave Haikova the drugs that led to her overdosing while both were in Long Island, New York, partying with Peep's friends shortly after the rapper's funeral. TMZ also reported that Jones was part of the GothBoiClique collective, the same group Peep was a part of, but that has since been denied by the collective's co-founder, Wicca Phase Springs Eternal. A spokesperson for Peep's family denied that the late rapper knew Jones as well.
The incident has resulted in the Justice Department targeting emo rap for glorifying opioid use, with DEA Special Agent in Charge James J. Huntstating: "This investigation led us into the underbelly of emo rap and its glorification of opioid use."
One of the first tracks Peep uploaded to his SoundCloud was "Pray To The Sky" three years ago. In retrospect, the song isn't just sad but unsettling, with the rapper foreshadowing his death: "I found some Xanax in my bed, I took that shit, went back to sleep/They gon' miss me when I'm dead, I lay my head and rest in peace."
To simplify current rap's referencing of Xanax as "glorification of opioid use" ignores the emotional and mental distress rappers like Peep addressed in his music. #FuckXanax serves as a bittersweet reminder of this — a thread of loss, celebration and — for some users — redemption.