Read the tattoos on my face. I’ma die young but I get cake. — Lil Peep, Overdose
Gustav Elijah Ahr, better known by his stage name Lil Peep took the drug fueled trap tropes that a generation of young rap devotees know and love and fused them with his own deeply personal traumas. The resultant persona, both on and and off-stage, was seemingly tender and tragic all at once and served to secure even
the posthumous dedication of his fans. Commemorating him with ink is especially popular, whether fans are duplicating Lil Peep’s tattoos, or merely drawing his art and image into their own fitting tattoo tributes, it’s beautiful and a little sad, not unlike Peep himself. Fans want constant content from their musical heroes — even posthumously, which is why their continual fascination with Lil Peep’s tattoos is unsurprising.
So What Did Lil Peep’s Tattoos Mean?
In a GQ video published a few months before his death, Lil Peep takes center stage in a slick wifebeater, his grillz glittering in his mouth. Lil peep’s mood tattoo is his favourite: “It’s low quality but that’s because my mood is low quality.” His crybaby tattoo is on display too, only to be expected, given that it’s on his face. “It’s a reminder that there’s people fighting to survive, so live on for them.”
Interestingly enough, he just seems to have woken up one morning with the two part tattoo “GET CAKE DIE YOUNG” at his hairline: “I literally was just like, alright, that’s there.” One of several facial tattoos is the small cross near his left eye, though as fans pointed out it was unlikely that he was very religious, though he did appear to be spiritual in some sense, frequently referencing God in his lyrics, like in Toxic City: “When it’s time to meet my maker I’ll be ready for him.”
He had a fascination with stars, there was one on his face, underneath his eye and several dotting his forearm. Unnervingly enough, the horseshoe tattooed on his brow had been for good luck, which seemed to evade him: “It works, sometimes.”
Lil Peep’s face tattoos are a “push to be successful with the music I was doing, because it can make it harder to get a job when your face is covered in tattoos,” this is true for other rappers as well, amongst whom the tradition of facial tattoos is representative of their commitment to the music above all else.
First Tattoo And His Mother
Anyone who was a fan of the rapper’s brief but brilliant career knows that his mother was his best friend, the person who knew him best. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his mother features heavily in Lil Peep’s tattoos: his first tattoo at 14 was for her birthday, his knuckles read “HOMESICK” because “I’m 20 and young and still miss my mommy, sometimes.”
His neck tattoo, too, Lisa Simpson screaming “MOM” is a metaphor for their relationship: “I stress her the fuck out.”He grins boyishly at the camera, blowing a kiss. “I’ll get a bunch more and come back and show you, real soon,” he promises as the video ends, and you have to wonder, for a rapper whose popularity depended—to a degree—on seeming suicidal half the time, whether he knew he wouldn’t.
His birthday, November the 1st, the day after Halloween appears frequently too: “I’ve got a lot of spooky shit going on.” And it’s true, if the bats tattooed behind his ear or the flaming grim reaper on his left hand are to be any indication. A ghoulish Jack-O-Lantern grins at us from his forearm, a black cobweb spanning the length of his elbow ditch. He’d also had the date very literally tattooed on his sternum in large, sprawling numbers “11-1” right above his iconic “NO LOVE” tattoo, which is perhaps most frequently copied by fans, as is Lil Peep’s broken heart tattoo, in an ironic testament to just how deeply loved he was.
Connection And Commitment
Sarah Stennent, his adviser and business partner reflects in his obituary: “He knew that once he got them (tattoos) there was no turning back, he was committed to being an artist. That takes a lot of courage. The second thing, his grandmother told me later, was that he’d always felt like an outsider and he wanted to understand how it was to feel like a minority. He said he could spot the difference between the people who saw the tattoos and the people who saw him.”
Lil Peep’s tattoos were what he used to connect with other people, depending on how they’d react to them and they certainly weren’t mindless, except maybe the ones he’d regret like the names of his ex-girlfriends “Layla” (on his forearm) and Arzaylea (an “A” on his hand). His tribal tattoo was a covered up the former, though the latter remained till his death.
Lil Peep’s rose tattoo was a coverup too, of the playboy bunny symbol he’d once had on his cheek. He had a devil may care attitude about them, remarkably relaxed about something so permanent: “I’m very outgoing about them.” And he was. The “Miss You” tattoo on his knees was a stick and poke he’d had impulsively done by a friend, and the Pink Panther on his neck had been the result of a night he’d spent high on Venice beach: “And I thought, man, what can I to make this worth it?”
Lil Peep’s back tattoos are most chilling of all. “EXIT LIFE” is the largest tattoo on his body, huge, gothic letters spanning the length of his shoulder blades. His debut studio album, Come Over When You’re Sober Pt.1 had been called Exit Life prior to the change. Now it’s hard not to think of it as being preternatural commentary on the end of his life. He’d also had a “HELLBOY” tattoo to celebrate that album.
Though his life was plagued by mental illness and substance abuse, he constantly reiterated his love for his fans. If you’d like to pay tribute to the life and ideas of your favourite artist, see our excellent collection of merchandise featuring temporary tattoos and more.