The 21-year-old rapper and singer (real name Gustav Åhr) died Wednesday (Nov. 15) of an apparent overdose, soon before he was scheduled to take the stage at a concert in Tucson, Arizona. An official cause of death has not yet been released, but authorities said evidence indicated an overdose of the anti-anxiety medication Xanax.
“It was an accident, it really was an accident,” older brother Karl Åhr, who goes by Oskar, tells People. “He was super happy with where he was in life.” He says Lil Peep “was not struggling.”
He believes the pill his younger brother took may have been laced.
“We [the family] have heard there was some sort of substance he did not expect to be involved in the substance he was taking.” Oskar says. “He thought he could take what he did, but he had been given something and he didn’t realize what it was.”
Although Peep’s emotional songs often referenced drug use and depression, and he posted a series of dark Instagram posts in the days ahead of his death, his brother says the artist — who loved his mother and “super tiny little dog, a silky terrier named Taz,” and was making Thanksgiving plans with his family — was essentially putting on an act for the job.
Oskar explains, “It makes me laugh to think about the days we watched WWE together but [Peep] mentioned how being a hip-hop artist is like being a pro-wrestling character. You have to be an actor. He gets paid to be sad. It’s what he made his name on. It’s what his image was in a sense.”
“He was so proud when he heard that there were people in the world who wanted to kill themselves, and then they didn’t because they listened to his music. He was helping people, he was not somebody who needed help. He was not as sad as people think he was. It’s frustrating as someone who remembers a happy brother,” he says.
Of Peep’s drug use, he says, “My brother didn’t take five Xanax pills every say, but he would take them and then post on Instagram about it. I wish it would have paid for him to be a little safer, but the world needed him to have superlative problems that he dealt with in superlative ways. Gus dealt with these problems much better than Lil Peep did, but people didn’t know Gus, and there’s a reason Gus doesn’t sell.”
Oskar hopes to release some of Peep’s unheard music in the future. He apparently collaborated with rapper Makonnen on unreleased material that “is a lot happier.”