I never had the privilege of meeting Lil Peep although I knew people like him. Lots of them. I was one of them.
Peep was supposed to play the Rock Club in Tucson on Wednesday, a venue I too had performed at before, as Kosha Dillz, though no doubt to a much smaller crowd. He died of a suspected overdose on Tuesday. He was 21 years old.
I wish Peep would have lived to join the Warped Tour, which recently announced it was ending in 2019, on its 25th year. Warped is where I found my sober community.
Warped Tour’s biggest benefit to an artist like me was its affiliation with Musicares, a Recording Academy associated recovery force that helps musicians who need to get into rehab as well as helping in other areas concerning health.
I got clean on July 30 13 years ago, and since Warped is a summer tour, I often found myself there to celebrate the anniversary of my sobriety. I first jumped on the tour in 2012 as part of its hip-hop stage. That was when I met a guy named Mike — a rebel in all his splendor. He was 50-something but looked no older than 35. He had about 100 more tattoos that I did. He used to do heroin and he showed up everyday to help people. His job was literally that: to be the cool approachable guy to run meetings for us distraught kids on tour.
I recall one girl on the tour when I was 8 years clean. Let’s call her “Eva.” She was getting wasted every day of Warped. She worked in production, and would have to pass the Musicares tent each time she went to her work station. She couldn’t avoid Mike, the approachable dope-head, no matter how hard she tried. Eva eventually got clean during the tour and with Mike’s help. Warped saved her life and she’s now a life coach and sober coach.
On the recent inaugural Warped Rewind cruise, I was there backstage with Mike for the same meetings — aimed at those who had one day clean. Gathered in the middle of the ocean was an anonymous community to supports each other, because the therapy comes when one person is helping the next. It doesn’t matter what your job is, whether you had a hit song, or how many Instagram followers you have.
As I stay up all night thinking about Lil Peep, one of the most impactful artist of a new generation, I really wonder what his life could have been like if he met Mike or got to be on the bill at Warped Tour. I wish I could have told Peep my story: how I started selling drugs to fit in and eventually sniffed up everything I could get my hands on. How I ran from the cops and was happy that I got caught because I knew it was over for me. How I would black out from ketamine and GHB and get angry that I woke up.
These days, I get angry or sad about numbers: how many people showed up to my Tucson concert? How many likes did I get? How many times has this track been streamed? But the most important number to me is clean time: 13 years and almost 4 months.
But what I learned from being an addict is that it’s never enough. We suffer from always needing more. We want more press. We want more likes. We want more love. We constantly feel unfulfilled. At Warped Tour, I remember always seeing signs backstage directing all the artists and crew to seek help, should they need it, for issues of depression and addiction. Who will make that effort in the future?
A heartfelt condolence goes out to Lil Peep and his family,friends, and fans. Behind every rap name there is a real person. His was Gustav Ahr. May he rest in peace, and may the next star make it cool to be clean.
Rami Even-Esh, better known as Kosha Dillz, is a rapper and public speaker. His latest album, “what I do all day and pickle,” is available on iTunes and streaming services.