Lil Peep & ILOVEMAKONNEN’s ‘DIAMONDS’ Deserved a Finer Trim
This article was originally published on HipHopDX
Artists who center their work on negotiating vulnerability with self-belief tend to secure loyal fans. So rooting for Lil Peep and ILOVEMAKONNEN comes easy — both artists were able to cultivate their respective brands by letting their guards down as a way to cope with their demons and channel their creativity.
In late 2017, Peep succumbed to his well-documented vices and passed away from an accidental drug overdose. Earlier that same year, MAKONNEN came out as gay and was ghosted by most of his peers … except for Peep, nearly eight years his junior, who reached out and offered support.
During their brief yet profound partnership that spanned less than a year, Lil Peep and ILOVEMAKONNEN managed to record 20-plus cuts together, resulting in what the late rapper’s estate has called his “last cohesive previously unreleased full body of work.”
After being shelved for over five years, DIAMONDS has finally dropped. The package is unfortunately tough to accept as anything more than a flimsy first draft, albeit with a solid foundation. It’s impossible to determine how much of the tracklist Peep would’ve refined had he lived to sign off on its official release, but his legacy affords him the benefit of the doubt considering his presence across the record is blemished by incoherence.
MAKONNEN, on the other hand, was somewhat able to do his part by offering up a fistful of effervescent instrumentals and hooks. With that, he saves the LP from getting completely obscured by the countless singles, music videos and EPs springing up in the same ecosystem.
Bulked up to full capacity, DIAMONDS exceeds an hour in run time. The cuts that shine bright demonstrate what Lil Peep and ILOVEMAKONNEN were capable of at their best, but the overwhelming number of misses have sadly taken the lead on characterizing the record’s artistic merit. If trimmed down to its best four or five songs, it would’ve been worth more.
“Hypnotized” and “Nasty Names” are the most convincing examples of the pair’s extraordinary chemistry — their melodic voices bouncing off each other like lightning bugs. Then, there are mid-card joints like “Favorite Drug” and “Guiltiness” that are easy to appreciate at a surface level because their instrumental coating has given them a beautiful texture, but lyrically and thematically leave much to be desired. The rest of the songs are just kind of…there.
Where the production excels, the subject matter and vocals fall short. In this case, the infantile lyricism produced by aging teenage angst fails to strike a nerve despite countless attempts, resulting in an excess of fillers.
The lines “Me and you, we just like to cruise/ Always tryna win, and I ain’t tryna lose” from “Rent to Pay” would be better left unsaid because all they really do is take up space. And just when it seems like the album has reached its poetic low point, “I Sell Cocaine” has Makonnen rapping: “I fuckin’ had so much coke I was payin’ off cops/ Because the shit was god damn flying/ Boy, you know I’m not lying/ I look like motherfuckin’ giraffe all the way in South Africa.”
These nursery rhyme freestyle verses dominate a surprisingly large portion of the package, so to accept that Peep’s memory will conclude on this note doesn’t represent his caliber. Still, his mother insists that he was proud of DIAMONDS and that it must be delivered to his fans, who will most likely still appreciate the offering for what it is in retrospect — a bittersweet goodbye.