In August 2017, Lil Peep and iLoveMakonnen were in London, working on a track that would eventually become the super-catchy “I’ve Been Waiting.” Three months later, Peep's sudden November 2017 death put the song on hold — but Makonnen knew he couldn't let it go unheard.
The rapper/singer worked to complete the track, recruiting Fall Out Boy as the rock group was one of Peep's biggest inspirations. As Makonnen and FOB crafted “I’ve Been Waiting,” which peaked at No. 62 on the Hot 100 (chart dated April 27), it was of utmost importance to keep “the vision going of what me and Lil Peep first had in mind,” Makonnen says.
Below, Makonnen and Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz (in separate interviews, edited together) tell Billboard about honoring Peep’s legacy, and what it’s been like to witness the genre-blurring song’s rise.
How did Fall Out Boy become a part of the song?
Makonnen: Fall Out Boy had reached out to me after his passing. I told them about the record to see if they could take a look [and see] they wanted to be a part of it.
Wentz: Yeah, [Makonnen] reached out. I knew [his song] "Tuesday,” but I didn’t know him personally, so it was flattering — but it wasn't until my friend sent me an article where Peep basically was like, "If you had to ask me what my music was, it would be half Makonnen, half Fall Out Boy." And that was pretty moving. It felt like, "Aw, man, maybe we should give this a shot. This feels like there's a purpose that this person has spoken about." That was the humbling part, and the part that really drove us to do it.
Right, Peep said in interviews that Fall Out Boy and Makonnen were some of his favorite artists. And you were kind of able to fulfill that.
Wentz: Yeah. I don't know how to explain this, but I saw some of myself 20 years ago in Peep. I don't mean it in the musical way, but just in some of the things he was going through that he'd spoken out about. We just wanted to honor that, and honor the idea of Peep and what his legacy is. This one felt important to get it right more than like, "We gotta do this and it's gotta be marketed like this," or whatever. It felt like, “Let's get this song right, and if we don't get this to a place we think is right for what Peep's legacy is, then maybe we just don't put it out or we don't put Fall Out Boy on it."
Makonnen: It was, I think, a dream come true. I wish we could've done it while he was still here, but we honored him by fulfilling a wish. [My Peep joint project Diamonds] should be ready before the year ends, too.
"I've Been Waiting" took about six months to finish, right?
Wentz: It took a long time. We changed the BPM — the speed of the song — we sped it up. For a while, it just felt like there were three choruses and then we were like, "Why should it not just be three catchy parts?" They don't all have to be choruses, they can just feel like these are like a part into the next part into the next part. It doesn't need to follow necessarily a traditional song structure.
Makonnen: We just really wanted to try to perfect it as much as we can.
That's interesting that you mentioned that you sped up the BPM, Pete, because I was actually thinking about how great this would sound as a slow-downed acoustic ballad.
Wentz: Oh, wow, yeah, that would be sick. I don't think that Fall Out Boy has ever had — and I don't mean, I'm going to say successful and I don't mean successful in radio terms — but I don't think we've ever had a successful ballad where we finished and we were like, "Wow, that really worked." But this could be, "Maybe we could do an acoustic version and it'd be the one."
How did you approach the challenges of putting together a posthumous release?
Makonnen: Fall Out Boy wanted to do it somewhere where they were comfortable, so I just let them do it at their leisure — at their home or studio or something like that.
Wentz: The most heavy lifting to me is the blending of all three vocals. It's three really different ways of singing, and trying to blend it and make it feel like it's not like this hodgepodge and make it feel like it's more like a stew or something like that with different ingredients, was the heavy lifting to me. On paper, this is a crazy idea, but to make it work, you have to kind of blend — it's pretty disparate sounding-wise.
I want to talk about the video, which is so surreal and magical. How did that come together?
Makonnen: Me and Peep first had the idea about doing it in a hot air balloon and transporting to a different type of world, almost like an Alice in Wonderland-type of thing.
Wentz: The idea was, we're creating this thing but there's like a giant hole where, maybe, the heart of this thing is. And so, how do we — embrace that? How do we embrace what's missing, what would've been and what was? We thought about it, [and found] the most interesting way to do it is to do it in a surrealist way ‘cause it feels dreamlike. So that's what we went for. We were trying to create a moving, surrealist painting.
Makonnen: With Peep's [collaborators] who worked on all his previous stuff, we gathered our notes of what Peep told us during different times and then we kind of constructed all that together. We brought Fall Out Boy and their creative director in and made a group effort to put the video together. Andrew Donoho, the director, really brought it to life for us.
Wentz: We also worked with Peep's camp on it. It was really about following the lead of Peep and his collaborators, his mom [Liza Womack] and his camp. They really had the final say in most of the creative stuff, if not all of it.
Makonnen: [Womack] has been involved from the start with everything. Even when me and Lil Peep were making the music before he passed, he would always play his mom the song, and I would play my mom the song to compare notes.
What does it mean to you to see the song now on the Hot 100?
Makonnen: I know it was one of [Peep’s] favorite songs ever, so it's good to see the feedback and the fans and people react to it and really gravitate toward it. It feels good to know that his music is still living on, and his legacy is still going, that he’s still bringing joy some healing to the fans with the music.
A version of this article originally appeared in the April 27 issue of Billboard.