“It feels good to keep his memory alive with the music we created,” ILoveMakonnen tells the Billboard Pop Shop Podcast of his music with the late Lil Peep.
More than four years ago, rapper/singer ILoveMakonnen scored his first hit single with “Tuesday,” featuring Drake, which reached the top 15 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and sold more than a million downloads in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music. However, Makonnen didn’t return to the Hot 100 until this year, courtesy of the perhaps-unlikely pop radio hit “I’ve Been Waiting,” alongside his late friend and collaborator Lil Peep, and featured guests Fall Out Boy. (Lil Peep died in 2017.)
As it turns out, one shouldn’t be too surprised by the single becoming a hit, nor of its embrace at top 40 radio stations (its currently No. 15 on the Pop Songs airplay chart dated April 27, and marks Peep’s first hit on the list), as Makonnen and Peep had always intended for the cut to become a pop radio hit.
“This is what we sort of always dreamed of, and would have wanted, you know what I'm saying?” Makonnen tells the Billboard Pop Shop Podcast (listen to the full interview, below). “When we made the music, I was telling him all this stuff like, 'We could be on pop radio!' And he was just smiling and laughing.”
Billboard interrupts — did Peep think Makonnen was ridiculous for suggesting that?
“No! He was believing it, but just like, ‘come on, look at where we're at right now.' It's just definitely happened (now). It's like the dream is coming true of what we intended to do with it, even though a lot of people didn't see it at the time.”
When Makonnen and Peep began recording music together, the pair’s hope was to release a collaborative album in the spring of 2018. Makonnen still intends on releasing that project in the future, saying that “It feels good to keep his memory alive with the music we created.”
“Our intention in making our whole album together was to sort of put us in what we call 'pop star land.' That was really the intention behind all our music. We wanted to have (the music) crossover to pop, but still be original from Lil Peep and Makonnen.”
Following Lil Peep’s death, “I’ve Been Waiting” got a major pop assist from a couple of heavy-hitters: Fall Out Boy and red-hot producer Louis Bell.
Makonnen calls Fall Out Boy “our big brothers in music,” while Peep cited the act as one of his "favorite bands" in a 2017 XXL magazine interview. The band’s Patrick Stump (who contributes new vocals on the cut) and Pete Wentz also appear in the song’s official music video.
Meanwhile, Bell — has produced such top 10 Hot 100 hits as Halsey’s “Without Me,” 5 Seconds of Summer’s “Youngblood” and Post Malone’s “Rockstar” — offered his help to assist in mixing and producing the track after Peep’s passing. While Bell was not originally part of the recording or production process, he happened to be working in the same studio when Makonnen and Peep were working on the track together, so he got to see the two of them first come together to work on tunes. After Peep died, Bell offered his help to Makonnen on the cut. “We were getting down to mixing, he was there to help start mixing it, and piecing it together, and added production. It sort of took a new life in production then.”
While “I’ve Been Waiting” is rising up the charts (and the Makonnen/Peep collaborative album is gestating), Makonnen has three of his own solo album projects in the works with Warner Bros. Records. “I haven’t really dropped a project in full since about 2016… I’m just trying to get back on schedule and try to release more music as ILoveMakonnen because that’s what fans know me for, as having a massive amount of music.”
In addition to the interview with ILoveMakonnen, Pop Shop hosts Keith and Katie chat about BTS’ Map of the Soul: Persona album debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, Sam Smith and Normani’s “Dancing With a Stranger” hitting the top 10 on the Hot 100, Jonas Brothers announcing their new album, Justin Bieber’s surprise performance at Coachella, and more.
The Billboard Pop Shop Podcast is your one-stop shop for all things pop on Billboard's weekly charts. You can always count on a lively discussion about the latest pop news, fun chart stats and stories, new music, and guest interviews with music stars and folks from the world of pop. Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard's senior director of charts Keith Caulfield and deputy editor, digital Katie Atkinson every week on the podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. (Click here to listen to the previous edition of the show on Billboard.com.)