Last month, ILoveMakonnen surprised the hip-hop community when he announced on his Instagram page that a new collaboration was on the way featuring Lil Peep and XXXTentacion, two genre-blending artists whose lives came to tragic ends over the last year. Today (Sept. 19), the new song, "Falling Down,” arrives and it finds both Peep and X crooning sullenly over a sunshine-drenched instrumental as they flaunt the talent that propelled them to stardom.

"Shit don't feel the same when you're out of town/So 'Ko, let's watch the rain as it's falling down, yeah," Peep croons before X picks up where he left off, singing, "Rain keeps falling, tears keeping falling/Darling, your love is like walking on pin nails."

Although the joint effort, which was originally titled "Sunlight on Your Skin" and co-written by Makonnen and Peep in 2017, sounds as natural as it gets, fans met Makonnen’s initial announcement of the song with a mix of enthusiasm and skepticism in August.  Many suggested the song was a corporate ploy to profit off the deaths of two emerging trendsetters. Others were just happy to hear a collab they probably never expected to happen in the first place.

For his part, XXXTentacion, who was shot and killed at 20 after a robbery in Deerfield Beach, Fla. this past June, was interested in collabing with the late Peep, who died at 21 after ingesting a lethal mix of fentanyl and a generic brand of Xanax last November. In an audio clip Makonnen posted to Instagram while announcing "Falling Down" last month, X expressed his desire to link up with Come Over When You're Sober, Pt. 1 performer while he was alive.

"If I would have known he was so cool, I would have linked up with him sooner," X tells his go-to producer John Cunningham, who helped produce "Falling Down" with Peep's frequent collaborator IIVI and Makonnen. "And it’s unfortunate because it's like, yo, people die. That's when you, you know, your remorse makes you check them out."

Now, X and Peep have connected posthumously, and according to Makonnen, 29, the track came together in a completely authentic way. Speaking with XXL, ILoveMakonnen unravels the mystery of "Falling Down," explaining his connection to X and Peep while recalling the rainy London day that birthed the original version of the song.

XXL: How did "Falling Down" come together?

ILoveMakonnen: It came together from me and Lil Peep's session in London when we were working on our album there. My manager called me one day when me and Lil Peep were in the hotel and was asking what we were doing. And it was like, "Nothing, it's raining. You know we're just chillin." And he's like, "Okay, well go write a song about the rain." And so were like, "Okay, let's go do that" and me and Lil Peep started working on that.

We wrote the hook in the hotel, then went to the studio and laid the hook down on the track. We did it with a whole bunch of other songs in London, me and Lil Peep. Kinda semi-finished it, but we never really fully finalized it. I guess like a month or so later he was playing it online, on Instagram Live or something.Then some fans had stripped a snippet and uploaded it to YouTube.

And then X had heard the snippet on YouTube and he wanted to be a part of it and he recorded some parts to it. [X] ended up passing away, and his mom and his family were reaching out to Peep's management and everybody saying the song was something that [X] was very passionate about before he passed and he would really like to be a part of this and [asked] if we could make this happen.

So I was like, "Sure." That's what me and Peep were making music for, to bring people together. You know, what art does, X was another artist as well. We're all on the same mission of just wanting to make good music. That's hopefully what we did with this record.

The song originally featured yourself and Lil Peep, and it was titled "Sunlight on Your Skin." What's the difference between that track and "Falling Down"?

The difference is that me and Peep's version is we were kinda talking to each other, answering each other. X's version is kinda, it's the same, but kind of honoring and bigging up Peep. It was a tribute type of thing, and I'm being a part of the song. X did his parts after Peep passed away.

Who produced the track?

It's like John Cunningham and IV. It's like a joint production of Peep's producers and [X's] producers and me. 'Cause it was like people that worked on Peep's [Come Over When You're Sober, Pt. 1] that got [Peep's] sound. John works on most of X's stuff, so he knows X's sound. We wanted to bring the closest people around to those two artists because they weren't exactly here but at the time. But they left parts here, so we just wanted to bring people that would work with them to finalize this record.

Did you ever meet XXXTentacion?

I never met him, but I did talk to him on the phone one time. I'm thinking like, the end of 2016. I think he was still in jail at the time for whatever he was dealing with. I talked to him. We were both mutual fans, he was bigging me up, telling me to keep doing my thing. [Telling me] not to lose myself.

True ILoveMakonnen fans [could] kinda see that I was kinda going off into a lot of different stuff. He let me know from the jump that I inspired him and that he was one of my fans. He had so much wisdom for being so young. He's younger than me. He didn't even jump into the game like that; he was still underground. He was somebody that could tell you how to stay true to yourself, but don't get lost with all the outer-bearing things that come around at the time.

That's one thing that I do remember with talking with him and I was just giving him some motivation on staying positive while he was in jail, what to do when he got out of jail. He believed in his music at the time. I was telling him, the whole wave down there in South Florida, they should all stick together and they could go do stadiums. So we had a good little talk in 2016, before [X] became how he became.

Is there any reason for the delay on the release of this song? You were originally going to drop it last month.

I think it was a clearance delay from all the parties involved. Everybody wanted to make sure everybody was on the same page. Creatively, me and all the creators were on the same page, and then we had to make sure all the business people, and all the lawyers are on the same page. I may have just been a little early, 'cause I'm emotionally creative and stuff like that. I think we just had to get some paperwork and everything lined up. I think that's probably what the delay was.

When is your version of "Sunlight on Your Skin" going to officially drop?

The original version with me and Peep should drop next Thursday. That's what we were working on in London.

XXXTentacion's mother posted a teaser of the new track on her Instagram page, and at the bottom of the video, she writes, "From Peep's mom and I." What role did those two play in putting this song together?

I definitely think it was like the mothers' wish. [X] had just been tragically taken away and Peep passed away as well. I think it's something both the mothers have in common. Both losing children who were both influential in music. One wanted to big up the other one before he passed. The mothers have the final say because these are their children at the end of the day. I think they're doing it bigger for more of the fans as well than just for themselves. I think it's gonna bring some closure to everybody with some healing. I think that's definitely what the mothers need. We just know [X and Peep] as the artists that they are.

There was some skepticism when you dropped a teaser for the song. There were people on Twitter that said the collab wouldn't have happened if they were both alive and that labels put the track together to make money. What do you have to say to those claims?

Who knows what would happen if [X and Peep] were alive? Who are those people to say anything about what those people would be doing if they were alive or if they were anywhere? I really don't have no answers to those type of people 'cause I don't know those people. I've talked to X. I know them more than most people know them like that that are saying whatever they're saying. X wanted to be a part of this song. He has parts that are to the song.

It's not [like] he made a song to another song and Lil Peep had a song to another song and the label was just like, "Oh, let's put these the two parts together 'cause it will make a bang." It's [that] this person was inspired to get onto this version of this song that Lil Peep and me originated.

I don't know. What do people want? This is what X was doing while he was alive. What are y'all talking about if he was alive? If Lil Peep was alive, and me and Peep are friends, and I guess I can speak for Lil Peep since it's our project together, I would say that we would be very open to talking with whoever and to making any sort of creative things happen. Rather than trying to keep up some sort of negative intentions where I don't really come from, rather than a bunch of made-up stuff.

What does it mean for you to be able to put together this collaboration with artists as influential as Peep and X?

From what I understand, I was a big influential person in their lives and their career as well. It's a mutual inspiration, a mutual influence and, you know, I'm just glad I was able to bring my influence, my thoughts and my creativity to it and have them be involved in that and wanna be a part of that as well. Because we never got the chance to get on the level of, "Yo, let's get into the studio and make some stuff." But we all fans of each other. "I respect your work, you respect my work."

I felt real humbled and honored to be a part of this. It's very special. It's very dear to my heart because Peep was definitely a very close friend of mine. I'm still excited about the music we created together. XXXTentacion is an amazing artist and [an] amazing, influential guy out here.

I don't wanna say happy—'cause it's like a bittersweetness because I wish they were here and we would all be able to do this if they were alive—but it just [brings] a little closure to my heart, and I hope it brings closure to the fans as well and, you know, brings them inspiration to keep going on and do it the way Peep and X would be doing it. Living life, giving it your all, just having some sort of motivation. I'm just glad to be a part of that. The motivation, the inspiration, the art and the music.

See Behind-the-Scenes Photos of XXXTentacion at the 2017 XXL Freshman Shoot

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