Arts and Entertainment

Artist Profile: Juice WRLD

Juice WRLD was a revolutionary, influential, and beloved figure in the music world, and one whose loss has been felt by many in a number of ways.

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By Michele Yi

In rap, there has long been a dichotomy between sad and cool; coolness is derived from nonchalance, swagger, and confidence, whereas sadness stems from insecurity and hardship, which most people tend to not want to think or hear about in their free time. As much as artists from other genres like Adele and Sam Smith have built their careers off of sadness, hip-hop is unique in its promotion of the ideals of swagger and coolness. For most of rap’s history, most hip-hop artists eschewed negative topics in their lyrics, especially in the ‘80s and ‘90s, in the midst of the east-west coast battle.

This mindset changed with the rise in popularity of artists like Eminem, Tupac, and Lil Peep, who rather than avoid these topics, faced them head-on. As put by New Yorker staff writer Carrie Batton: “If hip-hop has historically focused on invincibility, this generation is fixated on mortality.” Setting the precedent for popular rap music that tackles upsetting issues, these artists inspired a new generation of so-called “emo-rappers,” setting the stage for the rise of artists including Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Tracy, and notably, Juice WRLD.

Juice WRLD, born Jarad Higgins, rose to prominence with his 2018 single, “All Girls Are the Same,” which touches upon his difficulty with relationships. Right off the bat, Juice WRLD didn’t hesitate to include graphic and grotesque mentions of drugs, suicide, and heartbreak, including the lyrics, “Ten minutes, she told me it would take ten minutes / To break my heart, oh, no, she didn't / [expletive] livin’, I’ma drown in my sorrow.” This continued with his sophomore single, “Lucid Dreams,” in which he raps about a specific upsetting past relationship and breakup, which catapulted him into the mainstream.

What distinguished Juice WRLD from his predecessors was likely not his lyrics but the sound of his music; while Lil Peep has a dark, gritty sound to match the tone of his lyrics, Juice WRLD’s songs sound just like any other popular rap song, with a fast, upbeat tempo and catchy melody. He combined what listeners wanted to hear with what they wanted to ponder, in a way that had never been done before. Juice WRLD used trap beats and lyrics about pain and suffering interlaced with flexes of wealth and status to produce not only a unique amalgamation of moods, but also a statement about the superficiality of stardom, where hurt is swept under the rug. This was extremely popular with listeners, which is why, despite not undergoing any radical, musical, or personal transformation throughout his career, Juice WRLD remained an exciting and intriguing figure.

Publicly, Juice WRLD himself acted as an extension of his music, speaking openly about his insecurities, depression, and drug use. He was known for his heavy and frequent use of prescription drugs, namely lean, Xanax, and Percocets. Because he frequently lived on the edge, Juice WRLD, even in life, was very close to death. Frequently mentioning what his death would be like and his impact on the world in his lyrics, Juice WRLD was no stranger to danger. Nevertheless, his death on December 8 from a likely drug-induced seizure sent shockwaves throughout the world as it had lost one of its most beloved stars.

His death came shortly after police began searching his plane, which contained 70 pounds of marijuana and 6 bottles of prescription codeine syrup, along with a number of firearms. Some suspect his death was a suicide to avoid the repercussions of being caught, as he took a handful Percosets after getting word of the police search.

Despite there being no new music made, Juice WRLD has left behind an enormous arsenal of unreleased music, including “Let Me Know (I Wonder Why Freestyle),” a single released in the days following his death. As we anticipate the posthumous release of more music, rather than dwell on the sadness of his death, we can appreciate his substantial contributions to the music world, through both his songs and his legacy.