The death of rapper Juice Wrld shocked the rap community and the music community in general. The loss of yet another young and rising star with extreme potential is something that always causes people to stop and wonder, to take a step back and think about the fullness of what could have been. Unfortunately, these kinds of things take place too often in an industry fixated on the idea of chasing clout and developing lifestyles that are unhealthy and not conducive to long-term stability or growth. While Juice Wrld’s legacy lives on in spite of his death or the manner in which he died, his life being cut short is not something anyone is proud of or thankful for. While he remains an icon to many of his fans and has even released posthumous music that has gained incredible popularity, the fact remains that the lifestyle that he led is something that is almost an inherent problem with the music industry and it needs to be addressed.
Who Was Juice Wrld?
Nobody should ever have to write an article about a twenty one year old that begins with a question in the past tense about who they used to be. However, unfortunately, Juice Wrld passed away in December of 2019. To fully understand the circumstances surrounding his death, it is necessary to go all the way back to his birth and his early childhood.
He was born under the name Jarad Anthony Higgins in December of 1998, and he was an American rapper and songwriter from Chicago. His mother was extremely conservative and somewhat religious and as such she did not allow him to listen to music that was considered to be a bad influence on him. One such genre that she disallowed was hip hop because she was worried it would be a negative influence. As such, his earliest musical influences were rather pop and rock music which he found and listened to because of popular video games such as Tony Hawk Pro Skater and Guitar Hero. His early band influences were Panic! At the Disco, Fall OUt Boy, and Megadeth.
He began his musical career early, learning the piano as early as age four, and his mother also paid for him to begin lessons learning the guitar and the drums as well. He learned the trumpet in order to participate in band class in middle school, and he began producing and releasing his own music on Soundcloud in his sophomore year of high school.
His early life, however, was not easy. Based partly on his circumstances and partly on his own choices, his lifestyle led him down a dark path early on. For example, he began to drink lean as early as the sixth grade and was also using percocets and xanax before his fifteenth birthday in 2013. He smoked regularly and did not finish high school, dropping out before his senior year was over due to health concerns that did not allow him to complete his education.
Juice Wrld’s Musical Career
As a musician, Juice Wrld was completely passionate about what he did. Like many professional musicians, he believed that music was the most real form of human expression, allowing emotions to be conveyed that no other form of expression allows. A RapTV article quotes him as saying, “Music is just a beautiful thing, like I love myself so much, as far as the way I make music, the way God made me, the way God wired me to do the things that I do, and to change the world the way that I can. I want to tell you that you can do anything you put your mind to, period.” He often spoke from a dark place and dealt with very serious mental illnesses himself such as depression and anxiety. This darkness found its way into his music and his perspective was something that his fans found to be incredibly raw and relatable.
The earliest roots of his music career stem back as far as his own release of music on his personal Soundcloud account, and this was beneficial for him as he was exploring not only his personal brand of expression, but he was also experiencing a new genre. Because of his upbringing, he was not able to hear or fall in love with rap and hip hop until a much later age, and so his exposure to those genres was limited. During this time, he really experimented with what he wanted to convey to his audience, and he developed a persona and a message that really resonated with his fans.
Some of his best songs were:
- Lean Wit Me, a fan favorite that fits just about any mood from a party to cruising around in your car with your favorite people
- Syphilis, one of his most lyrically complicated songs that speaks to the fact that if he had lived, he would have gone far
- My Fault, a song that really dives deep into the emotional complexity that he had and the things that he struggled with on an almost daily basis
- Wasted, a club banger featuring Lil Uzi Vert that went viral
- Lucid Dreams, his most popular and most streamed song which has over a billion listens on Spotify
His studio album releases include Goodbye and Good Riddance in 2018, Death Race for Love in 2019, and posthumously, Legends Never Die in 2020. He also got popular due to a collaboration he did with Nicki Minaj; the two worked together to produce the Nicki Wrld Tour in 2019. He was nominated for several awards and ended up winning the Billboard Music Award for Top New Artist in 2019. His music was raw, vulnerable, and communicated clearly the darkness he experienced.
Juice Wrld’s Death
Juice’s drug use was something that he wrote and spoke about extensively. “I smoke weed, and every now and then I slip up and do something that’s poor judgment,” he said. “I have a lot going for me, I recognize it’s a lot of big things, a lot of big looks. I want to be there, and you don’t have to overdose to not be there.”
In December of 2019, after flying home to Chicago from Los Angeles, Juice Wrld suffered a massive seizure and was taken to a nearby hospital where he was declared dead a few hours later from accidental overdose due to toxic levels of oxycodone and codeine. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said: “Higgins died as a result of oxycodone and codeine toxicity,” and “the manner of death is an accident.”
His death has fortunately not sullied his legacy. Eminem even included a tribute to the young man in his most recent album Music to be Murdered By.
Sadly, his death highlights a recent trend of accidental overdose in the music community, showing the true depth of the struggles that people go through and that yes, musicians are just real people.
Juice Wrld’s tragic overdose may have cut his life short, but it did not limit his impact. With several billion listens on Spotify and tens of thousands of fans globally, Juice Wrld still has a legacy that carries on through his lyrics, even the ones released posthumously.