Alternating between one earbud to stay comfortable on my pillow, I went to bed Dec. 7, 2019 like I do every night: listening to music. The last song I heard before falling asleep? Juice WRLD’s unreleased “Electric Chair,” as I recently cane across his archive of SoundCloud material. Soon after drifting to sleep, I woke up to the sound of my roommate viciously pounding on my door shouting that Juice WRLD had passed away. Although I had woke up, I thought I was still dreaming.
There are many people like me who use music as an escape from reality, to find meaning from adversity or even as a method of therapy. Music seemingly fuels every fiber of my being, constantly listening and striving to find something — or someone — I’ve never heard before. Yet, one particular artist took me away since his overnight hip-hop takeover: Juice WRLD.
Juice WRLD (Jarad Anthony Higgins, 21) unexpectedly died Dec. 8 around 9:30 a.m. — suffering a seizure in the middle of Chicago’s Midway airport. His legacy resides within the confines of nearly three blockbuster years, always striving to “change the world” as he said to The FADER in his September 2019 cover story.
He changed not only the world, but music as a whole through his voice.
Juice WRLD attended Homewood-Flossmoor high school in the south suburbs of Chicago (Homewood-Flossmoor). Like me, he’s a Chicago-raised kid who, at the time, had dreams of becoming the icon he’s eternally remembered for Referred to as a legend by most, Juice’s stardom not only began with “Lucid Dreams” (which eventually earned him his first No. 1 record in 2018), it began with his ability to break barriers, bend genres and be completely honest with himself — no matter how harsh his truth was.
“Let my insecurities take over. Right now it’s kind of hard to stay sober. Last thing I want to hear is it’s over. Love is deadly, it’s going to put me in a coma.”
Juice WRLD, ‘Electric Chair’
Releasing a total of five projects over the course of his career (999, GB&GR, WRLD on Drugs, DR4L, LND) Juice’s music was something greater than his success at the surface. It created a community for those to be okay with handling their emotions; offering a safe haven to let those with negative thoughts find the light amid the darkness. His start on SoundCloud is ultimately where it ended two years ago. However, with the release of Legends Never Die seven months after his death — and upcoming second posthumous album Fighting Demons (Dec. 10) — die-hard Juice fans already had all the music they could have ever wanted. Vaulting over 2,000 tracks, his underground following made him who he was, even if those songs were hidden in plain sight.
The emo-rap craze caught fire instantly during Juice WRLD’s ascent to stardom, as he was a part of its few pioneers (i.e. XXXTENTACION, Lil Peep, Trippie Redd, Ski Mask The Slump God etc.) paving the way for their footsteps to be followed.
The hip-hop world heavily mourned in the wake of Juice’s death.
But at this moment in time, you may feel empty, hurt and possibly even lost. It’s always a big deal when a 21-year-old talent passes way too soon.
However, there’s a bigger issue at stake.
The Chicago star’s unexpected death will provoke thoughts and messages of love, outrageous takes, a conspiracy theory or two, an outpouring of grief and genuine fans trying to navigate the waters of these dark times.
While TMZ had intially reported on Juice WRLD’s death, social media went into a frenzy of support — memoralizing Juice’s staple on the music industry. But through the many sources covering this story through social media, no credible news outlets state Juice’s exact cause of death, nor has there been any video surveillence surfaced of his passing.
It’s an assumption at best, until you hear his music.
His seizure can be linked to his flaunted drug abuse heard in almost every one of his songs. Juice openly talked of his mental and physical battles in using prescription drugs to subside his heart-wrenching pain.
New reports surfaced Monday stating that other passengers aboard Juice’s private jet said that he had consumed several pills before arriving at Midway airport.
Authorities also found codeine cough syrup as well as seizing 70 pounds of marijuana on the plane.
Bottom line: rappers — and some of their fans — occasionally live in, love and embrace drug glorification, despite its possible repercussions.
This “drug culture” that music has grown to immortalize is one that should be taken with a grain of salt as a listener. However, as an artist, that’s the world that they seem to live in, regardless of anything.
The massive amounts of fame and money in such a short amount of time comes with the demons that follow it. Young people — high school and college students — idolize these rappers, falling into the dark place that is the overuse and misuse of drugs.
Is it just to numb the pain or is it in effort to follow your idols? This has been a question continuously brought up in music over the last few years, especially after the controversial Florida icon XXXTENTACION’s passing in July of 2018 and emo-rapper Lil Peep’s passing that same year.
Although XXX’s death was through an unthinkable slaying in his native Florida, rappers like Lil Peep, Mac Miller and now Juice WRLD fall into the category of overdose. The misuse of prescription drugs such as Percocet, Xanax and Codeine were reportedly the cause of these young talents’ downfall.
It’s part of our society now, as music panders to its adversity. Nowadays, people are so quick to turn to prescription drugs for everything. Although not always the case, the overall use of these drugs in turn creates more side effects that then have to be cured with other prescriptions.
It seems like an endless cycle. Society has now developed a deep and chronic addiction to feeling as if nothing hurts you, when you don’t know you’re hurting yourself.
It takes time, but time is a precious thing.
If you are a fan of him, feel what you need to feel in this time. If this is the first time you are hearing his name, know that this won’t be the last time this will happen. The harsh truth of it all is that these things happen every day.
As music fans, we need to be more concerned with the overall course of our lives than just a high that will get you through the night. We need to end this stigma.
For now, all we can do is reminisce the “Good Days” of Juice WRLD’s legacy.