Image Courtesy of Billboard.com
By Katie Van Lew
Rapper Juice WRLD rose to fame in 2018 with his single “Lucid Dreams.” He set himself apart from other rappers in the industry, as his music was an expression of his innermost, vulnerable feelings. His music was less about the lavish lifestyle that most artists rap about and more focused on emotion. In December 2019, Juice WRLD left the world, without a final goodbye. His death was unexpected, leaving fans latching on to the last remnants of the late rapper in his last album, Death Race for Love (2019). On April 24, 2020, Juice WRLD’s family announced that his first posthumous song, “Righteous” would be released that day. Over the next few months, Interscope Records released the rapper’s songs. Many speculated that the record label would be releasing a posthumous album. On July 10, 2020, Juice WRLD’s posthumous album Legends Never Die was released to streaming services. Critics have praised the album, some even going as far as calling it “the album of the year.”
In “Bad Energy”, he sings about the perpetual pain that is a recurring theme in his life. His lyrics reveal the struggle he faced with fame inundating his life. In the chorus, the rapper sings, “Drain out the bad energy, forget all the bad memories.” The chorus repeats, in an echo, almost as if he reminds himself this mantra to stay afloat. In the second verse, he sings, “Life is a ocean, demons I’ve been drownin’ out.” In this verse, he alludes to the tumultuousness of his life, as he tries to tend to his mental health while mitigating the problems that stardom has brought to his life.
In “Wishing Well” Juice WRLD’s lyrics pivot from hope to desperation. His lyrics exhibit the real battle that ensued in his brain everyday. In the chorus, he begins the first verse with, “I can’t breathe I’m waiting for the exhale, toss my pain with my wishes in a wishing well.” His lyrics bring a false sense of hope that the pain that haunts him can be easily discarded into a wishing well. Although the chorus repeats throughout the song, it is interspersed with verses that express the writhing pain and weariness that floods his mind. In his first verse, he refigures his life to a constant phone call between his depression and addiction. Despite Juice WRLD’s expression of his drive to maintain hope in the chorus, his ambition for a happy life is consumed by the incessant thoughts of negativity, as expressed in his first and second verse.
In “Can’t Die” Juice WRLD’s lyrics are chilling as he raps about the impact of death on his life. In the chorus, he sings “Sometimes it feels like I can’t die, ’cause I never was alive, Every day it feels like someone new dies, hope the news is a lie.” The lyricism in the song is complicated, as his words show his fearlessness in terms of his own death, yet he is unable to cope with the death of others in his life. In his second verse, he expresses the constant warning from others that his addiction will ruin him yet brushes it off again. The song is eerie, as his own lyrics foreshadow his death.
Legends Never Die is not an album that is able to give closure to the Juice WRLD fanbase. Collectively, the songs on the posthumous album have the potential to be repetitive, as the songs are overwhelmed by recurring themes of despair; however, his songs elicit a vulnerability that many rappers and artists alike are incapable of producing themselves. The album was reminiscent of past songs he has curated, flooded with somber lyrics, with some songs even foreshadowing his own death. Although the album itself does not provide fans with closure, many songs on the album exhibited Juice WRLD’s proclivity to fight the things that plagued his life. His melancholic lyricism often disguises the strength he exudes, both in his style of simplistic yet clever wordplay, and in his undeniable will to keep creating new content.
Juice WRLD opened new doors for the rap community. His sound was unique, as it fused hip-hop and emo-rap to create an anthem for his life. His music was made for him, and the millions of fans out there that could resonate with his experiences of pain, loss, and love. His artistic vision allowed him to write lyrics that were authentic to himself, and the unspoken afflictions of life such as addiction and depression. The transparency in his music cultivated a new genre that does not contradict the rap industry but forms a subgenre of hip-hop that immerses the listener in a world that is deeper than lyrics that gush over cars and fame.