The next branch in Lil Peep's legacy, Chicago artist Juice WRLD is resonant.

Welcome to Starter's Guide, the series where DJBooth and All Def gives you the need-to-know details behind the genre's most promising new acts. We tell you why he or she is buzzing, why they'll blow up, and what records you need to hear. It’s quick, it’s easy, it's (mostly) painless, and regardless of your familiarity level, it’s everything you need to know to determine whether you are a fan or you need to steer clear.

Who Is Juice WRLD?

Juice WRLD is a young Chicago artist who exploded on the back of break-up anthems that scored him a record deal with Interscope in March 2018. It might feel like Juice WRLD fell out of the sky, with his biggest hits and a full-length project dropping within months of each other, but Juice has been releasing material for over three years. Before taking on the WRLD, he was simply JuiceTheKidd kicking it on SoundCloud, partly freestyling, partly making rap's answer to dream-pop in a vein not dissimilar from Kweku Collins’ early work. These loosies culminated in 2016’s JUICED UP THE EP, a cobbling together of indie, punk, new wave hip-hop, and classic rap influences.

Fast forward to 2017, when Juice WRLD dropped his JuiceWRLD 9 9 9 EP, defining his genre-blending and achy sound in nine tracks. From there, Juice scored the holy grail of co-signs in 2018: a Cole Bennett music video for “All Girls Are the Same.” Millions of plays and a reported three million dollar deal later, the 19-year-old dropped his debut, Goodbye & Good Riddance, on May 23, 2018. Since the album's release, he's gone on to perform his breakout hit "Lucid Dreams" at the 2018 VMAs, had the same song hit No. 3 on the Hot 100, and had both of his major singles land on Spotify's Songs of the Summer Chart, both in the US and globally.

Why Should You Care?

It would be easy to accuse Juice WRLD of riding trends and fronting sadness for clicks, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Citing him as a major influence, Juice WRLD is the next branch of Lil Peep’s legacy. His writing and crooning are bare and authentic, endearing and troublesome in the way young heartache often is. In name and in the history of his muddy freestyles, Juice WRLD is inspired by Tupac, which is about as hip-hop as it gets.

In terms of message, this young man is giving angst valid ground to stand on, and whether he knows it or not, being so forthright with his feelings is a radical act when young Black men’s emotions are given the proper country. “I want people to know they’re not alone,” he told Pigeons & Planes. “I want to just spread a sense of joy and fellowship with all of my fans.”

Essential Songs

“Lucid Dreams” (Goodbye & Good Riddance, 2017)

One of Juice WRLD’s two massive singles, and his biggest hit to date, currently en route to becoming the number one song in the country (it was the most popular song on Spotify earlier this month), “Lucid Dreams” samples Sting's "Shape of My Heart" and is Juice at his peak. He’s as achy as ever, warbling away the pangs of a breakup with evocative if not a touch too juvenile imagery—but it hits. That’s his magic touch: Juice WRLD knows how to make tunes that stick.

“All Girls Are the Same” (Goodbye & Good Riddance, 2017)

The second half of Juice WRLD’s sudden domination, and the more endearing of his two singles. Juice WRLD sings with a fresh conviction on "All Girls Are the Same," cataloging his woes and general confusion about love and women. This is the song that will make you root for him, if not for his musical success, then for him to at least enter into a stable relationship.

"Wasted" ft. Lil Uzi Vert (Goodbye & Good Riddance, 2018)

Two sullen rockstars come together on one track to sing about what makes them tick: drinking, drugs, and heartbreak. Juice WRLD brings a fresh vocal range and inflections to the cut, and pairing up with Lil Uzi Vert adds some static and texture to the tune. In the land of heartache anthems, "Wasted" reigns supreme.

“Lean Wit Me” (Goodbye & Good Riddance, 2018)

“Lean Wit Me” is a prime indie rock-meets-hip-hop ballad and the third single from Goodbye & Good Riddance. There’s a sultry delusion to this hook, a tenderness to Juice WRLD’s downward spiral that de-escalates the situation. We’re not worried for him, but we feel for him, which is all he ever wanted. The extra dip of Auto-Tune keeps this hip-hop through and through as sings about dying young and getting sober.

“Black & White” (Goodbye & Good Riddance, 2018)

Here is the perfect, baseline summation of the product Juice WRLD will deliver: some juvenile lyrics, a lot of heart, a penchant for melody, and teeming potential. Over a traditionally trappy beat, Juice WRLD strays from his typical breakup anthems to deliver a much-needed flex track. Sad boys can stunt, too.

Why He’ll Blow Up

Juice WRLD connects; he connects because he knows he has to. “Back in high school, even before that, I was good at freestyling,” Juice told Zane Lowe. “Then I started rapping, and I recorded a few records that didn’t have any substance. I thought, ‘Why not put my heart into what I’m making?’” 

With that, WRLD is not afraid to test and push his range. Even the high cracks of “Lean Wit Me” sound endearing to the point of communicating a fresh layer of desperation that makes his pain all the more believable.

Though WRLD thrives in his angst, he’s also self-aware, and if he leans on that ability to consider the external as he does on “Long Gone,” he’ll be able to evolve his style and whole of rap’s fixation on emo forms. His range and potential versatility will ensure he becomes a star, and he knows it. “I like to call myself an artist who can tap into a lot of different sounds,” he told Elevator. “I can make a rap song, and then turn around and make music with a live band if I wanted to.”

In a world where Post Malone dominates streaming numbers with emotional crooning that straddles the line between hip-hop and rock, Juice WRLD's path to stardom and success isn't difficult to fathom.

TL;DR

Juice WRLD is an upcoming Chicago artist whose initial roots in freestyling and passion for all genres of music allow him to make some of the city's most evocative tunes. His writing and delivery dabble in punk sensibilities, and his harnessing of angst makes him an important feature in the quest to let young men feel their feelings in earnest. WRLD's voice has a spry energy, even at its most hurt, and though his writing can grow tiresome or trite, it's clearly sticking well enough to secure top spots on the Hot 100 and U.S. Spotify 200. If Juice WRLD can mature his content and evolve his sound following his debut album, Goodbye & Good Riddance, he could carry the emo rap torch all the way to the finish line.

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