“I been living fast, fast, fast, fast / Feeling really bad, bad, bad, bad” —Juice WRLD, “Fast”
How does anyone begin a piece like this? What is there to say when a promising young artist loses their life before their time? Is there ever really a time? And why him, and why now? Why ever? So many roiling questions. And now, I’m tasked with explaining the life and burgeoning legacy of the always loving Jarad Anthony Higgins.
Juice WRLD was a rising Chicago rapper with a score of Platinum plaques to his name for his uncanny ability to tap into the wounded male psyche. He gave young men the space to feel their emotions without being ashamed. And he did it over Sting samples. And he did it with poise. Every song was a winner or was on the road to being one. He was best known for “All Girls Are The Same,” “Lucid Dreams,” and landed a deal with Interscope records in 2018. He released his debut, Goodbye & Good Riddance, on May 23, 2018. The follow-up, Death Race for Love, came on March 8, 2019. Between the two albums, Juice had hours of breakup anthems, and war cries for the aching.
Early Sunday morning, according to various reports, Juice WRLD suffered a seizure shortly after arriving at Chicago‘s Midway Airport. He was rushed to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was 21.
Juice WRLD’s work was the epitome of resonant music. He was a master of the art of dissonance, putting together sing-song raps with dark themes. Every Juice WRLD bar brought us closer to the young man; every bar was earcandy in one turn and serious meditation on love and drugs in another. Juice WRLD wanted the best for his fans, wanted the best for himself. His music spoke to that, whether or not it was your flavor. He had his entire career ahead of him. He deserved to have his entire life ahead of him.
With all that covered, allow me to emote: What the fuck? How many more artists can we lose? Who, on earth, is built for the breadth and depth of loss we have experienced in the last two years? I’m not.
Juice WRLD existed as an escape for so many fans. I was one of them. His song, “Fast,” has been the soundtrack of 2019. Finally, I thought, someone figured out how to encapsulate the pangs of success, the paranoia of it. “Fast” made me feel sane. The song evaporated my shame and my guilt. The song grounded me. “Fast” stood at the crossroads of validating my pain and urging me to try and feel better. And that’s just one song in a deep catalog cut off too soon. Juice WRLD made fear sound surmountable. He made the most harrowing of emotions sound beatable. Even in his missteps, his goodness radiated.
“I wanna be more than just a millionaire,” Juice told XXL. “I wanna change the world.” And he was. He abso-fucking-lutely was.
I spent so many dark nights in 2018 listening to Goodbye & Good Riddance. I saw so much of my own self-proclaimed crazy wrapped up in Juice WRLD’s knotty world of feeling. And I wasn’t the only one who spent their fair share of hours feeling seen and understood. “Juice saved my little brother’s life, man,” one of our writers Slacked us all. He was a Chicago all-star, but Juice WRLD was also a radiant force in hip-hop.
In the weeks to come, there will be an outpouring of grief—as there should be. There will be remembrances, and there will be left-of-field takes. There will be profiteers, and there will be genuine fans trying to navigate the minefield of losing a loved one. To all of this, I say: Feel what you need to feel. That’s what Juice WRLD’s music taught us all. Experience this loss however you need to. There’s no timeline for pain. There are no rules to this shit.
I wish I had a Juice WRLD growing up. I had plenty of artists hear and understand me, but I was too jaded in my youth to have an artist stand up for me in the way Juice stood up for his listeners’ emotions. He was true to his every feeling, and for that reason, his music thrived. I say all of this to say, Juice WRLD was more than an artist. He was a hero to millions upon millions of listeners. He will be sorely missed. Rest in peace; rest in power.