(Header image via YouTube.)
Last Friday, the estate of since-deceased rapper and singer Juice WRLD released his first posthumous album Legends Never Die. Juice WRLD (real name Jarad Anthony Higgins) died in December of 2019 at 21 years old from a seizure after an accidental overdose of oxycodone and codeine. This is only the first of potentially many posthumous releases, as he is reported to have approximately 2,000 songs still unreleased. The album is a representation of Juice WRLD’s life, a world of drugs, death, and mental health battles. Legends Never Die is also the third posthumous album released by a deceased rapper in their twenties this year, showing the sad reality that posthumous records are becoming more and more frequent from some of Gen Z’s favorite artists.
Love and other drugs
Ring-ring, phone call from depression
You used my past and my memories as a weapon
On the other line, I talk to addiction, huh
Speaking of the devil, all the drugs, I miss them
This can't be real, is it fiction?
Somethin' feels broke, need to fix it
I cry out for help, do they listen?
I'ma be alone until it's finished
This is the first verse of “Wishing Well” (language), which is currently the most-viewed song from the album on Genius. In the song, Juice WRLD describes his existence entangled in drugs and depression, and how lost they make him feel. Though we’ve chosen this verse as a summarizing example, those two themes are peppered throughout every song on the album. Even at first glance, song titles like “Bad Energy,” “Life’s a Mess,” and “Fighting Demons” make it clear that Juice was going through a tough battle with mental illness.
Throughout these exposés of despair and loneliness, the answer always seems to be drugs. All kinds of drugs, even the ones that ultimately led to his death. There’s a cycle of feeling depressed about an imperfect life and of feeling anxious about whether he’ll ever find a way out of it. He uses drugs to cope with it all, still painfully aware that the drugs don’t ultimately solve anything.
In the midst of these numbing themes that permeate the album, Juice WRLD also reveals a fiery and violent side of himself when talking about love. Earlier hits like “Lucid Dreams'' defined Juice WRLD by his desire to find love. Legends Never Die follows the same theme as he sings about his dedication to his girlfriend, Ally Lotti, and the passion their relationship brought out in him. In songs like “Life’s a Mess” and “Blood on My Jeans,” Juice WRLD raps about his unwavering dedication to his girlfriend, to the point that he’d kill enemies who tried to get in the way of his relationship. Unfortunately, even though being in love sounds like a positive thing in his life, he talks about how he can turn it into yet another unhealthy form of dependency (along with drug addiction).
Legends do die, too soon
Whether we agree or not, Juice WRLD has adopted a “legend” status amongst fans since his passing. With tributes from countless high-profile artists, critics, and fans alike, his imprint on the music world is undeniable, as Legends Never Die is already projected to be one of the biggest albums of 2020.
Drugs have been a staple of the rapper lifestyle for decades, but though they’ve been glamorized for so long, rappers have become more outspoken on the negative effects both in their music and interviews, including Juice WRLD himself. The recent overdoses by rappers like Lil Peep and Mac Miller came as a shock to many, as both artists had been open about their struggles with drug addiction and attempts to become sober. These attempts were valued and even adopted by Juice WRLD himself, and sobriety was something he continually talked about, even if it didn’t ultimately manifest. But Juice also admitted that his desire to experiment with drugs came from the example of rapper Future. Though he was always aware of the repercussions that this lifestyle could bring about (and had brought about for some of his peers), he wasn’t able to change. Throughout Legends Never Die, Juice’s songs feature lines that seem to hauntingly predict the fate that awaited him. For instance:
They tell me that I'm finna OD in no time
I told 'em I'll do it on my time, not your time
Takin' all these meds to the face got me flying
Takin' all these meds to the face got me dying
A message of hope
In contrast with his sad music, Juice was known for his uplifting personality, a dichotomy that is hard to analyze. Though his songs seem self-destructive, his message is hope. Interludes throughout the album sample clips of him speaking about the blessings God has given him, his devout love for his fans, and his hope that anyone can work hard to succeed and overcome their struggles.
Even in the bleakness of the majority of his work, his songs are made with upbeat pop structures and melodies. Mixing hip-hop, drill, and pop-punk elements, the sound of the music is another example of how candid Juice was with being 100% himself in his music. Once again, authenticity is key for Gen Z, making Juice WRLD as prominent as he was, and still is.
Talk to your teen about the album
At the time of writing this post, Legends Never Die has already racked up over 300 million Spotify streams, and with some accompanying music videos (language), we predict that many teens will be listening to these songs for a long time. And as aforementioned, this is likely only the beginning of Juice WRLD’s posthumous releases. Take some time to listen to the album, then use these conversation starters to talk about the content of the songs with your teen.
- Have you listened to Juice WRLD’s new album? What do you think about it?
- What about Juice WRLD and his music do you find unique compared to other artists?
- What do you think about all of the drug references? Does the fact that Juice WRLD normalizes this behavior make you think about trying drugs? Why or why not?
- Juice WRLD is very open about his struggles with anxiety and depression. What are some healthy ways to deal with anxiety and depression? Why do you think Juice WRLD struggled to find healthy ways to cope?
- Do you ever find yourself chasing empty means of satisfaction? How does Jesus redeem this tendency in us? (Tip: You may consider first sharing one way in which you often try and fail to meet your own needs.)
- How does listening to the music of an artist who has passed away change the way you listen to it?
- How does it make you feel when you hear that an artist you listen to has passed away at an age not much older than you are now? How does this news affect you compared to other negative world news?
When a prominent figure dies, social media has made it easy for anyone to post a tribute to pay their respects, and teens may feel pressured to adopt the views influencers or celebrities have regarding the legacy of the deceased person. Whether they listened to Juice WRLD’s songs or not, the imprint he left on the music world might leave teens feeling like they should admire him just as much as other artists do. It’s important to respect the impact someone’s death has on anyone, especially a premature one, but it’s equally important to help our teens understand that actions have consequences, as well as how to discern which actions should be praised and which should be criticized.