Just two days after the two-year anniversary of his tragic death, Juice WRLD’s label, Grade A Productions, have blessed us with his second posthumous album, Fighting Demons. The project takes the artist’s total album count to four, with the late artist releasing his first two albums, Goodbye & Good Riddance and Death Race For Love, during his lifetime.
Juice WRLD, born Jarad Anthony Higgins, was a Chicago-born rapper, singer and songwriter, known for his ability to express the very real issues of addiction and mental health through a harmonious combination of rock and emo sounds, melodic vocals, and intricately detailed rap lyrics. On the 8th of December 2019, Juice WRLD passed away after an accidental overdose of oxycodone and codeine.
With a reported catalogue of over two thousand unreleased songs which Juice recorded before his untimely passing, friend Lil Bibby and Grade A Productions were spoilt for choice when selecting singles to combine in the latest album. Juice WRLD’s ability to improvise and freestyle whole songs over any type of beat, showcased in his hour-long collaborations with Tim Westwood, makes it unsurprising that the twenty-one year old had such an impressive discography of recorded music, and epitomises the truly heartbreaking loss suffered by the music scene, his family and his fans.
Fighting Demons offers listeners a deeper insight into the struggles of the late artist; Juice’s narration of his tragic battle with drug abuse and mental health are, though expected in his music now, perhaps at their most frequent and sad-in-nature in this project, culminating in the second track of the album, Already Dead. Knowing that Juice would die in the years following his recordings makes listening to his lyrics truly sad, and scarily real:
“I know that I didn’t stand a chance (yeah, yeah, yeah)
I don’t think I’ll ever live again (yeah, yeah, yeah)
I’m only here by popular demand (yeah, yeah, yeah)
I’m stayin’ alive for the fans (yeah, yeah, yeah)”
– “Already Dead”, Juice WRLD
The same sombre tone is maintained throughout the album; tracks Doom, Feel Alone, and Until The Plug Come Back Around, in particular, explore the singer’s struggle with his health and his acceptance of death. It is within these deeper tracks that Juice treats us to the outstanding vocal range he possesses: the kind of notes we all know you try to sing along to in the shower.
Of course, sad lyrics do not instantly equate to unenjoyable music, in the same spirit as the late XXXTentacion, Lil Peep, and Mac Miller, emotion-driven music can be powerful and genial. This album, as with most pieces by Juice, elicits a strange reaction of confliction and inhibition to listeners; the realness of his lyrics is heart wrenching, and yet, the beauty of Juice’s vocal execution and undeniable ear for good music makes bumping his music so enjoyable. If the saddest of Juice WRLD’s songs are not for you, tracks Not Enough, Rockstar In His Prime, and Feline – which boasts features from friends Polo G and Trippie Redd – are a few of the more upbeat numbers on the album.
In Juice WRLD speaks and Juice WRLD Speaks 2, we get to hear the artist talk openly about his struggles and the backwards treatment of such struggles within society. Eminem makes a surprise feature in Eminem Speaks, revealing the shocking nature of his history with addiction and his resultant near-death experience. Emotional insights from two of the biggest, most talented music acts in the world goes to show that, although Juice was one of few male artists to open up about his feelings, these sufferings are universal. It was his hope that his music would spark a revolutionary movement toward this openness and understanding within society. Juice WRLD: combining raw male emotion into worldwide music hits – a generational talent.
Just a week after the release of his latest album, the world has been gifted a candid, raw, and heartbreaking documentation of Juice’s life in HBOs new one-hour and forty minute long motion picture, Juice WRLD: Into The Abyss. The opening scene reveals the source of the Juice WRLD Speaks 2 audio; a poignant video of Juice WRLD freestyling over a beat with his girlfriend and peers, in which he appears to be alarmingly high and on the verge of tears. The documentary reveals Jarad Higgins’ life in all its glory; the good, the bad, and the truly devastating. From popping twenty pills a day to deal with his despair, to mucking around with his best friends like any 20-year-old should be able to do, the raw insight into all aspects of Juice WRLD as a person is a beautiful parallel to the message of real emotional vulnerability which he portrayed in his music. The documentary is an incredible insight into the life of the good-hearted and deeply-troubled young man that Higgins was, and a must watch for fans of Juice WRLD.
While posthumous albums can often be controversial, Juice’s never-ending stream of high-quality and meaningful recorded music ensured both Legends Never Die and Fighting Demons were met with no complaints by fans. The quality of the latest album, which I would argue is just as enchanting as his previous works, is a testament to Juice WRLD’s incredible musical talent and his consistency in all of his work. This same wealth of musical content means that this isn’t the last of Juice WRLD’s music that we will hear; Lil Bibby has confirmed a third posthumous album coming in the summer of 2022. Whether this project is the last to come from the incredible talent that is Juice WRLD, or if Grade A Productions have even more in store for us, one thing is for sure: the legacy of ‘Juice WRLD’ will live on far beyond the release of his last musical masterpiece, living in the hearts of his family and fans for generations to come.