Collage created by Sandra Katrin. Juice Wrld performs at the InField Fest at the 2019 Preakness on May 18, 2019” by Andy Jones is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 .
The American emo-rapper Juice WRLD struggled with addiction and mental health issues. Through his music, he aimed to help others who were also battling inner demons. On a private plane that was supposed to take him home to Chicago after completing a world tour, the then 21-year-old Juice WRLD overdosed. He left thousands of fans in mourning, just over two years after his big breakthrough.
Jarad Anthony Higgins was born in 1998 in Chicago, Illinois. After high school, he took a job at a factory that manufactured car parts. His cousin had arranged the job for him, and it was Higgins’ first and only real employment. Workdays involved manufacturing the handles that are located in the interior roof of cars, handles that most of us don’t even know the purpose of. He pondered a lot about his future and wondered what would become of him. Would he also get stuck in this job, like so many of his colleagues?
While observing his older coworkers, he realized that he would never be able to follow the same path they had taken, engaging in the same monotonous task day in and day out, year after year. A few weeks passed before Higgins decided he couldn’t take it any more and quit.
Higgins knew early on that music was what he wanted to pursue. The job at the factory had mostly been a way to earn money to rent a studio. Limited financial resources and not having access to proper equipment, however, never deterred him from producing music. He made the most of the resources he had, and initially, his mobile phone served as a substitute for a proper recording studio.
The SoundCloud account where Higgins initially published his music still exists today. At the bottom of the long list of released songs, you can find the title ‘Forever‘ from 2015. At that time, Higgins was 17 years old and went by his first artist name – Juice The Kidd. The music didn’t attract much attention, and he sometimes felt discouraged by the lack of success. Nevertheless, he continued to work hard, albeit without a clear plan. Higgins never had a strategy for becoming successful; his only goal was to produce good music and to reach an audience along the way.
Two years later, the aspiring rap star uploaded ‘Lucid Dreams’ on SoundCloud. To his great disappointment, the new song didn’t receive much more attention than his previous music had. In an interview from June 2018, the artist said:
“I don’t want to say that I was starting to doubt myself, but I was starting to take things less seriously.”
The song ‘Lucid Dreams’ initially didn’t generate a significant number of listeners, but a few months later, something started happening. “After a while, I noticed that I was developing a SoundCloud presence, what I thought was a lot—like 10K in four days,” he told Complex in the interview.
What Juice WRLD didn’t yet know was that ‘Lucid Dreams’ would become one of his most beloved songs a year later.
Juice WRLD poses during rehearsals for the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on August 18, 2018 in New York City.
The success that had previously been conspicuously absent suddenly came rushing in. It was in 2018 that then 20-year-old Jarad Higgins landed his first major record deal. He entered into a partnership worth more than 3 million dollars with the record label Interscope Records.
A year later, Juice WRLD’s success was a reality. In March 2019, the artist soared to the top of the Billboard Artist Hot 100 chart. It was ‘Lucid Dreams’ – the song that had initially flopped on SoundCloud two years earlier – that now placed Juice WRLD ahead of artists like Post Malone, Lady Gaga, and Imagine Dragons. The Chicago-born rapper was far from a one-hit wonder, and songs like ‘Fine China’, ‘Bandit’ and ‘All Girls Are the Same’ also achieved top positions. Jarad Higgins finally saw success, but dark clouds would soon gather on the horizon.
Rapper Juice WRLD performs onstage during day one of the Rolling Loud Festival at Banc of California Stadium on December 14, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.
For the young artist, reality now consisted of traveling the world for concerts and interviews. But beneath the surface, something had started to bubble. His life had long been marked by substance abuse issues. Daily, he took pills like Percocet and Xanax, and he mixed drinks with codeine-based cough syrup diluted with soda.
Substance abuse was a theme that Juice WRLD often addressed in his song lyrics. In particular, it was his thousands of male fans who felt that his music provided them with support that they struggled to find elsewhere. The artist’s openness was often praised. Fans found solace in the tortured lyrics about mental health issues and destructive relationships. There is a melancholic dimension to his music that makes it stand out. Unlike many other artists, the emo rapper never romanticized his lifestyle.
‘It’s lonely at the top’, said Juice WRLD when he appeared on The Breakfast Club podcast in the spring of 2019. It was no longer just issues with substance abuse that characterized his life; now, he was also finding it difficult to trust people around him. In the interview, he talks about how he can count his real friends on one hand and that he doesn’t like how entitled people can be. The rapper says in the podcast:
“I don’t owe nobody shit … they are not the ones writing my raps”
His mother has later expressed that the star probably didn’t have the support system around him that he needed and that people may have acted based on their own agenda.
Eventually, his management puts their foot down. His substance abuse has spiraled out of control to the point where they decide that the rapper must go to rehab. Something Juice WRLD agreed to, as he was ready to finally break free from drug addiction.
Juice WRLD last show at Spilt Milk Festival in Ballarat, Australia, 30 november 2019.
On November 30, 2019, Juice WRLD performed at the Spilt Milk Festival in Ballarat, Australia. This was the final concert of a successful world tour. Just over a week later, he is on board a private plane heading home to Chicago. Just a few days ago, the artist turned 21, and in just under a month, he is scheduled to go to rehab. Before that, however, he wants to celebrate.
The private plane, located at California airport, is filled with drugs, which the pilot has alerted the police about. When several officers suddenly storm the plane, Juice WRLD has already started celebrating the successful tour. The police encounter a young man shaking uncontrollably and then collapsing on the floor of the small aircraft. Jarad Higgins has overdosed on oxycodone and codeine, and by the time the paramedics arrive, he is already dead.
Fans hold signs in memory of rapper Juice WRLD during his Memorial at the Millennium Park on December 13, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.
Today, Juice WRLD is an artist that many believe contributed something important. The rapper enjoyed performing for a smaller audience because it allowed him to connect with fans and ‘talk through whatever demons they’re fighting’. In interviews, he has said that he creates music because he wants to help others, and there are fans who claim that his music is the reason they are still alive. ‘I ain’t finna stop the mission that I’ve been put on. I’m gonna still lead people through whatever they’re going through’, he told Vulture in an interview in March 2019.
‘Lucid Dreams’ now has over 2 billion listens on Spotify and is on the list of most-streamed songs alongside tracks like ‘Numb’ by Linkin Park and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen.
Despite it being almost two years since the artist passed away, new music continues to emerge under his name. Juice WRLD left behind a large catalog of unreleased songs, and a number of them have been completed and released by his record label and family. March 23, 2023, was the most recent release date for one of Juice WRLD’s songs – ‘The Light’.