Juice WRLD: A Legacy of Emo Rap, Mental Health Struggles, and Tragic Loss (Explained)

By Mobel 18 Min Read

Imagine a melody so hauntingly beautiful it feels like a bittersweet dream. Imagine lyrics that lay bare the soul, weaving tales of love, loss, and the crushing weight of mental health struggles. This is the world of Juice WRLD, a young artist whose meteoric rise to fame was tragically cut short, leaving behind a legacy of raw emotion, genre-bending music, and unanswered questions. His story is one of immense talent, heartbreaking vulnerability, and a lasting impact that continues to shape the landscape of emo rap. Dive deep with us as we explore the life and music of Juice WRLD, from his Chicago roots to his global influence, examining the rise of a star, the struggles he faced, and the music that continues to resonate with millions.

Early Life and Influences: A Chicago Kid with a Musical Soul

Born Jarad Anthony Higgins in Chicago, Illinois in 1998, Juice WRLD’s journey began far from the glitz and glamor of the music industry. His childhood was a mix of normalcy and early signs of the musical talent that would blossom later. Growing up in a divorced household, young Jarad found solace in music, a companion that would become his lifelong outlet.

While details of his early musical exposure remain private, it’s evident that hip-hop played a significant role. Chicago’s rich rap scene, with legends like Kanye West and Chief Keef, undoubtedly left its mark. He readily embraced the drill subgenre, characterized by its dark and ominous soundscapes, which would later influence his own music.

But Juice WRLD’s musical palette wasn’t limited to hip-hop. He also discovered a deep appreciation for emo and pop music. Bands like My Chemical Romance and singers like Billie Eilish resonated with him, their introspective lyrics and catchy melodies finding a place in his developing sound. This unique blend of influences would become a defining characteristic of his music, blurring the lines between genres and creating a sound that was both familiar and refreshingly new.

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Sound and Genre-Bending: A Melancholy Melody with Hip-Hop Soul

Juice WRLD’s music defied categorization. It wasn’t quite hip-hop, not strictly emo, and yet it captured elements of both while forging its own unique path. This genre-bending sound became his signature, resonating with a generation seeking music that mirrored their own complex emotions.

At the heart of his sound lay a melancholic beauty. His melodies, often built on distorted guitars and haunting piano chords, created an atmosphere of introspection and vulnerability. Tracks like “Lean Wit Me” and “Empty” showcased this perfectly, their melodies swirling around the listener like a bittersweet dream. These melodies weren’t just background sounds; they were integral parts of the storytelling, adding emotional depth to his lyrics.

Lyrically, Juice WRLD drew heavily from his personal struggles. He openly addressed themes of heartbreak, depression, and drug use, topics often avoided in mainstream hip-hop. His introspective verses felt like diary entries set to music, offering a raw and unfiltered glimpse into his inner world. Tracks like “All Girls Are the Same” explored the complexities of relationships, while “Robbery” tackled feelings of emptiness and isolation. This vulnerability connected with fans on a deep level, creating a sense of shared experience and fostering a loyal following.

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Juice WRLD’s rise to fame was a testament to the power of the internet and the raw connection his music fostered. He began uploading tracks to SoundCloud in 2015, initially under the name Juice the Kid. These early tracks, often produced by fellow teenagers he met online, showcased his developing sound and introspective lyricism. While they garnered a local following, it wasn’t until 2017 that his career took a major leap forward.

The release of the song “Lucid Dreams” on SoundCloud in 2017 proved to be a turning point. The track, with its hauntingly beautiful melody and lyrics exploring themes of love and loss within a dreamlike state, resonated with listeners on a massive scale. A viral hit on SoundCloud, it quickly caught the attention of music industry giants. The song was later remixed by superstar rapper Lil Uzi Vert, further propelling it into the mainstream. “Lucid Dreams” peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming Juice WRLD’s breakout hit and establishing him as a force to be reckoned with in the music industry.

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This success wasn’t a one-hit wonder. Tracks like “All Girls Are the Same” and “Robbery” followed suit, showcasing Juice WRLD’s versatility and ability to craft catchy melodies that tackled complex themes. “All Girls Are the Same,” with its melancholic piano chords and relatable lyrics about heartbreak, became another fan favorite. “Robbery,” on the other hand, explored feelings of isolation and emptiness with a more aggressive flow, demonstrating the range of emotions Juice WRLD could express through his music. These tracks, along with “Lucid Dreams,” cemented his place as a leading figure in the emerging emo rap scene and solidified his connection with a dedicated fanbase.

Collaborations and Industry Impact: A Rising Star Shaping the Emo Rap Landscape

Juice WRLD’s meteoric rise didn’t happen in a vacuum. His talent and unique sound attracted the attention of some of the biggest names in the industry, leading to collaborations that further broadened his reach and solidified his impact.

One such collaboration was with rap icon Travis Scott. Their track “Legends,” released in 2018 on Juice WRLD’s debut studio album Goodbye & Good Riddance, became a poignant tribute to rappers Lil Peep and XXXTentacion, who had both tragically passed away earlier that year. The song’s raw emotion and exploration of mental health struggles resonated with fans, becoming an anthem for a generation grappling with loss. This collaboration not only showcased Juice WRLD’s ability to hold his own alongside a heavyweight like Travis Scott, but it also highlighted the growing influence of emo rap within the mainstream music scene.

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Another significant collaboration came with The Weeknd. Their track “Smile” from Juice WRLD’s second studio album Death Race for Love (released in 2019) blended melancholic pop with introspective hip-hop, showcasing the genre-bending capabilities of both artists. This collaboration further solidified Juice WRLD’s position as a leading figure in emo rap and demonstrated the genre’s potential for artistic exploration and mainstream appeal.

Beyond specific collaborations, Juice WRLD’s influence extended to a new generation of emo rappers. His vulnerability and willingness to tackle dark themes inspired countless artists to embrace their own emotions and create music that resonated with a generation seeking authenticity. His impact can be heard in the works of artists like Lil Skies, YNW Melly, and Iann Dior, who all carry the torch of emo rap forward, building upon the foundation laid by Juice WRLD.

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Mental Health Struggles and Vulnerability: A Raw Voice for a Generation

Juice WRLD’s music wasn’t just catchy melodies and introspective lyrics; it was a window into his soul, a platform for him to confront his struggles with mental health. He openly addressed his battles with anxiety and depression, themes rarely discussed in mainstream hip-hop at the time. This raw vulnerability resonated with millions of fans who felt similarly unseen and unheard.

Anxiety and depression cast a long shadow over Juice WRLD’s life. He spoke openly about the crippling fear and overwhelming sadness he experienced, using his music as a form of catharsis. Tracks like “Anxiety” directly addressed his struggles, painting a vivid picture of the mental fog and paralyzing fear that can accompany anxiety disorders. Songs like “Hurt Me” explored the depths of depression, the lyrics conveying a sense of hopelessness and isolation that resonated deeply with listeners facing similar challenges.

By speaking his truth, Juice WRLD not only found a way to cope with his own mental health struggles, but he also created a space for open conversation. His music became a beacon of hope for countless fans grappling with similar issues, fostering a sense of community and shared experience. He showed them they weren’t alone, that it was okay to not be okay, and that their struggles could be a source of strength and artistic expression.

Controversies and Substance Abuse: A Complex Portrait of a Troubled Artist

Juice WRLD’s legacy is complex, marked not only by his musical brilliance and vulnerability but also by controversies surrounding his lyrics and documented struggles with substance abuse. It’s important to acknowledge these complexities to paint a complete picture of the artist.

One major controversy centered on the themes of drug use prevalent in his music. Songs like “Lean Wit Me” explicitly referenced codeine cough syrup (often referred to as “lean”) a dangerous and addictive substance. Critics argued that these references glamorized drug use and could have a negative influence on young listeners. This debate highlighted the responsibility of artists, particularly those with large young fanbases, to consider the potential impact of their lyrics.

Juice WRLD himself battled with substance abuse throughout his short life. He openly discussed his struggles with lean and other drugs, a reflection of the real-life struggles he faced. While some saw this honesty as a form of artistic expression, others expressed concern about the potential glorification of these dangerous substances. This highlights the ongoing discussion about the role of art in portraying real-life issues, particularly those that can be harmful.

It’s important to acknowledge both sides of this complex issue. Juice WRLD’s music offered a raw and honest portrayal of his struggles, potentially serving as a cautionary tale for some listeners. However, the glorification of drug use remains a valid concern, and the potential impact on young fans deserves careful consideration.

Untimely Death and Theories: A Legacy Forever Marked by Loss

Juice WRLD’s life tragically cut short at the young age of 21 on December 8th, 2019. His death sent shockwaves through the music industry and left his millions of fans heartbroken. The circumstances surrounding his passing remain shrouded in some mystery, with unanswered questions fueling ongoing theories.

The official cause of death was ruled an accidental overdose of oxycodone and codeine. According to reports, Juice WRLD swallowed several pills shortly before landing at Chicago’s Midway International Airport, fearing they would be confiscated during a search by law enforcement. This tragic event sparked outrage and renewed discussions about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and the pressures faced by young celebrities.

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In the wake of his death, several theories emerged attempting to piece together the events leading up to it. Some speculated that the pills he ingested may have been laced with a more potent substance, a theory never confirmed by authorities. Others focused on the pressures of fame and the toll it can take on mental health, suggesting that Juice WRLD’s struggles may have contributed to his actions. While the exact details remain unclear, his death serves as a stark reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of seeking help when battling addiction and mental health issues.

Legacy and Lasting Impact: A Star Extinguished, But a Genre Ignited

Juice WRLD’s legacy extends far beyond his short time in the spotlight. His music continues to resonate with millions, his influence on the emo rap scene is undeniable, and his story continues to spark conversations about mental health and substance abuse.


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The enduring popularity of Juice WRLD’s music is a testament to its raw power and emotional honesty. Posthumous releases like the albums “Legends Never Die” and “Fighting Demons” topped charts and garnered critical acclaim, showcasing the depth and breadth of his musical talent. His songs continue to be streamed millions of times daily, offering solace and inspiration to a new generation of listeners grappling with similar struggles.

Beyond his own music, Juice WRLD’s impact on the emo rap scene is undeniable. He helped usher in a new wave of artists who weren’t afraid to express vulnerability and explore darker themes. Artists like Lil Peep and XXXTentacion, who tragically passed away before him, paved the way, and Juice WRLD took the torch, normalizing open discussions about mental health and emotional struggles within hip-hop. His influence continues to shape the sound and direction of emo rap, ensuring his legacy lives on through the music of countless artists he inspired.

Conclusion: A Voice Lost, But a Conversation Started

Juice WRLD’s story is one of immense talent, heartbreaking loss, and a lasting impact on the music industry. His meteoric rise to fame was tragically cut short, leaving behind a legacy of genre-bending music, raw vulnerability, and unanswered questions.

Juice WRLD’s death sparked a necessary conversation about mental health awareness and the pressures faced by young artists. His music, though often exploring dark themes, served as a beacon of hope for those struggling with similar issues. It fostered a sense of community and open dialogue, encouraging listeners to confront their vulnerabilities and seek help when needed. The music industry is slowly starting to address mental health concerns more openly, and Juice WRLD’s story continues to be a part of that conversation.

In the end, Juice WRLD’s legacy is a complex one. He was a talented artist who used his music to connect with a generation, a young man battling inner demons, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of addiction. Though his voice is silenced, his music continues to inspire, his influence on emo rap is undeniable, and the conversations he started about mental health continue to resonate. Juice WRLD’s story reminds us of the beauty and fragility of life, the importance of open communication, and the enduring power of music to connect us all.

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