Photo Credit: Andy Ford
Jarad Anthony Higgins, known professionally as Juice WRLD, was a fast-rising superstar out of Chicago who was known as a prodigious emoter and leader among the Soundcloud rap set. Six days after his twenty-first birthday, he flew from Los Angeles to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, where he and his management team were met on the ground by federal agents who had received a tip that the crew was traveling with narcotics and weapons. Higgins overdosed after swallowing Percocet’s, allegedly to hide them, and died.
Legends Never Die is a posthumous compilation album organized by Juice’s manager Lil Bobby, and his label and family; it precedes the release of The Outsiders, what would have been Juice’s next studio release and his focus at the time of his death. Due to that factor, Legends Never Die serves largely as a tribute and less of a standalone album – the nature of Higgins’ music lends it tremendous heft in the playlisting world and this album (and its massive streaming-led debut atop the Billboard charts) cements Juice’s legacy in emo rap, even past his time.
The narrative that’s woven throughout Legends Never Die, though at times hard to decipher in the album’s meandering tracklist, is one that promotes Juice WRLD as the workhorse collaborator he was. A standout among his peers, he worked with acts in and out of his wheelhouse, billed on tracks alongside Future, Eminem, Halsey, YNW Melly, Ellie Goulding, Benny Blanco, Brendon Urie, The Weeknd, Marshmello, Lil Uzi Vert and many more – and that’s only since 2019. His music was prescient as if his early departure from this world was a secret the rest of us just weren’t in on yet, his vocals echoing that sentiment, ghostly and shallow, full of hurt and longing.
Nothing here breaks away from the tried-and-true formula that propelled Juice to international stardom – at the time of writing, he’s currently the fourteenth most listened to act on Spotify with over 47 million monthly plays. That formula was largely to abandon most formulae, surrender to the anxiety and the hurt antagonized by his drug abuse and weave his influences into something entirely his own, something beautifully tragic. And to sell it with one hell of a good, repetitive hook. “Righteous” finds him spilling details of the pills on his nightstand and the nightmares in his head, a forlorn writing session between XXXTentacion and Kurt Cobain that could never materialize in reality.
It’s in this way that Juice WRLD found the most idiosyncratic path to stardom – referential music is at critical mass and anything new is repackaging something old, so to truly break away, Juice embraced this change wholeheartedly and learned upon the pain of his forebearers, artists like the Sex Pistols, Future and the Ramones. He knows juxtaposition propels his celebrity, singing “If it wasn’t for the pills, I wouldn’t be here,” on “Wishing Well” knowing well that if it wasn’t for the pills, many of his idols would still be here, and ominously alluding to his own demise.
Legends Never Die wasn’t the first major posthumous release of the decade and it surely won’t be the last – it won’t even be the last from Juice WRLD; in addition to The Outsiders, he was known to have troves of unreleased material just waiting for a chance to see daylight. While outside actors influencing artists’ legacies long after their deaths have become commonplace, particularly after the success of Michael Jackson’s posthumous releases, the spectacle here is the community-driven aspect of Juice WRLD’s young fan base. These hardcore followers facilitate a conversation about said legacy and where to take it – and management listens, ensuring legends truly never die.