Juice WRLD’s debut album, Goodbye & Good Riddance, was a turning point in hip hop for a variety of reasons. It officially solidified emo-rap as mainstream; gave young male kids a reason to show their emotions, and allowed Juice-aka Jared Higgins-to work with some of the biggest names in modern rap (like with Future for their WRLD on Drugs collaboration).
Since his breakout project, Juice has relished in his growing popularity; briefly going away from the usual sad-sack persona. His recent lyrical contributions (specifically on Kodak Black and Trippie Redd’s newest albums) have featured a life full of excess; something you’d expect from an artist who’s finally made it.
But even for someone who has experienced an immense amount of success at the young age of 20 (what the hell am I doing with my life), Juice still decides to go down the depressing route on Death Race For Love. He admits his pain has been hidden by materialism on the bouncy and bass-heavy “Feeling” (“problems, I numb and conceal them/Kind of like my feelings/But I still feel them”), while also reminding listeners of his Percocet issues.
In fact, Juice raps about his drug addictions a lot on his second effort; which grows tiresome occasionally, especially across a 22-track project. But hey, why change something that made you famous in the first place, right? Juice isn’t glorifying the lifestyle either; just exorcising his “inner-demons.”
Higgins is limitless on Death Race For Love, relentlessly bouncing around between topics of love, loss and codeine. The mixing and production is a lot grander-thanks to longtime producer Nick Mira, and quick contributions from the legendary No I.D. The lyrics however, are…not. Aside from a bar or two on each song, the 20 year-old lacks cleverness and humor for a majority of these cuts. And it doesn’t help when word came out about his apparent free-styling of the entire album. Or the fact that it was recorded in only four days.
On “Maze,” Higgins raps, “I took my demons into the bank of life, and made the biggest deposit. On the aptly titled “HeMotions,” he exclaims that he’s “gonna drown in that bitch like a ocean.” And last but not least, the Chicago rapper talks about how he’s still “sad as bitch” on “Fast” (despite the fact he’s filthy rich).
Juice does diversify his sound tremendously, switching up his flow and cadence; trying everything in his power to keep things exciting. “Syphilis” is a mammoth of a two minute track, where Juice purposefully copies XXXTentacion and Ski Mask the Slump God’s flow over a hectic, industrial-style beat. It’s an unusual breather for a project filled with lovesick anthems. It’s also the highlight of this whole experience.
Thankfully, Juice finally believes that girls actually aren’t the same on “Who Shot Cupid?” Probably because he has a girlfriend right now. Unfortunately, he does follow that sentiment up with the lines, “Hope that you know that if you ever try to end/You gon’ catch some bullets out the F&N,” on the very extravagant “Flaws & Sins.” Despite the troublesome thoughts, I do enjoy how goofy the chorus is. The song’s aesthetic fits Juice’s persona very well.
Higgins surprisingly show the ability of creating a thoughtful love song on the beautifully-produced, “Desire.” The atmospheric synth-leads, and slow-tempo kick drums compliment Juice’s youthful cadence (“Shout your name in the hills and the valley/Whole world’s gonna know you love me”).
Death Race For Love loses some of its steam by its final third. “Rider,” “Won’t Let Go,” and “Make Believe” are all concepts Juice has explored before (losing a girl; replacing love with drugs), but I commend his uncanny ability to keep certain stylistic choices unpredictable-even if his wordplay isn’t the most original thing in the world. I specifically enjoyed the phenomenal Daniel Caesar sample on “10 Feet,” which was one of the few times a chorus wasn’t incorporated.
Juice’s second album is much more bombastic than his first. There’s some aspects that benefit his artistry (great production; a diverse selection of flows), and there’s others that don’t (poor lyrics; redundancy). It’s a mixed bag, even for diehard fans. His over-the-top personality reaches its apex on “Robbery,” his most eom-influenced song to date. The gorgeous piano keys have become a Nick Mira-staple, and represents the yearning Juice has expressed for two-plus years. Something tells me this yearning won’t go away anytime soon.