An emphatic cross-section of the late rapper's unrelenting creativity...

'Legends Never Die' is the first posthumous release from Juice WRLD and his third official album. It has a track for every year of Jarad Anthony Higgins’ life: 21 songs in total over 55 minutes including a short spoken-word intro, two interludes (one of which includes snippets of interviews with rappers such as Eminem, Travis Scott and KXNG Crooked as they speak on Juice’s freestyle skills) and an outro in which Juice himself announces he is using Instagram Live from Heaven to declare his love for his fans.

As with Pop Smoke’s first post-death release: 'Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon', it’s hard to hear such a young man predict his untimely death. Indeed, dying takes centre-stage alongside the multiple drug references within the album’s run time. Featuring throughout, it feels like death himself took on production duties alongside the (26!) other guest producers on the album.

More doesn’t always mean better and although admittedly, some tracks are throwaway, this is easily overlooked when we have joints such as 'Life’s A Mess', (feat. Halsey) 'Come & Go', (with Marshmello) 'Man Of The Year', and melodic drug ballad: 'Wishing Well', with its accompanying KDC Visions music video featuring an animated Juice, as he admits:

"Sometimes I don’t know how to feel / Let’s be for real / If it wasn't for the pills, I wouldn't be here / But if I keep taking these pills, I won't be here, yeah / I just told y'all my secret, yeah / It's tearing me to pieces / I really think I need them / I stopped taking the drugs and now the drugs take me. / This is the part where I tell you I'm fine, but I'm lying / I just don't want you to worry / This is the part where I take all my feelings and hide 'em / 'Cause I don't want nobody to hurt me."

Jarad Anthony Higgins was honest about his life-long addictions and as Juice WRLD, he didn’t hide his mental health issues either. His emerging sound as a forerunner in Soundcloud Rap: a musical sub-genre of social media, mixed elements from different outputs including emo, rock, pop and punk to great effect. His influences are very apparent. Here is a rapper who didn’t just listen to rap.

Each song on 'Legends Never Die' contains similar reoccurring themes of drug dependence, anxiety, and helplessness over beats that work extremely well with his digitised voice. He spoke to a generation of teenage fans who listened, if not understood his turmoil and his need for a synthetic escape from the world around him. With each new release, his talent was slowly being unveiled. We had barely scratched the surface of his talents before his death of an accidental overdose in December 2019, which added a morbid fascination and realness to his lyrics. The listeners who felt the same angst and isolation, who identified with the autotuned pained vocals that came through their headphones and into their hearts, have lost one of the loudest voices of their generation.

'Legends Never Die' is poetic, prophetic and poignant.

9/10

Words: Mike Milenko

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