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Monday, December 05, 2022
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Born Jarad Anthony Higgins, Juice Wrld's most recognized works include 'Lucid Dreams' and 'Robbery.' 

Man of the Year, even in death: A look at Juice Wrld’s legacy one year after his passing

It’s almost impossible to believe that it’s been an entire year since Juice Wrld passed away from an accidental codeine and oxycodone overdose in Chicago. As cliche as it may be, his music has lived on in the hearts and minds of his millions of fans. His 5.9 billion Spotify streams this year prove that, but they don't tell the full story.

The world was introduced to Juice Wrld, born Jarad Anthony Higgins, in 2018 with “Lucid Dreams,” which was both Juice’s biggest hit and a perfect introduction to his musical style. It’s all about pain, heartbreak, feeling like nothing without the person he lost. The combination of hip-hop elements in Nick Mira’s production and Juice’s crooning voice already solidified him  as one of the major players in the emerging “emo rap” genre, which had just lost XXXTentacion and Lil Peep in the years prior.

Juice Wrld officially released three major projects over the course of his life. Goodbye and Good Riddance went RIAA Certified Platinum and had hits like the aforementioned “Lucid Dreams,” “All Girls Are The Same,” “Armed and Dangerous” and “Lean wit Me.” In 2018, he and rapper Future dropped their World on Drugs collaboration, which debuted at #2 on the charts. His final project was Death Race for Love (2019), which topped the Billboard 200, with“Robbery” as its main hit.

Fans were given a gift in July 2020 with Legends Never Die, Juice Wrld’s first, and so far only, posthumous album. The album included previously unreleased voicemails and phone calls from the late artist, as well as 18 songs that had never been on streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify before. In August, The Weeknd released a single with Juice Wrld, titled “Smile.”

While Legends Never Die unequivocally did numbers — 17 of 22 songs hit the Billboard Top 100 in its first week, which only Drake and The Beatles have done before — some fans and critics were less than happy with the album. Some critiqued it for having filler tracks or for being “insincere.”

One might see this behavior as ungrateful, but the truth is that these fans were disappointed with the song selection not because they were all inherently bad, but because they knew it could have been better. 

In January 2020, one month after his death, it was reported that Juice Wrld was not only working on a new album, but had over 2,000 unreleased songs. Some of these songs immediately hit SoundCloud, while others took time to get on the platform, and yet others remain unavailable to the public. This news and the subsequent release of countless leaks make SoundCloud the best way for fans to experience new Juice Wrld music.

Even before the release of Legends Never Die, there were hundreds of leaked songs available online. Many of these songs perfectly epitomize the artist that Juice Wrld was becoming. In the unofficially-titled “RUNNAWAY FREESTYLE” Juice takes Kanye West’s iconic song and throws his own spin on it, rapping about the drugs he does due to heartbreak. But you also get some of the braggadocio that Juice constantly exemplified in his music as well; those songs just did not get the critical acclaim of his more emotional music.

“Purple Moncler” is the epitome of this braggadocio. This one isn’t about pain and heartbreak like most of the songs discussed here; “Purple Moncler” is nothing short of a party anthem. It has everything a good rap song needs: aggressive 808s, flexing cash, twerking, Juice Wrld stealing your girl, a Barack Obama name-drop, and of course designer clothes. It’s a hopeful, carefree banger that shows who Juice Wrld may have been in his best moments: an upbeat flexer who sought to make the world his.

Some fans complained that Legends Never Die felt neutered in a way; they felt that Interscope, the publishing label, tried to cut down on references to drugs and death. While understandable in the wake of Juice Wrld’s tragic passing, much of his art was about his struggles. One unreleased song, “London Tipton” has a similar energy to “Purple Moncler,” albeit more lowkey. With lines like “I love popping pills / mix it with the Smirnoff '' and “I love percocets way more than marijuana,” the song has more references to hard drugs than just about any song off Legends Never Die. It would be unfair to assume that Interscope kept songs like “London Tipton” off for this specific reason, but the content of Legends Never Die compared to some of Juice Wrld’s leaks certainly invite speculation.

There are so many more Juice Wrld leaks that were not mentioned in this article; one playlist on SoundCloud has 236 different tracks. Some of these songs have eclipsed 50 million streams while others have a mere few hundred thousand. Some have even gone viral on TikTok like “Let Me Know” and “moonlight.”

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The year since Juice Wrld’s passing has been strange. Even without him, it has produced  an abundance of his music. His legion of fans has kept his memory alive through these leaks and the continued support of his released music. The late rapper even has a subreddit that still boasts over 82,000 subscribers, where fans most recently paid tribute on his birthday, Dec. 2. Even stranger, until his estate and Interscope Records release a new album, the best way to understand the pained genius of Juice Wrld is not through his officially released tracks, but rather the ones that he left on the cutting room floor. 

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