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Juice WRLD - "Legends Never Die" Album Review

Updated: Jan 9

When Juice WRLD passed away in December 2019, it shook the entirety of the modern rap scene and devastated his fans. Having quickly risen to notoriety during the Soundcloud Rapper era of the early 2010s, he became widely regarded as the "voice of a generation" as his music resonated with a younger crowd and spoke about topics including mental health, substance abuse, relationship problems, and so on. Not only were many of his songs commercially successful, but he was also known for being one of the better freestyle rappers in the modern scene, able to come up with a flow and very well-constructed 'bars' right on the spot.

So when he met a tragic end due to an overdose, it was a loss of massive talent and inspiration for many who had come to appreciate his music over the years, myself included. However, it was not even close to the end of Juice WRLD's music career, as family and close friends have reported that there are around 2,000-3,000 unreleased songs that they wish to share with the world in the honor of his memory and to pay tribute to the 'gone-too-soon' legend. As of writing this article, there have been two posthumous album releases, but for the purposes of this review I wanted to focus on Legends Never Die, the first album to be released after his passing. This was Juice WRLD's second album that reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200, and during the first week of sales close to half a million copies of the album were sold, making it the most successful debut for a posthumous album ever.

The album begins with Anxiety (Intro), which is a discussion between Juice and Rob Markman, a well-respected music journalist. Juice WRLD talks about his fame and current lifestyle, and how even when he has money and a lot going right for him, "... there are still other issues to talk about other than heartbreak..." This short talk sheds an insight into Juice's life right before he passed away, and how he put his strife and hang-ups into the songs he wrote so that others could feel a sort of catharsis and relatability when listening to his music. Indeed, there always seemed to be a lot going on in his life, whether that was substance abuse problems, toxic partners or failed relationships, or mental health problems; especially anxiety, a topic he was not afraid to talk about. The intro leads into Conversations, which is a song that features two prominent genres that Juice WRLD was known for (among others): trap and emo rap. The snare and hi-hat combination is textbook trap music, while the lyrics talk about a sense of running out of time and feeling dread in the unhealthy, depressing lifestyle that Juice found himself in. One important distinction that Juice WRLD had from other rappers was that while he had many lyrics mentioning drug use in many forms, he did not glorify them and would instead talk about how he felt that they had taken control of his life in a negative way, but that he felt like he could not stop. This same feeling is replicated in Titanic, another song that relies heavily on religious imagery and a focus on the painful world that he had found himself in as he felt a slow descent into pain and misery. Like many songs on this album, he utilizes a catchy chorus that works as an interesting hook, repeating lyrical motifs about being overwhelmed with emotions or in other cases being bogged down by the oxymoronic life associated with being rich and famous while simultaneously suffering.

Bad Energy starts with more of the same, as Juice WRLD laments about drug use and "doing so much wrong" but changes around halfway through to him talking about things that were really important to him: his friends, his girlfriend, and his fans. Juice knew that even with a melancholic feeling surrounding most of his music, people would look to him as an influence and would use his music to 'heal', as said in the lines "I watch the crowd and crack a smile / I have a job to lead them out". As the song ends with a piano that is slightly reminiscent of the style used in All Girls Are the Same (a song from earlier in his career) it switches to Righteous, which can only be described as 'prophetic', as a simple yet tasteful guitar melody and trap beat move the song along with a somber undertone. Juice WRLD lays out his fears and his acceptance of death, knowing that he cannot hide from the pain and the truth of his situation. In fact, most of this album is heavily self-reflective and spares no expense in looking at the rapper's life after death, with many of the songs becoming much heavier in weight due to the context surrounding how he had passed. Blood on My Jeans sounds as if it came straight from Soundcloud, with influences of gangster rap and trap with words that somewhat meld together; however, I would still not consider this 'mumble rapping' as you can understand what is being said. It may not be a stand-out addition to the album, but it does show Juice's variety as a rapper and his ability to mix certain genres well with others to create a new and interesting sound.

Tell Me U Luv Me follows a classic Juice WRLD theme, which happens to be a fascination with love songs. Well, his own version of a love song, that is. Heartbreak and the importance of love in Juice's life were two contrasting themes that he would dabble in constantly, going from songs of pain and disillusion having to do with love to describe how beautiful and earth-shattering it can be. This wild fluctuation in his stance on love really connected with a younger crowd that understood the feeling of either being madly in love or sworn off from it, sometimes experiencing both feelings in a short amount of time. Tell Me U Luv Me is done by Juice WRLD and Trippie Redd and starts immediately with an upbeat guitar track that feels like pop-rock, lending itself to the song as a way to keep this fun, bouncing atmosphere. The lyrics aren't necessarily game-changing, but the song itself was made for Juice WRLD's girlfriend at the time and the feelings he wished to convey are worn right on his sleeve throughout the track. Hate The Other Side is done between Juice WRLD, marshmello, and The Kid LAROI, whom Juice was close friends with and basically a mentor for, and was influential in launching The Kid LAROI's career as a rapper. The song talks about growing up in a life that idolized drug use and being a part of a street gang, and that their lives revolved around collecting money to escape poverty and " love my brothers and to hate the other side..." This harsh and brutal look at a lifestyle that other rappers are focused on promoting and glamorizing is a real contrast that tells listeners that a life of materialism and violence can only beget more and more pain. Afterward comes the 20-second Get Through It (Interlude), a quick yet heartfelt message from Juice to his fans, telling them that they can get through whatever problems they are currently facing. It is spoken over a piano, acoustic guitar, and a stringed instrument that combine to really drive home this feeling that can only be described as "in memoriam, rest easy", as this tiny break in the album drips in melancholy and a bittersweet taste.

Juice WRLD and Halsey create a neat duo in Life's A Mess, a romantic notion of love that "everyone has their someone" and going from a place of suffering and darkness to peace and joy through 'true love'. I'd have to say my favorite part of this song is when Juice and Halsey sing together; their overlapping voices bring this powerfully beautiful artistry to the piece that echoes the two halves of a whole finally conjoining and filling in the holes of the other person. Come and Go is next, once again featuring marshmello, and is one of the more popular tracks on the album. Combining EDM with Juice WRLD's prayer that his 'problems' won't ruin his relationship, an electric guitar provides an alt-rock aspect to the song as it invites listeners to rock out with the two in celebration of love. It's probably one of the least depressing and more fun songs on the album, which provides a nice change of pace for listeners as well as a combination of two well-respected artists pouring their hearts out. I Want It has a heavy focus on the vocals, with most parts of the song only being Juice WRLD and a guitar in the background that has been turned down way low. It also features another somewhat catchy 'chorus' and overall is a more relaxed and laid-back song, incorporating minimal different features to keep the song moving. Fighting Demons is another trap-slash-emo-rap song, with a heavy bass beat and lyrics that can only be described as depressing, however, the main theme of the song is to continue on no matter the strife or pain so it still provides a sense of release for listeners. At the end of the song, the contrast between the piano and trap beat is an interesting one, with this balance between softer and harsher tones that Juice WRLD has incorporated into many of his songs, fitting into his theme of "seeing beauty through the pain" quite nicely.

The 14th track on the album is one of my personal favorite Juice WRLD songs of all time, that being Wishing Well. Using the same idea as the track before, the main instruments of the piece are a piano and a trap beat created using either a drum set or drumming pads. The best part of this song, arguably, is Juice's vocal delivery that is seeped in pain while he explains how he hates his drug use but feels like he "needs them" in order to function daily. This knowledge pitted against his habits brings yet another dichotomy to the rapper that makes him a unique character, as the song serves as a dark prophecy of what would happen to him later on as if he knew he wasn't going to live much longer. This sentiment was not only shared by himself, however, as seen in part of an interview done with Juice WRLD's girlfriend and partner at the time Ally Lotti. The two had a fatalistic sense that he would pass away in a short amount of time, though they could never know when that would be exactly so it just contributed to the pain.

Screw Juice comes after Wishing Well, talking about being a flawed person and having the world either hate or love him, with the pressure and anxiety that comes with being well known taking a toll on the rapper. After this track comes Up Up and Away, a serene mix of acoustic guitar and hand drums that give the song a lifted, "soaring" feeling that is mirrored in Juice's echoing voice. The song contains themes of being lost and mental collapse, leaving one confused and 'lost within their own mind'. The album moves into another break with The Man, The Myth, The Legend (Interlude) in which many people who worked with Juice WRLD or were idolized by him talked about his talent and legacy, with comments from artists like J. Cole, Eminem, Young Thug, Travis Scott, and others. It stands as a testament to Juice's music and the effect that he had not just on his fans, but the music world itself as he was recognized and adored by other big names in the hip-hop scene. Stay High is pretty self-explanatory, a song about being "Too low in my life so I gotta stay high, yeah I gotta stay high..." over another intriguing trap beat, reminding listeners that there can still be variation in a music type that is deemed "too repetitive" sometimes by critics or nay-sayers.

Can't Die is up next; a lament over others who were lost, and a declaration that no matter what, Juice WRLD was aiming to live and survive his struggles. Juice had done other songs in remembrance of other rappers and hip-hop artists who had died young during his career, noting this epidemic of young artists dying for one reason or another. Man of the Year has a pop-punk vibe to it, something reminiscent of a new wave of pop-punk spearheaded by artists such as Machine Gun Kelly or blackbear, to name a few. It's a fun, uppity track that isn't really notable compared to the rest of the album, but still provides a nice change in pace and once again showcases Juice's versatility as an artist. The final track is Juice WRLD Speaks From Heaven, which plays out like a skit in which Juice is "on Instagram Live from Heaven". It ends the album with an appreciation for Juice's fans and a reassurance that no matter what, Juice believed he was going to be in a better place and that there is no reason to worry, finishing with his signature style of melancholy and peace despite the sadness and pain. This statement expresses the real reason for the album being released, as a thank-you to those who had followed Juice through his momentous yet short career, showing us that just because life is short does not mean that you can't 'burn brightly for the time you are here', and for Juice WRLD especially, he was a star that came and went in a blink of an eye yet left an important legacy and impression on those who love his music.

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