‘I wanted to show what happened’: the tragic story of Juice WRLD

Juice WRLD : Into the Abyss, the HBO documentary on one of Gen Z ’ s biggest music stars, opens with the late poster child of “ SoundCloud rap ” freestyling uncoiled to camera nudged merely by a dizzy, hymned perplex. A 19-year-old Juice, real name Jarad Anthony Higgins, appears at still toggling between disconsolation and winking bravado off the manacle : “ I got tantalum admit myself, I ’ m on these drugs, feel like I can ’ t save myself, ” he says, pausing for a cigarette pull. “ Nobody ’ s always felt the pain I ’ ve felt / so I plowshare it / put it out to the solid universe, I ain ’ t embarrassed. ” The five-minute freestyle is an arresting initiation to Juice ’ s portentous talent for rhyming “ from the dome ” that now doubles as an elegy. In the early hours of 8 December 2019, less than a week after his 21st birthday, Juice WRLD died of an accidental overdose of oxycodone and codeine curtly after landing at Chicago ’ s Midway airport. Two years former, he remains one of the most popular music artists in the global – according to Spotify, the third gear most streamed in the US of 2021, behind Drake and Taylor Swift – and a beloved picture of a genre whose stars burned bright and besides fast. The brief life and career of Juice WRLD was one of mind-boggling singularity : one of the most dizzy rockets to superstardom, even by internet standards ; one of the most omnipresent and influential artists of his generation, with streams in the billions for a career that lasted scantily two years. And as Into the Abyss, the final episode of HBO ’ sulfur Music Box series ( which besides includes Jagged and Woodstock 99 : peace, Love, and Rage ) illustrates, through archival footage of his near-ceaseless freestyling and testaments from collaborators, Juice was a singular endowment, both in the prolificness of his output and the inexperience of his lyrics.

“ He was both will and able to discuss the things that he was going through without a filter and without shame or involve for how it was received, ” Tommy Oliver, the film ’ second film director, told the Guardian. “ For sol many people who tend to bottle things up or don ’ t have the speech to discuss something … to be able to see person who is uncoerced to do that and can make incredible music with that, I think that was something in truth especial. ” oliver never got the chance to meet Juice ; he came aboard the project after the singer ’ s death, distilling behind the scenes footage shot by videographers Steve Cannon and Chris Long into a loose, plain portrait of the ace in the final examination year and a half of his liveliness – his creative powers turbocharged, his demons dissembling into full-blown addiction. The person Oliver and co-editor Joe Kehoe got to know through hundreds of hours of footage was fresh, cockamamie, anxious about losing himself to superstardom. He was a virtual tap of rhymes, in love with and committed to his girlfriend, the influencer Ally Lotti, a near constant bearing at his side. He was an enthusiastic artist on the avant-garde of blending drug-infused knock with the pop-punk influences of Fall Out Boy, Panic ! at the Disco and Blink-182. In both the hyperbolic stakes of his lyrics and his touch aching rescue, Juice ’ s music embodied ripping your heart open and throwing blood on the wall. To quote Lucid Dreams, his break adolescent breakup anthem from 2018 : “ You were my everything / Thoughts of a marry ring / now I ’ megabyte just better off dead. ” He was besides a child struggling with longstanding depression and anxiety exacerbated by the hyper-onset of fame. Raised in the south suburbs of Chicago by a single mother, Juice posted an EP, JuiceWRLD 9 9 9, on SoundCloud in 2017, the year he graduated from high school, which caught the attention of Chicago music figures Gmoney and G Herbo, who both appear in the film. His first music video, for All Girls Are The Same, was released in February 2018 to nightlong achiever ; within a year, he had moved to Los Angeles, scored a phonograph record manage at Interscope for $ 3m, topped the Billboard charts, and occupied the Gen Z zeitgeist good as emo knock lost its forebears. Lil Peep, the capable of the like posthumous objective Everybody ’ s Everything, died of an accidental overdose barely after his 21st birthday in 2017 ; the rapper XXXTentacion, controversial for his domestic mistreat charges, was murdered at 20 in 2018. “ What ’ s the 27 Club ? We ’ ra not making it past 21, ” Juice WRLD, who released a tribute EP, Too Soon … for the couple, once rapped .Juice Wrld was ‘a kid struggling with longstanding depression and anxiety exacerbated by the hyper-onset of fame’. Juice Wrld was ‘ a kid struggling with longstanding depression and anxiety exacerbated by the hyper-onset of fame ’. Photograph: HBO Into the Abyss largely skips over that early rise, rather embedding in the daily of its brief cruising altitude – a signally cracker-barrel touring operation of creative hangs, ATV joyrides and continuous, free-and-easy drug use. Juice ’ s fraught kinship with drugs, particularly Percocet pills and “ thin ” ( codeine syrup interracial with sodium carbonate ) is well documented in his lyrics and on frequent display here. There ’ second barely a moment when he doesn ’ t appear to be on something ; he mixes lean while freestyling about “ dark Sprite ”, flashes a tongue dotted with pills to the camera, dozes off mid-sentence. At one item, he offers a Percocet to the videographer, who accepts, then snorts more off his Nintendo Switch with Lotti passed out in his lick.

For all Juice ’ s endowment and the electricity of his stage moments, the film frequently plays like a slow-rolling funeral, particularly as Juice ’ s drug use starts impinging on his ability to complete a 45-minute hardening in his final weeks. “ It came down to never wanting to be exploitative, never wanting to glamorize, never wanting to sensationalize, ” said Oliver of the decision to include such moments. “ And beyond that it was barely him being him, and the situation being what it was, without judgment, good or bad. ” “ He can no long speak for himself, but he chose to have this stuff recorded, ” Oliver said of the arduous reliance of archival footage, which eschews narration and incorporates sparse interviews. The goal became to “ get out of the way and allow him to tell his own floor, and for us to see who he was without the bias of an agenda, or a bias of trying to fit him into some preconceived mind of who he was or who he could ’ ve been, or shying off from certain things. ” The tour footage is bookended with interviews from people in his sphere – collaborators such as the television conductor Cole Bennett and producer Benny Blanco, who calls him “ a therapist to millions of kids ” ; managers Gmoney and Lil Bibby ; a still-devastated Lotti and Juice ’ south mother, Carmela Wallace. There are no appearances from people not seen in the archival footage, just “ the people whom he chose to have around him, ” said Oliver, “ who spent time with him, who understood him best. That was it. ”‘It was just him being him, and the situation being what it was, without judgment, good or bad,’ the film-maker said. ‘ It was just him being him, and the position being what it was, without judgment, thoroughly or bad, ’ the conductor said. Photograph: HBO This includes recollections from the cortege with him the night he died, with graphic descriptions of the capture that occurred as the plane was searched for drugs and weapons by federal agents. Though the police presence has spawned theories over his death, Into the Abyss doesn ’ thymine suggest a mystery : it was addiction. The singer probably consumed a pint of list and more than 20 pills the day he died. “ I precisely wanted to show what happened, ” said Oliver, “ and I didn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate feel the need to address what didn ’ metric ton happen ” such as the rumor that, afraid of authorities, he on the spur of the moment swallowed a handful of pills. Throughout the film and his lyrics, Juice WRLD exhibited a fixation with his own demise that now reads prophetic. “ It seemed like he was keenly aware of the possibility or the likelihood [ of death ], ” said Oliver, and that “ is credibly one of the reasons why he lived his life equally fast as he did. ” As Lotti says, eyes closed, in her brief interview : “ He knew, he fucking knew. ”

Juice WRLD ’ s bequest carries on, in two posthumous albums, 2020 ’ south Legends Never Die, which set a Billboard record for five singles in the top 10, and this calendar month ’ sulfur Fighting Demons. His protege, the australian emo rapper the Kid LAROI ( real name Charlton Kenneth Jeffrey Howard ), who appears in the film and was on the plane with Juice when he died, scored the biggest pop sung of the class with Stay, featuring Justin Bieber. His songs remain as anthemic to a generation of stressed-out kids as their supersonic debut. “ [ Executive producer ] Bill Simmons asked me why people don ’ metric ton think of Juice like Kurt Cobain, ” Oliver said of Juice ’ s bequest as a generational asterisk gone besides soon. “ And I said, because they haven ’ metric ton seen the film even. ”

  • Juice WRLD : Into the Abyss airs on HBO on 16 December with a UK date to be announced
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