Juice WRLD, real name Jarad Anthony Higgins, might have gotten his big break from SoundCloud, for “Lucid Dreams”—but he’s much more than your average mumble rapper.
On his latest album Death Race for Love, Higgins draws influences from a wide range of styles, from hard rock to gospel to video game soundtracks. And, as you’ll find out, this musically inclined 20-year-old can do far more than just rap.
While you check out his fresh LP, learn more about the rapper below.
Video games were his introduction to popular music
Growing up, Juice didn’t listen to music in the conventional way. Brought up by a religious mother, the rapper wasn’t exposed to much popular music. Especially not hip hop.
“I was a little kid, those lyrics aren’t made for kids’ ears. [My mom is] more on the conservative side, but I completely agree with her,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “Future is one of my favorite artists, and I was listening to him in sixth [or] seventh grade wanting to drink lean, like that’s crazy. Words have a lot of power. I was still developing as a person—mentally, physically—so those years were very crucial for who I am right now and that’s completely understandable.”
There was a loophole, though: video games. Juice was, at least, allowed to wrap his ears around the pop and rock songs on Guitar Hero and the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series. Their eclectic soundtracks introduced him to bands like Black Sabbath, Megadeth and the Foo Fighters, all of which influence his sound to this day.
A multi-talented instrumentalist
Despite his limited exposure to pop, Juice has been involved with music in one way or other since young. At the age of four, he started learning the piano. He eventually taught himself how to play guitar and drums, and even picked up the trumpet during band classes.
“I learned how to play trumpet in grade school, but everything else I’m just self-taught. I had a couple lessons, but I was always too antsy to sit down and learn. That’s not my style,” he told Avril Lavigne for Interview Magazine.
Forgetting rap lyrics led him to freestyling
Juice was properly exposed to hip hop through his cousins, who shared with him the latest rap tracks from artists like Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane and Eminem. As he couldn’t bring those songs home, he’d forget the lyrics and freestyle to make up for it. “I’d be trying to listen to Gucci and Jeezy and shit and I couldn’t remember the lyrics, so I would just finish them myself, and that’s how it would start,” he told Complex.
Now, Juice is arguably one of the best freestylers of his generation, a rep he cemented when he dropped by Tim Westwood’s Capital Radio program last June. In an hour-long marathon freestyle session, he delivered hard-hitting bars over instrumentals from the likes of Jay-Z’s “On to the Next One” and Tyler, the Creator’s “Yonkers.”
The rapper apparently also freestyled the entirety of Death Race for Love. “I just need to say this really quick. Do y’all understand that every song off [the album] was never written,” Ally Lotti, Juice’s girlfriend, recently tweeted. “I watched, along with many others as he spoke every song into existence. One verse after another, freestyle.”
Tupac inspired his unique moniker
Like many of Juice’s contemporaries, Tupac was a big influence, but not in the way you’d expect. Around the time Juice started rapping, he was sporting Tupac’s iconic hairstyle from the movie Juice. He took the name and ran with it, crowning himself JuicetheKidd when he dropped his first track back in 2015.
And how did “WRLD” come about? Well, he doesn’t even know himself. “Honestly, I’m not even sure where the word ‘WRLD’ came from. I was just trying to be creative,” he told Elevator back in 2017.
He’s an advocate for mental health
Although only 20 years old, Juice seems wise beyond his years—he aims to do more than make bank. The young rapper, who struggles with anxiety, feels that the African-American community could do better tackling issues such as mental illness.
“You tell your mom, or your dad, or your auntie, or whoever that you feel like you’ve got anxiety, you’ve got depression, you’ve got ADD, whatever, they’re gonna look at you like you’re crazy,” he told Billboard. “That’s not how it should be, but that’s how it is, and that needs to change, and hopefully I’m one of those people that could bring that change, or at least start a chain reaction for somebody else to come and do it after me.”
And through his music, he hopes to act as a therapist of sorts—both for himself and his listeners. “My music is like my therapy sessions, but there’s no confidentiality. I put it out there for people to receive, reevaluate, and learn, and grab my hand and walk with me through whatever they may be going through,” he added.
Stream Death Race for Love here.