It’s been two years since the bright light who was Juice WRLD left the world. The American rapper who revolutionized the world of emo-rap and helped bring mental health discussions to the forefront of the hip-hop world has had a very active legacy since his death. With two posthumous albums released since his passing, Juice’s legacy moves into the next artistic medium: documentaries. A documentary about the rapper’s life and struggles with mental health is airing on December 16, and a trailer released earlier this month gives an honest and revealing look at the message Juice left behind.
Juice WRLD: Into the Abyss
It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since Juice WRLD – whose real name is Jarad Anthony Higgins – died. Partly because his legacy has been in overdrive since the rapper died of an accidental overdose; two posthumous albums have hit shelves in the intervening time. And now, Juice WRLD: Into the Abyss is hitting HBO on December 16 and it will continue Higgins’ legacy of honest discussion around mental health issues.
The Into the Abyss trailer dropped earlier this month and it promises a documentary that holds nothing back and reveals the honest and straightforward way Higgins always hoped people would approach mental health struggles like anxiety and depression. In the trailer, Juice says, “When you’re a fan of this sh–, you look at it from a certain perspective. But when you in it, you see it for what it really is. I’m still happy I can change the world. But it’s not what it looked like.”
Higgins later adds, “You know, you tell whoever that you feel you’ve got anxiety, you feel like you’ve got depression, they gonna look at you like you crazy. That’s not how it should be.”
The documentary promises to be a continuation of the battle Juice fought in life to help people open up about and be accepted for their mental health struggles. Into the Abyss airs on HBO December 16 at 8PM EST, also available to stream on HBO Max.
The Rapper’s Life and Death
Juice WRLD has long been considered one of the most influential rappers of our era, revolutionizing the world of emo-rap and being a voice for millions of kids learning to express their pain and feelings through music. His untimely and tragic death at the age of 21 robbed an entire generation of an advocate and voice.
Higgins was born December 2, 1998, in Chicago, Illinois. His parents divorced when he was three and his father left shortly after – leaving Higgins to be raised by a single mom, who introduced him to the piano at 4 and encouraged his love for music. Raised on the sounds of emo rock bands like Panic! at the Disco, The Starting Line, Fallout Boy and harder bands like Black Sabbath and Megadeth, Higgins always had a penchant for music with heart.
Like so many artistic and creative geniuses do, Higgins turned to drugs and alcohol in his teen years. The up-and-coming rapper was honest about his struggles but clearly felt that the world wasn’t as accepting as it should be, so through his music and his words Juice sought to help people live their struggles honestly and out loud instead of feeling like they needed to hide.
Higgins began dropping rap on SoundCloud as early as 2015, hitting adulthood with several successful tracks already under his belt. Originally he went by JuicetheKidd but was encouraged to change it to Juice WRLD. “Juice” comes from Tupac‘s role in the movie of the same name and while WRLD was initially a meaningless add-on, eventually Higgins says it came to represent “taking over the world” to him.
Higgins was described by friends as “pure” and “happy-go-lucky,” and aside from drugs he spent his money on fun gadgets to make himself and those around him smile. Keenly intelligent and deeply emotional, Juice was instantly recognizable as something special. GQ writes, “Almost everyone who met Juice recognized his immense potential from the outset. ‘The first time I heard his music, it was just crazy,’ says G Herbo, his longtime friend and a star of the Chicago drill music scene. ‘Some of the hardest shit I ever heard from a kid.’ The songwriter-producer Benny Blanco, who discovered Juice on Instagram and immediately proceeded to set up a recording session with him in L.A., recalls being blown away by his ability to craft a song on the spot. ‘He hears one second of the beat, he goes in and not only does he come up with the lyrics and the melody, but he does the entire song in one take,’ Blanco recalls. ‘And he did three more takes and did three more hit songs over the same beat. And then he just says, ‘Pick the best parts you like.’ ‘ Juice recorded several songs in that one session with Blanco, and he would do the same with numerous other collaborators. ‘Yeah, we recorded eight songs that first day,’ says Blanco, still palpably amazed. ‘And it wasn’t like he had dumb lyrics—his shit made you feel something.’
Juice had the rare ability to freestyle lyrics and melody with intense emotion—a feat he famously demonstrated for more than an hour on Tim Westwood’s British radio show, in 2018. Producer Rex Kudo recalls the first time he met Juice at Metropolis Studios in London, where Kudo was working on a song with the artist M.I.A. Seconds after meeting her, Juice went into the booth, ‘and he just started freestyling,’ Kudo remembers. ‘We made an amazing song, and it’s not something we could have done on purpose. I started it for [M.I.A.], and Juice went in and made it his own.'”
Higgins was considered a guiding light despite his struggles with drugs, but it was his substance abuse issues that would lead to his death December 8, 2019. Law enforcement offers were tipped off that a jet Higgins was riding might have drugs and weapons, so they raided the plane when it landed in Chicago. In an effort to hide the drugs, witnesses on board say he took a number of pills. While in police custody, he convulsed and was treated with Narcan but ultimately succumbed.
Fans who were heartbroken that Juice’s voice was silenced so young were delighted to find out that his girlfriend would see to the release of not just one, but two posthumous albums.
The first appearance Juice’s voice made after his death was on Eminem‘s Music to be Murdered By track, “Godzilla.” The track was an immediate hit, and soonafter family announced they would release the music Juice was working on at the time of his death. Ever a dreamer, Higgins had notes and recorders of songs he had created but hadn’t made it to albums yet. In July 2020, Legends Never Die was released and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200.
Despite being dead a year, Juice WRLD closed out 2020 the fourth most streamed artist in the world on Spotify. His Second posthumous album was released this month, titled Fighting Demons.
Juice WRLD may be gone, but his music and legacy live on. It was Higgins’ hope that people could share their battle with mental health demons and not be judged for it – but welcomed and supported. Through his music even after his death, Higgins has given a voice to people who may suffer in silence – and Into the Abyss promises to tell the story of why that meant so much to him. Catch it on HBO and HBO Max starting December 16.