After Goodbye and Good Riddance by the Illinois rapper Jared Higgins — better known as Juice WRLD — reached number four on the Billboard 200 in May 2018, fans admired him for the way he embodied “emo-rap,” a relatively new genre of music which fuses the aspects of hip hop with the lyricism and vocals found in emo music. Juice WRLD has been able to distinguish himself from other notable “emo rappers” such as the late Lil Peep and Post Malone due to his catchy production, temperamental hooks and melodramatic lyrics. Now ten months after his debut album, Juice WRLD’s sophomore album Death Race for Love discusses his anxiety to trust others, how his insecurities have interfered with his relationships and how his relationship with drugs, money and fashion have provided an outlet (although not an entirely healthy one) to cope with his pain.
Death Race for Love, comprised of 22 songs with a listening duration of approximately 70 minutes, felt like a chore to listen through. With such a lengthy tracklist, I was hoping that Juice WRLD would present the album with a level of complexity in his production and lyricism, greater than in Goodbye and Good Riddance, to the point where I would look forward to hearing each upcoming song. Rather, the heavy supply of tracks made the album sound rather repetitive. In general, he continues to fall back on the tropes of “emo-rap,” discussing either the main themes of hip hop — drugs, sex and money — or the main themes of emo-music: anxiety and desperation. Simply put, if Juice WRLD solely wanted to express the difficulties of being a rich man struggling with drug issues trying to find love, he could have achieved that goal with fewer tracks. Albeit the message for A Death Race for Love, nowadays, is rather common and not entirely enlightening to listeners, the album does have a nice mix of slow-paced tracks, hard trap beats and fun pop songs. Juice WRLD’s smooth and dynamic flow is able to make some songs stand out, such as “Hear Me Calling,” “Out My Way,” “Demonz — Interlude” or “10 Feet.” But since the album is so large, even the production and flow began to feel monotonous by the end.
In contrast to his debut album, which only featured Lil Uzi Vert, Death Race For Love uses the help of three artists, Brent Faiyaz, Clever and Young Thug, to convey Juice WRLD’s unresolved emotions. Faiyaz provided a soothing voice with strong conviction on a slow yet soulful beat on “Demonz — Interlude,” thus relaying a great deal of raw emotion that elevated “Demonz” to become one of the most notable songs on the album. However, Clever, on “Ring Ring,” and Young Thug, on “ON GOD,” did not advance the album to a point worthy of acknowledgment. Clever’s verse was hard to hear and continues to follow the same motifs seen throughout Juice WRLD’s work, rapping, “I’m aware of the stress / I don’t care to impress / Can’t you see that I’m high on drugs? / And low on sleep / I just wanna go somewhere and count my sheep.” Young Thug didn’t even have his own verse, but just hopped on the mic and supported Juice WRLD as they both chanted “I made a bag, baby” numerous times.
Overall, Death Race for Love is a six-out-of-ten. The production of the album is well done, being able to blend different sounds effortlessly. The flow is varied, measured and also animated — one of the main characteristics that distinguished Juice WRLD from anyone else. Yet, the length of the album is unnecessarily long and the lyrics of the album inundate you with the same message. I was hoping that Juice WRLD’s sophomore album would go further to discuss the struggle of dealing with insecurities, drugs, money and relationships. However, Death Race for Love is too similar to Goodbye and Good Riddance for it to be a top album this year.
Jeremiah LaCon is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]