Trigger Warning: This article talks about drug and alcohol abuse and the tragic passing of Juice Wrld.
THIS MORNING, MANY CORNELL STUDENTS woke up to a notification on their phones announcing the death of the 21-year-old artist Juice Wrld, who suffered a seizure while walking through Chicago’s Midway Airport around 3 a.m. While the cause of his death is unclear at this time, there is speculation that it is drug-related.
While we by no means wish to, or intend to, slander the late “Lucid Dreams” artist by claiming that substance abuse was involved in his passing, an unfortunate and tragic trend has re-emerged in the music industry. Since arriving on this campus, the oldest of current Cornell undergrads have seen the deaths of XXXTentacion, Lil Peep, Mac Miller, Fredo Santana and now Juice Wrld. While not all of these artists died due to speculated overdoses, all of these artists wrote about drug use — particularly lean, Xanax and opioids — and, to an extent, depression.
Juice Wrld, out of all of the aforementioned artists, was the most open about his drug use, and his music reflected this. Nearly every one of his songs included a reference to Percocet, molly or lean. And he was revered by high schoolers. He was even nominated for a Kids’ Choice Award.
Like the younger kids, some Cornell students have idolized Juice Wrld and artists like him. Not for bad reasons either; his music speaks to feelings of isolation that many college-age people feel. After all, he’s the same age as a college student. And some Cornellians may have even used drugs in a similar manner to Juice Wrld and other artists like him. Even Juice Wrld himself was open about how his lean use first started because he loved Future’s music.
It is not uncommon on this campus to hear a discussion about regular drug use from fellow students. In fact, it has become somewhat normalized. When some Cornellians attend house parties, they wouldn’t be shocked to see cocaine and Xanax use. And the music we listen to supports these behaviors. While the music itself is certainly not to blame for the pervasiveness of drug use in college and high school environments today, perhaps today’s youth look to musicians for guidance in life more so than past generations. Gen Z-ers have grown up in a time where traditional authority figures don’t hold the same way anymore. And new forms of media can mimic relationships in ways unheard of before the 2000s. It is not alright that these young artists, who are looked up to by millions for inspiration and support, are dying. The kids need help, but the people they look to for help are kids themselves.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, on an average day 1.2 million full-time college students drank alcohol, nearly 800,000 used other illicit substances (such as heroin, hallucinogens, cocaine and inhalants). We by no means are advocating for more substance control in this country — in fact, we believe the opposite — and we certainly do not wish to infringe on any first amendment rights in music, but these substance abuse numbers are too high.
The question of how to solve this problem is certainly complicated. But maybe a solution starts with a simple re-evaluation on the part of Cornellians, and today’s youth in general, as to how we view the people we look up to. Artists are complex people; often, they lead lives unlike the average person. Copying their every move may not be the best way to help yourself.
Students may consult with counselors from Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) by calling 607-255-5155. Employees may call the Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) at 607-255-2673. An Ithaca-based Crisisline is available at 607-272-1616. For additional resources, visit caringcommunity.cornell.edu.