Rest in peace to one of the game's great young freestylers.
Yesterday morning, the loss of Jarad Anthony Higgins, known to millions of fans as Juice WRLD, sent a ripple effect through the community. Fellow artists and listeners alike penned eulogies and homages, highlighting the impact of his creativity and content. For many, his emo-inspired take on rap bridged the gap between genre barriers, widening the scope of his impact to a variety of demographics. And while many of his more popular singles ranging from “Robbery,” “Lucid Dreams,” and “All Girls Are The Same” centered around melancholic melodies, Juice’s sensibilities as an emcee garnered a unique type of respect from his contemporaries.
In a heartfelt Instagram post, fellow lyricist YBN Cordae paid respects to his friend, highlighting a commonality between them. “We shared the same bus,(your bus lol) and never slept cuz we'd be up freestyling for HOURS,” he wrote. “Since then a lifelong brotherhood was built.” A bond forged through a mutual appreciation for hip-hop music and the art of lyricism, Juice WRLD and Cordae’s friendship served to highlight one of the former’s status as a student of the game. If it wasn’t always apparent from his musical choices, his admiration and aptitude for the act of freestyling was proof in itself. His sheer prowess in that department was enough to make a believer out of hip-hop media’s favorite stoic, Funkmaster Flex. The old-head archetype in his final form, Flex’s face could only contort with pleasure as Juice delivered bar-after-bar, many of which appeared to be rattled off-top.
While Juice WRLD’s prolific work ethic led to many musical memories preserved, perhaps none shine brighter than his impressive stop on Tim Westwood TV. In a clip that has since garnered over five million views, Juice WRLD rapped for fifty-two minutes straight over some of Eminem’s most popular beats, going completely off the dome. A feat that not many emcees would dare attempt, let alone pull off with quotables to match. For many, this video will serve as a reminder of Juice’s talent, of what separated him from others in his class. To be sitting on such keen lyrical instincts, using them sparingly and thus, making them all the more impressive. His preservation of a seemingly lost art--the unwritten freestyle--speaks to a mentality well beyond his years. Clearly, Juice WRLD held an appreciation for the culture’s foundational roots and his predecessors.
The aforementioned “hour-long freestyle” has been embedded below, a bittersweet reminder of the young man’s legacy. Between the flow-switches, eerily foreshadowing lyrics, the palpable sense of fun, and the endearing lulls as he concocts his next move, Juice’s freestyle clinic may very well stand as a defining artistic moment. Even when his lyrics bridge the topic of death, which certainly hurts given the circumstances, his clear sense of enjoyment is a strong enough counterweight. Rest in peace, Juice WRLD. One of the best freestylers we’ve seen in recent memory.