There are levels to stardom. You can be locally famous or globally famous. You can be famous overseas but not at home; you can be famous among those locked in on new trends with laser focus, but nowhere near a household name.
Chicago “not just a rapper” Juice WRLD is right on the cusp of a transition. His song “Lucid Dreams” saturated streaming via playlists. His debut album, Goodbye & Good Riddance, with its singles “Armed And Dangerous“, “Lean Wit Me,” and “Wasted,” is certified gold.
He seems to be the ideal artist for this modern era of hyper-eclectic tastes and decentralized consumption. His blend of emo compulsions with a legitimate gift for straightforward lyricism and a clever turn of phrase should give him cachet with multiple scenes and generations.
His refusal to conform to just one style has given him an angle into markets many of his predecessors and peers can’t lay claim to. His latest effort, Death Race For Love, comes just 10 months after his promising debut, aiming to capitalize on that promise, launching him from Next Big Thing to a legitimate superstar.
Death Race For Love expands on the eclecticism displayed on Goodbye & Good Riddance, branching off into some surprising stylistic territory. It’s still rooted in the early 2010s-era pop-punk that undoubtedly formed the 19-year-old’s musical identity, but it expresses those tendencies in new ways, both innovatively appealing and shockingly disappointing.
In all, it continues to prove that Juice WRLD, despite his young age, has all the makings of a truly generational talent — once he figures out exactly who he wants to be. For all the experimentation on the album, it loses focus, runs overlong, and careens sharply into alarming misogynist fantasy by its end, all marks against its truly engaging moments.
Who else would think to blend No ID’s soulful chops with Hit-Boy’s percussive mastery on “The Bees Knees,” switching beats midway through to better display his chameleonic gifts? Then there’s “Big,” where Juice spazzes out over another Hit-Boy production, a gothic trap number where he flexes some of his slickest raps: “I got that pump, it’s ironic how that pump made him pump his brakes / I ain’t Lil Pump but I got double Glocks on me like Gucci Gang.”