In a new profile for Billboard, rising Chicago rap star Juice Wrld says he let down one of his biggest musical inspirations when they met in person after he told Future his music inspired Juice to try lean. The two collaborated last year on the joint album Wrld On Drugs, where they displayed a working chemistry that seemed to be born of their shared fondness for pharmaceuticals.
However, as Juice told Billboard, “I think I broke [Future’s] heart a little bit.” Ahead of the release of his own latest album, The Wizrd, Future admitted that not only had he kicked his own drug habit, but he was afraid to go public with the revelation because he didn’t know how his fans would react. Meanwhile, a wave of rappers (and producers) from across the generational and stylistic spectrum have made it a point to embrace sobriety over the past year in the wake of the highly publicized overdoses of Lil Peep and Mac Miller, capped by a growing discussion concerning rappers’ responsibility as role models.
Juice’s tale actually presents one of the most poignant arguments. The now 20-year-old rapper says that he first tried lean in just the 6th grade, explaining his rationale to Billboard: “What do you expect if I’m a young dude that really loves music, really looks up to these artists? I didn’t have a man giving me no type of guidance. My father wasn’t in my life like that. So listening to this grown-ass man rap about lean, I’m like, ‘Well, that sounds really appealing.’”
In the video for his song “Lean Wit Me,” Juice goes to rehab, even as he sings about some of the nightmarish consequences of drug abuse, but judging from other songs and even his Billboard interview, it seems to be something he still struggles with. He does acknowledge that he could possibly be setting a similar example for his own young fans to the one Future apparently set for him: “I look at it like this — you can’t change a motherf*cker’s life by pointing and judging. It takes a motherf*cker that has been through the same shit to say, ‘I understand how it feels. We’re going to get through this together.’ I want to be that person that leads people out of the place they’re at. And in the process, maybe I’ll find the key to get out of the place that I’m at.”