When Juice WRLD tragically passed away in December 2019, the premonitions didn’t make the news any easier to take. Jarad Higgins wrote songs of addiction and mental illness with raspy vocal performances that sounded weighed down by the demands of his life, including fame and fortune. He could also incorporate genuine charisma and lyrical talents that made him fit on tracks with everyone from Lil Yachty to Eminem. No matter how much direct influence he had, there will never be anyone quite like Juice WRLD.
Thanks to Juice’s steady work ethic, he left plenty of unreleased material behind. Legends Never Die is the first posthumous Juice WRLD album to be released, but it’s unlikely to be the last, given its chart-topping debut and his reported 2,000 songs in his vault. It does a good job of highlighting his different talents in an organized and respectful fashion.
Much of Legends Never Die has Juice talking about his pills and lean dependencies, with expressed awareness of how risky his coping mechanisms are. He handles these subjects tactfully, addressing his relationship with them without turning his songs into substance abuse glorification. Many songs here have strong hooks, but the catchiness of the choruses on “Titanic” and “Righteous” doesn’t offset the seriousness of the matters at hand. The only times the album falls too much into overt-radio appeal is on the Marshmello-produced “Come & Go.”
Things are grimmest towards the album’s end. Back-to-back tracks “Stay High” and “Can’t Die” each includes foreboding lyrics about death. On the latter’s chorus, he plainly expresses “Sometimes it feels like I can’t die, ’cause I never was alive.” Sentiments like these are chilling while also showing how devastating Juice could be in his conciseness. Songs like these and the beautiful, piano-rich “Fighting With Demons” reward listener patience, although other tracks in the second half, like “I Want It” and “Up Up Away,” can feel like filler or unfinished.
While Juice was adept at hopping on others’ tracks, his solo releases tended to be light on features. Perhaps he wanted to have as much room for his thoughts as possible. Legends Never Die respects this, with only a few guests in the middle of the tracklist keeping the proceedings tasteful. Trippie Redd gives an appropriately passionate hook on “Tell Me U Luv Me,” Polo G and The Kid Laroi have decent features on “Hate the Other Side,” and Halsey users her vocal power to help close the trunk-rattling “Life’s A Mess.” All of these features are proficient, but none of them threaten to steal the spotlight from Juice. “Tell Me U Luv Me” is the true standout of the bunch, if only for the vicious flow Juice offers.
The person who makes the biggest impact on Legends Never Die besides Juice isn’t a guest artist. It’s his girlfriend, Ally Lotti. Previous Juice WRLD albums Goodbye & Good Riddance and Death Race For Love came with a large helping of romantic anguish, which could make him sound more petulant than sympathetic. Finding someone to love might not have been a direct cause of Juice maturing, but there’s a palpable sense of growth in how he addresses these topics. The bleak sides of love, such as codependency, come up as well. When he says “Broke up with codeine, need a new plug” in regards to his relationship, it’s hard to not have a lump in your throat.
What the next Juice WRLD album would have looked like had he not passed is hard to know exactly. He reportedly had another album, The Outsiders, in the works. Though that’s slated for eventual release, Legends Never Die functions as a goodbye to and from Juice WRLD. His exact wishes for a post-death album might never be known, but this avoids feeling exploitative.
He’s tributed by artists like Eminem, Young Thug, and G Herbo, and the album concludes with him giving a premature posthumous address on “Juice WRLD Speaks From Heaven,” telling fans he loves them. He pointedly refers to “supporters” as well. As a parting shot, a sample of his vocals on “NO BYSTANDERS” plays.
The party never ends, and legends never die.