The Chicago rapper Juice WRLD hit the hip-hop scene like a meteor in 2018, dropping his wildly popular debut album, “Goodbye & Good Riddance,” and following it up with a full-length collaboration project with multiplatinum artist Future, “WRLD ON DRUGS,” in the same year.
On YouTube, he has amassed hundreds of millions of views on his music videos — most notably for the song “Lucid Dreams” off his debut, which has surpassed 300 million views — but, contrary to previous successes, his second album, “Death Race for Love,” suffers from quantity over quality.
On March 8, Juice WRLD released his second solo album, “Death Race for Love,” which ranked No. 1 in the country on the Billboard 200 in its opening week. However, the album is much longer than his previous work, clocking in at 22 tracks.
Juice released two promotional singles for the album back in February, the first being “Robbery,” a jam furnished with delicate piano patterns and a rumbling bass, where Juice WRLD sheds pain through his disheveled vocal delivery. Juice sounds as if he’s screaming to the sky for the majority of the track, and he hits some ambitious notes, as warped, echoed vocals enhance the vulnerable performance.
The song’s lyrics sink into heartbreak, insecurity and materialism, and consequently “Robbery” penetrates gets deeper than some of the most hard-cutting tracks on “Goodbye & Good Riddance.” The concoction of all these ingredients make “Robbery” the most inventive track on the project.
For the next single, Juice WRLD vocally salsas through a tropical-themed instrumental in “Hear Me Calling.” The track sounds like a sure radio hit with an infectious rhythm, but Juice also has a stout vocal performance despite two hiccups where lines go awkwardly off-beat in the latter half of the song. However, the single is a strong addition to Juice WRLD’s collection of hits and a win in comparison to the majority of “Death Race for Love.”
Now you get to the rest of album, beginning with “Empty,” which offers a high point of energy and succeeds as an intro. The vocals are fierce-sounding in the track’s aggressive hook, and Juice maintains a high level of adrenaline throughout its four-minute span. But Juice WRLD’s songwriting is clearly lacking on the track, which contrasts with the fluid opener to his debut “All Girls Are the Same,” a project whose lyrical potency is clearly lacking throughout “Death Race for Love.”
“Maze” is the second song and quickens the pace with a roaring bass and an onslaught of diverse melodies and warping noises that inundate the background. “HeMotions” is a decent listen for its instrumental and the sound of Juice’s voice, despite the abominable “Back on my bulls—, devil emoji” repetition in the lousy hook. The first three tracks don’t seem bad, but I can’t help but look at “All Girls Are the Same,” “Lucid Dreams” and “Lean Wit Me” as the first three songs off “Goodbye & Good Riddance,” and admit that “Empty,” “Maze” and “HeMotions” are just inferior.
Although “Robbery” and “Hear Me Calling” support the fat middle layer of the album, it is easy to lose interest in its later tracks. One issue that surfaces in “Death Race for Love” is how there are so many active noises that bend and morph throughout the album that it becomes nauseating. That, added with consistent quaking bass, is sure to give you a headache, and Juice fails to maintain a pleasurable tempo throughout the album. You feel as if your brain is going to melt as you listen to the whirling settings stacked on top of each other.
Furthermore, although substance use is a foundational characteristic of Juice WRLD’s style, by flooding his bars with drug glorification he has gone to a new level, and it comes off as repetitive. For instance, the 10-track “Feeling” has a soothing beat that contrasts with the siren-wailing aggression of the preceding “Flaws and Sins,” but it suffers from the suffocating Percocet theme. By that point, after nine tracks of exposition, I’ve heard enough about Juice’s love-hate relationship with percs. Oh, but don’t worry, they will still make up the majority of the subject matter for the rest of the album too!
“Death Race for Love” is also deflated by listless choruses in several songs, like in “ON GOD” when Young Thug — the most notable feature, out of the three guest appearances on the track list — “blesses” the track with this chorus:
“I made a bag, baby (Yeah)
I made a bag, baby (On God)
I made a bag, baby (On God)
I made a bag, baby (On God)
I’m in my bag (On God)
I drive it real fast, baby (On God)
Mercedes Benz (On God)
I’m in my bag, baby.”
Juice WRLD seems rushed in making this project, which is apparent in his failure to craft compelling lyrics or entertaining choruses, but he does expand from “Goodbye & Good Riddance” by implementing some bangers into his second album’s framework.
One of the results were the snore-worthy “Big,” which does have a decent instrumental and an epic interlude three quarters of the way through, but Juice fails to challenge himself with any engaging flows or rhymes. Another banger is “Syphilis,” and Juice employs XXXTENTACION-esque screeching and sick-boy flows. The aggression and tongue wizardry on the track is admirable, but the song’s substance can be summed up by Juice’s reoccurring lines, “On my gun is a d—/ I’m gon’ f— your face with it.”
Nonetheless, there are a few gems that shine through the album’s general imperfections; “10 Feet,” “She’s the One” and “Out My Way” stood out as major improvements on Juice’s versatility as a hip-hop artist. Juice WRLD professes some of the sturdiest raps of his career in “10 Feet” over quick-stabbing bass and illustrious vocal samples that decorate its background. However, the beat switch-up that constitutes the last one-and-a-half minutes of the track would be a lot better if Juice actually rapped over it.
“She’s the One” has a mystical flavor to its rhythm and a beat that is attractive to the ear. The complexity of the hook contrasts greatly with the repetitiveness of others on “Death Race to Love,” and the bass rift weaved into the instrumental throughout the track is pleasant, especially compared to the rest of the album.
“Out My Way” is the most well-done banger off Juice’s second project. The instrumental is wacky and animated while Juice’s cocky bars pop nicely, and the track is a dynamic zing in a collection that is largely made up of pop anthems and depressive jams.
Regardless, “Death Race to Lovem” as a whole, is simply bloated. If Juice WRLD were to release a shorter project of just the promotional singles and its six other best songs, it would be a much more captivating work.
One thing I do find concerning about Juice WRLD’s music is how he uses vibrant, poppy beats that easily appeal to younger demographics, which is alarming because it seems his coarse lyrics and glorification of substances is growing stronger in his music but creeping in unnoticed behind all the grandness of his sound. This artist who centers his music around percs, ecstasy and lean, along with his enthusiasm for guns and d—s and f—ing faces with them, is being nominated for 2019’s favorite breakout artist for the Nickelodeon 2019 Kids’ Choice Awards.
Is this wrong or am I overreacting?