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By Keegan Priest
Death Race for Love
As trap music becomes the dominant form of popular and modern music, many subgenres and denominations have formed within it. Rappers like Juice Wrld, Trippie Red, and the infamous XXXTentacion have spearheaded a 90’s punk inspired subgenre commonly referred to as “Emo Rap.” With gothic clothes and hairstyles, to the drug references and allusions to poor mental health, Juice Wrld, (born Jarad Higgins) has been the leader of the new wave of emo-based trap music.
Juice Wrld became the influencer he is today with his breakout single, “Lucid Dreams” off of his debut mixtape Goodbye and Good Riddance. The song was massively successful and pioneered the subgenre towards the mainstream, yet The Chicago rapper’s newest project echos all of the sentiments of the emo-wave trap while simultaneously creating an intolerably boring, horribly produced trap album.
The biggest flaw of Death Race for Love is its absurd runtime. Not a single trap album has ever done itself justice by passing the hour marking, and Juice Wrld is not an exception. Clocking in at almost 75 minutes with 22 tracks, Death Race for Love is practically unlistenable as you struggle through its last stretch. With an album with such a long time to present itself, you’d think that Higgins would be able to tackle various subject matter, interesting and diverse production and a cohesive album experience. But it does none of these things.
Although the production can be sweet and quite moving, like the gentle pianos in the opener “Empty” and in the single “Robbery”, it immediately gets ruined as the four bar loop is repeated for the three and half minute duration of each song (in addition to obnoxious trap percussion that becomes way too overbearing.) Instrumentals like the ones on “HeMotions” and “Hear Me Calling” are so obnoxious and yet so extremely generic to the point where it pains the listener to finish the song. And Juice Wrld sounds extremely out of place on every instrumental. Higgins signature vocal performance is what makes this album the struggle bus it is. His auto-tuned three-note-melody moaning is present from track one to track twenty-two and not a single part of it a) portrays any convincing emotion, b) fits with the instrumental aesthetically or musically. His flow and cadence become instantly stale and frustrating.
The lyrics are just as horrible. Juice Wrld sticks to his emo-aesthetic by only discussing themes of depression and prescription drug use. But what makes his lyricism and the subject matter so poorly done, is how much he glorifies mental illness and addiction. To an extent, Juice Wrld paints an almost glorious lifestyle with two monstrous things. Not only are the lyrics extremely tone-deaf, they’re so generic or corny to the point where it becomes difficult to take the project as a whole seriously. With the worst line being: “Bein’ me, I rock, PnB // These h*** actin’ like gossip, TMZ // These drugs acting like // Mosh pits squishing me.”
While Juice Wrld maybe pushing the genre of hip-hop and trap into a new phase of emotions and “introspective lyrics”, Juice Wrld again and again continues to make poorly produced albums where he shows little to no talent in an ability to write interesting melodies or complex subject matter.