Juice WRLD Credit: Courtesy the Artist

By the time Chicago rapper Juice WRLD died in December at age 21, he’d already made a gigantic impact on hip-hop. His meteoric rise started when he was just a teenager with the 2017 single “Lucid Dreams,” a landmark in the burgeoning “emo rap” genre, which exploded after he rerecorded it for his 2018 debut full-length, Goodbye & Good Riddance. The whole album was a stone cold masterpiece; Juice sang some of the catchiest melodies ever put to tape over slick, ethereal trap beats, weaving in poetry about self-doubt, isolation, and drug use. But barely a year and a half after the release of Goodbye, pills and lean—the same things Juice’s fans loved to hear him sing about so beautifully—became his demise. He overdosed on oxycodone and codeine on a flight back home to Chicago, just days after his birthday. Juice allegedly left behind something like 2,000 unreleased songs, 21 of which have made their way onto his new posthumous release, Legends Never Die. These tracks follow the Juice WRLD formula: they walk the line between pop and trap, with haunting melodies and profoundly sad lyrics. His approach on these new songs is a bit more streamlined than in the past: they’re less up and down, with a smoother flow, and he’s more economical, clean, and concise in his delivery. Legends Never Die shows what a talent Juice had grown into, and how much promise he still had when his life was cut short. And the matter-of-fact way he lays out his issues with mental illness and substance abuse makes the whole record feel even more sad and eerie. Rumors of further posthumous Juice WRLD releases already abound on the Internet, so maybe Legends Never Die—which feels like a nice capstone to a short but powerful career—won’t be the last we hear of him.   v