The Lowdown: It’s been nearly a year since the release of Juice WRLD’s debut LP, Goodbye & Good Riddance. It was with sweet emo rap tracks like “Lucid Dreams”, “All Girls Are the Same”, and “Used To” that he captured the attention of listeners around the globe, including Future, who couldn’t resist collaborating on an album with him. Juice’s influences include rock, Chicago drill, trap music, and his love for instruments like the piano, trumpet, and guitar, which he learned to play. With this project, he channels the bits and pieces of everything that influences his music into a 22-track record that allows listeners to have a feel for what he can create when there are no boundaries. Unfortunately, although Death Race for Love comes with some melodic rap tunes, when assessed as a whole, it’s only a half-baked package of what the Chicago native could have brought to the table with this release.
The Good: The 20-year-old Juice represents a brand of rap music that is introspective, dark, melodramatic, and powerfully melodic. What separates him from the pack is his knack for storytelling, which he does poetically. On “Empty”, he sings: “My world revolves around a black hole/ The same black hole that’s in place of my soul.” It’s visually descriptive lyrics like this that act as an ally to the raw emotions in his voice. Elsewhere, he’s taking listeners through the story of his life. An example of this comes on “Fast”, which features him reflecting on life after fame. He raps: “I go through so much, I’m 19 years old/ It’s been months since I felt at home/ But it’s okay ‘cause I’m rich/ Psych, I’m still sad as a bitch, right.”
The Bad: The sequencing of an album is an underrated art in music. Every record is like a heart, and the track list is the heart rate. Listeners function as a heart-rate monitor and can tell when the heart is out of rhythm. Juice WRLD’s Death Race for Love is one heart badly out of rhythm. The tracks (especially the middle stretch) appear as if they underwent an eeny-meeny-miny-moe selection process. Despite this, a good sequence can be enjoyed through the opening tracks (“Empty”, “Maze”, and “HeMotions”) and last set of songs (“Won’t Let Go”, “She’s the One”, and “Rider”), which transition smoothly to the ears. These successful sequences make it all the more a shame that the rest of the album is so shoddily laid out.
There is no doubt about the Interscope signee’s ability to create killer hooks. His best songs have a similar structure that allows a repetitive chorus to do the work of slowly hypnotizing his audience. However, his verses don’t share the same shine. On this album, the long verses only expose the disconnection in the rhythm Juice struggles to create. Many of his songs have a simple pattern that plays on the chorus and bridge, but with different experiments going on, he’s tempted to create more verses, and it doesn’t work in his favor.
The Verdict: Depression and heartbreak aren’t pleasant experiences, and music often acts as a medium of expression through which an artist can begin to heal. However, success hasn’t been the Band-Aid Juice’s heart needed, and these new sad songs don’t quite hit the soul like previous ones did. Here, Juice WRLD pours out the rest of the pain and sadness that came with his debut album as he embraces his new life. Closing the album with songs “Won’t Let Go”, “She’s the One”, and “Rider”, he hints at hope and the possibility of a new lover who he swears “can’t do wrong,” and we look forward to the songs that could inspire Death Race for Love is a genre-defying project in many ways, but as Juice continues on his mission to find his true sound, he’d be best served to stick close to the emo-rap lane.
Essential Tracks: “Maze”, “She’s the One”, and “Robbery”,
Buy: Pick up Death Race for Love and other Juice WRLD vinyl here.