Juice WRLD is the child our dad and mom warned us about. The Midwest rapper/singer grew up in a strict, spiritual family barred from listening to hip-hop. His musical schooling got here from video video games, within the period the place console energy beefed up significantly, and soundtracks for franchises like Tony Hawk Pro Skater made punk and steel followers out of children who’d by no means encountered the stuff earlier than. Juice discovered rap in center faculty via the music of Future. By 13, he was experimenting with the medicine he heard about within the data. By 18, he’d stop lean and tablets, however his dalliances with each knowledgeable a all of a sudden promising rap profession. Like his Atlanta rap hero, Juice WRLD’s profession is a chilling paradox: What practically destroyed his life is now the supply of his continued prosperity. He tries to steadiness lyrics about partying with the reality in regards to the pitfalls of drug dependency and self-medication, however his behavior of freestyling his songs as an alternative of giving his phrases extra consideration makes for some performances that gesture at depth with out delivering it. This month’s new Death Race for Love is a set of passionate songs about doing unhealthy and feeling worse that periodically get derailed by moments of laughable sad-boy boilerplate.
“Lucid Dreams,” the hit that put the Illinois rapper on quite a lot of listeners’ radars final yr, exemplifies the mechanics of the Juice WRLD sound. It’s a rapidly written vamp round a widely known melody that, the place it soars, feels rather a lot like free items of bygone popular culture colliding. It’s forlorn nearly to the purpose of being cloying, like an individual imitating the stereotypical vocal tics and subject material of a very jilted emo tune. It shouldn’t work. The hook looks as if a fluke, an ideal sequence of phrases and notes found on accident. Juice WRLD toys with sights and sounds with out the bags of their cultural significance. He by no means heard the Sting track his multi-platinum promoting hit sampled. His melodic sensibilities had been gleaned partially from taking part in quite a lot of Guitar Hero. Death Race for Love is maybe most fascinating when considered as a chunk of millennial collage artwork. The cowl evokes the PlayStation demolition derby recreation Twisted Metal four. The title invokes the ’70s carsploitation cult flick Death Race 2000 (or else the tawdry 2008 Jason Statham remake). The beats experiment with acquainted sounds, each via sampling and thru cautious excursions into different genres. “Make Believe” flips Pharcyde’s “Runnin’.” “Fast” seems like a entice producer’s tackle Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me.” Pop-punk songs soar out within the center.
Death Race sounds rather a lot like what we think about a dystopian future would seem like. Recognizable items of the previous have been stripped for components and reused in ways in which the creators may not have meant, like Mad Max. The world these data depict is forbidding. The character Juice performs is that of a druggie on the snapping point, wandering via a wasteland on substances as he tries to search out somebody to finish his spiral earlier than it ends him. The idea is cool. The execution lives and dies on Juice’s potential to emote. “Fast” is a crushing phrase about feeling such as you’re dropping management of your life’s trajectory. “10 Feet” sells sensible strains and complex rhyme patterns that revisit the rapper’s days because the SoundCloud freestyle artist JuicetheKidd. “Syphilis” revisits the drill rap sounds popularized by his dwelling state, then “Who Shot Cupid?” locates the perfect mixture of moody acoustic guitars and thumping low finish. When he desires to, Juice WRLD has depth, vary, and flexibility. But it looks as if typically what he desires is simply to coast.
But at 22 tracks in 72 minutes, Death Race offers Juice WRLD too many alternatives to fall again on his worst inventive tendencies. The affect of style hybridizers like Post Malone and Lil Uzi Vert is palpable. “Big” blends fast phrasing and Auto-Tune identical to Travis Scott. The higher register notes in “Rider” sound like Swae Lee. “Robbery” nicks Trippie Redd’s yarl. There are too many rehashed prospers — “Maze” is like microwaved leftovers of “Lucid Dreams” — and too many ill-conceived strains. “HeMotions” spins out when Juice says “I’m again on my bullshit — satan emoji.” “Syphilis” hits a pace bump on “I can change something, bought them Obama eyes.” “Feeling” is a rocky sequence of shaky strains: “Do it by my VLONE.” “Momma informed me I gotta keep targeted / Told her I'm not a Ford Focus.” “Boys, ain’t no ‘I’ in staff nevertheless it’s an ‘M-E’ in staff / I meant it’s a ‘me’ in staff / I do know I simply fucked up, however bitch, I’m nonetheless the freestyle king.” Freestyle kings are allowed to make errors and go to one another’s vocal tics, and Juice brings rather a lot to the desk regardless of the sensation that he’s nonetheless discovering his footing carrying polished studio full lengths on his personal. But the rap recreation is rather a lot like a demolition derby. Crash, and that’s that ass. Death Race sputters in spots, however the efficiency is presented sufficient to avert disaster.