What is the correlation between substance abuse and creativity? Why have so many young musicians and rap artists succumbed to drug addiction? Is there a relationship between drug abuse and creativity? These questions beg exploration and will undoubtedly be asked by many as the music-buying public contemplates the untimely death of 21-year-old singer/rapper Juice WRLD who died on December 8, 2019, shortly after arriving in Chicago by plane. At the writing of this article, the cause of Juice WRLD’s death is inconclusive. However, according to TMZ, the pilot tipped law enforcement authorities that illegal drugs and weapons were on board the plane and police were lying in wait as the plane landed in Chicago.
Juice WRLD was more than just a rising star in the Hip-Hop world. After making the transition from the unruly Soundcloud to topping the Billboard charts, the rapper was catapulted into stardom. Equally skilled at singing and rapping, the mournful “Lucid Dreams” reached number two on the Billboard top 100. Those close to him reported that he could freestyle for hours and often sang about addiction and depression in his music. This is evident in his 2018 recording, “Legends.” An ode to rising rap stars Lil Peep and XXXTentacion, Juice was literally mourning their loss.
Born Jarad Anthony Higgins on December 2, 1998 in Chicago, Juice’s parents divorced when he was just three years old, leaving his mother to raise him and an older brother alone. His mother was very religious and conservative and did not allow her son to listen to Hip-Hop music. He was, however, allowed to listen to the pop and rock music found on video games and this later introduced him to artists such as Billy Idol, Blink-182, Black Sabbath, Fall Out Boy, Megadeth, and Panic at the Disco. All of this helped to form his unique style.
According to Wikipedia, Juice used drugs heavily during his childhood and teen years. His alcohol use was commonplace and the prescription drugs Percocet (a pain killer) and Xanax (treatment for anxiety disorder) were frequently used. As a teenager, he also smoked cigarettes, but stopped smoking in his senior year of high school for health reasons.
He first learned how to play the piano at just four years old. Inspired by his mother, who began to pay for his lessons, the piano was followed by guitar and drums. Juice also played trumpet in his high school band. During his sophomore year in high school, he began posting songs to SoundCloud and recording them on his cell phone. It was during this period that Juice began to take rapping more seriously.
Juice’s development as an artist took place during his first year of high school and his first track, “Forever,” was released on SoundCloud in 2015 under the name, “Juicethekidd.” In 2017, Juice released a three-song EP called “Nothing’s Different.” Featured on numerous Hip-Hop blogs, “Nothing’s Different” helped the track “All Girls Are the Same” increase in popularity. A music video directed by Cole Bennett ensued and following the release of the video, Juice was signed to Interscope Records for $3,000,000.
TMZ has quoted his mother, Carmella Wallace, as recently stating,
“We loved Jarad with all of our hearts and cannot believe our time with him has been cut short. As he often addressed in his music and to his fans, Jarad battled with prescription drug dependency. Addiction knows no boundaries and its impact goes way beyond the person fighting it. Jarad was a son, brother, grandson, friend and so much more to so many people who wanted more than anything to see him defeat addiction,” she continued. “We hope the conversations he started in his music and his legacy will help others win their battles as that is what he wanted more than anything.”
Until we are able to solve the mystery that links chemical dependency to creativity, the best we can hope for is that others who battle the same demons that Juice battled will learn from this tragedy and be open to receiving the help they need before it is too late.