First Listen #26: Juice WRLD’s ‘Legends Never Die’

I bought Legends Never Die (2020) on a whim a couple of weeks ago, after seeing that the Juice WRLD online store was selling limited edition vinyl colored variants of the project. I will admit that my immediate intentions were not exactly pure. I saw “limited” and I thought “oh, this is my chance to be able to use this project to trade for one that I actually want.” I’ll probably go to hell for that. But I would like to say that I went through a redemption arc when I listened to “Smile” last week. I LOVED that song from the second I finished my first listen. I knew that I had to listen to the whole project; I needed to know more about Juice and his music since, even though he has passed, he’s still a new artist for me. I wanted to give myself the chance to experience his music fully. So after thinking about how tragic his death was – and the death of a bunch of other young artists in the past couple of years – I finally sat down, while it was raining outside (it just felt right), and gave Juice some attention.

And I guess my real comeuppance came when they decided to not make the records “limited” anymore lol  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Photo Credit: https://musicfeeds.com.au/features/juice-wrld-10-essential-tracks/

2020: Legends Never Die

(via Genius)

All in all, this was a really great project. Like, If I was in high school – like, 16 or 17 years old, around the time I was starting to get into Tyler the Creator – I would have been ALL over this; I ended up saving six songs from the project anyway, which y’all know is NOT common for me. I think, just generally, I love Juice’s sound. That blurred line between hip hop, indie, and rock (with a harder lean into indie and rock) is such a GOOD place to be. And I love that for Black folks, in particular. Every aspect of this project was solid; the features were one of the real stand outs on this. I loved Trippie Redd on the chorus for “Tell Me U Luv Me.” I’ve never heard a song from Trippie before – I’m obviously not of this generation lol – so I really was not expecting to hear VOCALS. I literally had to run it back because I was in shock lol. And I’ve listened to it so many times since listening to it for the first time. Halsey on “Life’s a Mess” was also really good; she was a nice addition to Juice’s vocals. I’ve already mentioned before how much I love “Smile,” but GEEEEEEEEZ that’s such a good song. Juice and Abel together is *chef’s kiss* I do wish that the Trippie Redd song was the one getting pushed right now, instead of “Smile,” though.

I don’t know, music is just a beautiful thing. Like. I love myself so much, as far as the way I make music – the way God made me, the way God wired me to do the things that I do, and to change the world the way that I can.

Juice WRLD, “Anxiety”

I will say that there is a slightly eerie energy that exists around this project, which you’ve probably felt if you’ve heard it. Hearing all of the references to death and drugs feels weird, considering the circumstances. It feels very much like he’s talking from the grave. Part of me wants this project to have not been that kind of project, but that was Juice’s sound – from what I’ve heard – and it does stay true to what he created before he passed. It’s just such a chilling thing to hear, though. But I did love the addition of the last two tracks – “Man of the Year” and “Juice WRLD Speaks from Heaven.” They felt less heavy than the parts of the project that come before, so the album ends on a slightly higher note than where it begins and stays for the most part.

I do think that this project gives me a similar feeling to how I felt after listening to Pop Smoke’s Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon (2020). Legends Never Die doesn’t feel like a finale, though, and unlike Pop’s project, it doesn’t sound like a debut album either. It feels like it sits right where it actually does: an artists fourth album where they’ve had time to find their sound and they’re beginning to really dig into what that sound is. It does feel like a farewell as far as subject matter, but the general feeling isn’t that of a last project. If that makes ANY sense lol. While thinking this through, I was trying to think of a good example of a song or project that sounds like a finale, and the only thing I could come up with was Michael Jackson’s “This is It.” Listening to that song feels like watching a runner on their victory lap. They’ve already won the race, and they’re just reveling in the moments that got them to where they are. “This is It” feels reflective, the way a song would when you’ve been in the game as long as Michael had at that point. Legends Never Die – and Pop’s album – feel like a runner that has many more races left to go and has been forced to take a step back. Which sucks.

Something I was also thinking about was how posthumous projects make a certain assumption on the artistic trajectory of an artist. Because Legends Never Die wasn’t planned by Juice as his last project, the folks who put it together – who did an amazing job – had to make some decisions under the assumption of what they think Juice would want. And there’s just something really interesting about that to me, the idea of someone else determining where Juice would be when he was on his last project. I wonder if this is the type of project he’d want as his victory lap. Though a completely different medium, Adrian Piper’s What Will Become of Me is a really good example of what that looks like – that ability for an artist to take their victory lap into their own hands proactively.

Adrian Piper, What Will Become of Me? 1985, ongoing
The professor I was working with gifted me a book – at the end of that trip – from the MoMA of photos of all of AP’s work, so I tried to take a pic of the pic of the jars, so you see more detail.

I saw this piece while at the Museum of Modern Art a couple years ago while doing some research with a professor I was working with at the time. Basically, it’s a collection of honey jars that Piper has been collecting cuttings of her hair and nails in since the late 80s. When she dies, she has decided that her cremated ashes (inside an urn) will be added to the piece, and the entire thing will be given to the MoMA. That will be what becomes of Adrian Piper. And as WILD as it was to see all those jars of hair and nails, it’s such a powerful thing to be able to determine how you’re going to be remembered. Piper is literally creating the end of her story – projecting her own artistic trajectory. And I wonder what Juice would have made if he did the same thing. Not that he needed to collect his hair and nails in a jar lol. But I’m genuinely curious as to whether or not that project have looked like Legends Never Die. It’s a question that I guess we’ll never get the answer to.

Existential question aside, I really did like Legends Never Die. A super solid project from a super solid artist. I think that this project does him well.

Overall Project Rating

Featured Image Credit: https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/chart-beat/9422358/juice-wrld-returns-to-no-1-on-artist-100-chart


(listen to Legends Never Die on spotify by clicking the image below)

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