I am still not 100% sure where this strange craze of emo rap came from. Juice WRLD first came on my radar, as well as many of hip-hop listeners’, over the past summer with his debut album Goodbyes & Good Riddance. Obviously, there are the sure signs like XXXTentacion and Lil Peep who seem to be the forefront of this “sad boy” sound in hip-hop but what’s more impressive is its commercial success. It’s already hit the number one spot on the Billboard Chart…in a week. Death Race for Love took me a few listens to collect my thoughts and in multiple settings to truly understand the vibe of this project from the young 20-year-old but let’s dive into it.
Honestly, I still haven’t fallen in love with his voice. While I can understand the appeal, it just still sounds whiney to me. I really struggled with that on the collab album with Future. It just doesn’t fully do it for me. However, I went into my listening of Death Race knowing that and focused on other things, therefore, I’m not going to dwell on it. Instead, we will start by discussing the lyrics…and boy can they be depressing. For those bookworms, I often find myself relating Juice WRLD to Holden Caulfield of Catcher in the Rye, just that feeling of angstiness and constant complaining. Just look at part of his verse off “Fast”:
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 thing is…it’s working. I think the reason why lines like these and others are helping Juice WRLD get so much recognition is how many people can relate to it. You may find it a struggle comparing your life to that of a 2 Chainz song about strippers and boatloads of money. Yet, a lot of people can relate to personal and mental strife. It just works. The other thing that I can’t deny is the guy’s ability to flow. “Syphilis” and “Who Shot Cupid?” could seriously be two completely different rappers. Not only are the vibes different but his flows are nearly the opposite.
Goodbye was a debut album and it showed in this aspect. A lot of the flows felt extremely similar, but with Death Race, not at all. Nearly every track has a different sound and style of rapping which really exemplifies Juice WRLD’s talents here. I mean this is the same guy who freestyled off the top for a god-damn hour…impressive to say the least.
There isn’t really a beat on this entire record that I don’t fuck with, which once again is the really the opposite of how I felt about Goodbye. The album opens with a very melodic and smooth sound that transitions well into hi-hats and bass which seems to perfectly set the mood for what we are about to listen to. “Big” has that head-nodding vibe that you almost can’t deny the second it starts and then draws you in even more with the little 808 switch up towards the end of the track. I also adore the use of the electric guitar for the beat on “Ring Ring”. Seriously no complaints here.
As an album here’s where we start to see a few cracks. While the transitions aren’t bad, they could be smoother. The mixing feels solid throughout but a few tracks sound just a bit off. And while the flow of the album is good, it doesn’t keep a continuous vibe throughout. It is the curse of a long album and modern day music streaming. With 22 two to three minute songs, you start to feel a bit of a “fall off” by the end unfortunately as nothing keeps you fully there.
There is a lot of ways Juice WRLD could’ve counteracted this in my opinion, but he touches it with the Brent Faiyaz interlude on “Demonz”. It’s quick, smooth, and transitive which helps the overall flow of the first third of the album. If he added one or two more of tracks like this, it may have broken up the album slightly better to give it a more flowy, continuous vibe.
I was surprised by how many songs I ended up adding to playlists off this album. “Out My Way” and “Robbery” are easily my absolute favorites but I also highly recommend listening to “Empty”, “Fast”, “Hear Me Calling”, and “Feeling”.
Juice WRLD continues to impress me by how fast he is developing into a solid rapper. While this whole emo rap style is most likely a fad, it seems this young dude is gonna be staying around long past the trend. Maybe it’s because one of my roommates only seems to play everything Juice WRLD puts out, but this project sounded fantastic compared to what I’ve previously heard from him. Death Race for Love is easily a:
In my last review, I talked about how excited I was to see where he goes in the future. Well…I’m pretty happy with how this album turned out and can’t wait for the next one.