The question of the moral viability of posthumous albums has risen in tandem with the cruel attrition rate impacting on the new generation of American rap. With young artists taken at such an appallingly young age, the need to broaden and protect their legacy comes in parallel with questions of taste, and authenticity.
Juice WRLD passed almost exactly two years ago, and the prodigious rapper left behind a huge range of unreleased work. Features have been dug up from the vaults, with new album ‘Fighting Demons’ containing 18 tracks, a sign of the incredible work-rate that the Chicago rapper embodied during his painfully short life.
It’s difficult to deny the emotional impact that certain songs on this record contain. ‘Already Dead’ is literally a voice from the other side, while songs like ‘Burn’ and ‘Doom’ are laden down with the internal struggles Juice WRLD dealt with. Indeed, as far as posthumous efforts go, this is undoubtedly one of the strongest we’ve had in a while – ‘Wandered To LA’ places Juice WRLD against Bieber, and undeniably a wicked single. BTS rapper Suga appears on ‘Girl Of My Dreams’, a sign of the commercial clout Juice WRLD could have held; it’s also an opportunity for Suga to appear alongside an artist he holds dear.
The over-arching mood is one of somber melancholy. The repeated spoken word segments – hushed messages from Juice WRLD himself, as well as Eminem – deal with addiction, personal pain, and mental health, while the production adds a kind of internal unity to ‘Fighting Demons’ as a sonic experience.
Yet there’s also the nagging feeling of intrusion. Would Juice WRLD have released these tapes, had he lived? Would weaker songs such as ‘Feel Alone’ made the cut, or would Juice WRLD have re-worked them? There’s no way to tell, unfortunately.
Ultimately ‘Fighting Demons’ works almost as a tribute record, gathering fragments of his undoubted genius. Whether it’s a true Juice WRLD album, though, is another matter.
Words: Robin Murray
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