REVIEW: Juice WRLD’s ‘Fighting Demons’ delivers strong message in rapper’s second posthumous release

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Photo by Randi Haseman

“Fighting Demons” by Juice WRLD released Dec. 10.

I still remember the morning of Dec. 8, 2019, like it was yesterday. After being tired out from going to The Rave the night before, I woke up to a Twitter notification from Lil Durk, with the first two words saying “R.i.p juice.” At first, I was confused at what he was talking about, but as I went through Instagram, I began to realize what was really going on. One of my favorite artists, Juice WRLD, had passed away from a sudden seizure, not even a week after his 21st birthday.

Two years later, Juice still holds his superstar presence despite not being with us anymore. His posthumous album, “Legends Never Die,” was released in July 2020 and had the biggest posthumous debut of the century. And in 2021, he was the third most-streamed artist in the U.S. on Spotify. With Juice having at least three thousand unreleased songs, fans still get the chance to hear new music from the Chicago rapper. And fans are once again blessed with new music with Juice WRLD’s second posthumous release, “Fighting Demons.”

As the title suggests, the main subject of the album is mental health, which has always been a reoccurring theme in Juice WRLD’s music and what made him different from other rappers. On the second track, “Already Dead,” we see the mind of a young superstar who, despite being rich and famous, still deals with things that money can’t solve.

“You can see the pain in my life, / Demons coming back from the past. / Feelin’ like I’m ’bout to relapse, / Voices in my head,” sings the late rapper. While he’s always spoken about the things going on in his mind prior, Juice’s vulnerability was really shown off on this 16 song project.

Things get even deeper on the sixth track, “Rockstar In His Prime,” where Juice essentially foreshadows his unexpected death. “Oh yeah, Devil pullin’ up a chair, he sittin’ right over there, / Tellin’ me I should be scared,” Juice raps. Throughout this album you can see what is going on with him and how death was unfortunately always on his mind because of the “rockstar lifestyle” he lived.

Despite the theme, “Fighting Demons” still has its more positive moments. On “Go Hard” and “Not Enough,” we see the lover side of Juice WRLD, where he compares his love for his significant other with his drug addiction. “You fill me up like the drugs do, / Ink on my brain like a tattoo,” he sings on “Not Enough.” 

Addiction is also a big theme in Juice’s music, and this album is no exception. Lil Bibby, rapper and founder of Grade A Productions, the label Juice was signed to, explained in an interview with Complex that he wanted to use “Fighting Demons” as a way to prevent drug addiction with listeners.

“The kids shouldn’t do this type of stuff. Or, if you are going through any of the stuff that Juice was going through, like anxiety or depression, then you should probably find help,” Bibby said.

A common theme I had noticed with Juice WRLD albums is that they aren’t feature heavy. The only features on this project are Polo G, Trippie Redd, SUGA from BTS and Justin Bieber. Polo and Trippie were featured artists on Juice’s first posthumous album, “Legends Never Die.” While I liked that this album wasn’t just slapped with a bunch of unnecessary features, I definitely was hoping to see other artists that Juice had been close with on this project. I feel like artists like Young Thug, G Herbo and Lil Uzi Vert would have fit well on “Fighting Demons.” Bibby said in the same Complex interview that he likes to go to artists Juice was friends with when it comes to features. However, I just feel like there are other artists Juice was cool with that should definitely get featured on his posthumous projects.

One thing I noticed about the album was a majority of the tracks were leaked at some point. I realized I had heard some of these songs before, like “Rockstar In His Prime” and “Doom,” because they had leaked, which kind of ruined some parts of the album for me. However, it was good to see some of those songs be officially released, as leaked music can definitely have an effect on what gets released and what doesn’t.

The album was created in preparation of the HBO Max documentary about Juice WRLD, “Into The Abyss,” which released Dec. 16. The documentary goes very much in hand with what the album is trying to portray. We see a lot of the drug use that Juice experienced and there are scenes where he speaks on his mental health and trying to better himself. The film can be a little emotional to watch, considering the things Juice was doing at such a young age, but I feel like the documentary is definitely worth a watch, especially if you are experiencing any issues with mental health or you are just interested in the topic. We also get appearances from friends of Juice WRLD like his girlfriend Ally Lotti, The Kid LAROI  and others who spoke highly of him as an artist and as a friend.

Overall, “Fighting Demons” did a good job of really portraying the mental health aspect of Juice’s music. The project debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard’s Top 200 albums charts. It showed listeners the things going on in the late rapper’s head and let fans know that it’s okay to be going through those things. This album can get very sad at certain points; however, it still showcases the talent Juice WRLD had. While I wouldn’t rank this album as one of his best, this project definitely had its moments and will be good for Juice’s legacy because of the messages and replay value it holds.

I rate Juice WRLD’s “Fighting Demons” a 7.5 out of 10. My favorite songs were “Feline” featuring Trippie Redd and Polo G, “Not Enough” and “Until The Plug Comes Back Around.”

This story was written by Rashad Alexander. He can be reached out at rashad.alexander@marquette.edu.