Authorities are still searching for clues about the unexpected death of 21-year-old rapper Juice WRLD, who died Sunday at Midway Airport in his hometown of Chicago after reportedly suffering from a seizure and going into cardiac arrest. The MC (born Jarad Higgins) — who spoke frequently of his drug use in interviews and his lyrics — “began colvulsing and going into a seizure” as agents at the airport were going through several luggage carts in search of guns and drugs they suspected were on the plane, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Two doses of Narcan were administered at the scene and Higgins woke up but was reportedly incoherent before being taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was pronounced dead an hour after the flight from Los Angeles landed; the Tribune reported that an opioid ovedose is suspected, but no official cause of death had been announced at press time. Spokespeople for Higgins had not returned requests for comment on the cause of death at press time. A search of the plane reportedly turned up 31 vacuum-sealed bags of pot, six bottles of prescription codeine cough syrup, two 9mm pistols, a .40-caliber pistol, a high-capacity ammunition magazine and metal-piercing bullets; two guards traveling with Juice WRLD were later arrested on gun charges.
The rapper’s death comes after a meteoric rise during which he frequently referenced his illicit drug taking, including a previously unpublished quote from a 2018 interview with Billboard in which he said, “Yeah, for sure, that’s like a horrible habit, man,” of his self-described addiction to “lean,” prescription promethazine cough syrup that can be deadly if abused. “I look at that stuff like cigarettes, bro. People could probably see it. You just got to face it and get rid of it.” Since 2000, several rappers — including DJ Screw, Big Moe Pimp C and Fredo Santana — have died of suspected lean-related causes.
During Billboard‘s 2019 cover story interview, Higgins described meeting his hero Future and telling him that his music had inspired the then-aspiring teen rapper to experiment with drinking lean, a revelation that disturbed the older MC. “Oh yeah, I think it broke his heart a little bit,” said Juice, who had previously discussed trying to get sober after using opiates since sixth grade.
His 2017 “Lean Wit Me” video opens with Juice in a recovery meeting and ends with the number for a substance abuse helpline, though the rapper explained that getting clean was more complicated than he anticipated. “What do you expect if I’m a young dude that really loves music, really looks up to these artists?” he said. “I didn’t have a man giving me no type of guidance. My father wasn’t in my life like that. So listening to this grown-ass man rap about lean, I’m like, ‘Well, that sounds really appealing.’”
The rapper’s lyrics often made references to drugs, including on 2018’s “Hurt Me,” which featured the lyrics “Turned a whole different person, drive my whip/ Crash my whip off the drugs I’m swervin’/ Sticks and stones may break my bones/ But the drugs won’t hurt me, won’t hurt me.”
Here are other examples of Juice WRLD exploring his struggle with addiction in lyrics:
“Lean Wit Me” (2018 Goodbye & Good Riddance)
“F–k one dose, I need two pills, two pills/ I’m lookin’ for trouble so I know I’m gonna find it/ Ring, ring, plug hit my phone, perfect timin’/ I know I’m not right/ But I’m not wrong, no, I’m not wrong/ Girl, you hate it when I’m too high/ But that’s where I belong, where I belong”
“Legends” (tribute to deaths of Lil Peep and XXXTentacion)
“What’s the 27 Club?/ We ain’t making it past 21/ I been going through paranoia/ So I always gotta keep a gun/ Damn, that’s the world we live in now/ Yeah, hold on, just hear me out/ They tell me I’ma be a legend/ I don’t want that title now/ ‘Cause all the legends seem to die out/ What the fuck is this ’bout?”
Future & Juice WRLD Present… WRLD on Drugs (collaborative mix tape by the two released in Oct. 2018, featuring a cover image of purple lean being dripped on a planet bursting with pills — all quoted lyrics rapped by Juice WRLD)
“Two Percs to the face, I’m booted”
“Picked up the drugs so I let my brain go/ Woulda fried yours too, but I’m selfish about my Percs, oh”
“Make It Back”
I remember math class, I ain’t do shit, I was just Xanned out”
“7 AM Freestyle”
I’m on a whole ‘nother level/ I take Perkys to fight all my demons… Sipping on red lean… Pour me a four and another, I love it/ Sip, sip, sip, uh/ It’s me and Hendrix in the club/ Wondering if we gon’ take your bitch/ We already got five, we was gon’ make her six/ I didn’t eat today, but I took the Perc/ And I prayed to God, it won’t make me sick”
“When I pop that Perc, I can fuck that bitch, make her go (Ahh)… I still got Molly in my system/ I still got Xannys on my mental/ It’s been a couple years since I quit ’em/ I don’t wanna relapse but I may relapse, that feelin’ I miss it/ I mean, Percs are cool, but I think I’m gettin’ sick of em”
“Molly, I’m geeked, shorty/ Can’t feel my teeth, shorty”
“Realer n Realer”
Balenciaga jacket, Dior shades/ I got a lean stean on it/ I’ma give it to my maid”
“I get high, high, high, and have no issue… Perky pop, love the pills, mix it with Klonopins”
“Ain’t Livin Right”
“I don’t sell drugs, I cop ’em (I got drugs, gotta cop ’em)… I’m on two perks again/ Something don’t feel right/ But this shit real right, slatt/ This shit real right? Uh/ This that pure white crack… Codeine in my sippy cup/ I chug it, don’t sip a lot/ Your bitch on my dick a lot/ I guess that’s not your bitch, uh/ Funny, laughing to the bank, and it’s, funny/ Perky in my brain I’m a junkie”
“Hard Work Pays Off”
“Call my doctor to handle my pain/ Perky’s taking my life away”
In an interview at a cemetery with The New York Times in April of this year, the rapper came upon the grave of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, the graffiti-artist-turned-painter who he said he wasn’t aware died of a heroin overdose at age 27 in 1988. “When I was getting high at a young age, I’d be scared to tell people,” he said. “That wasn’t normal.” Asked if learning about Basquiat’s death triggered a fear of his own mortality, he said, “Every now and then I have concerns,” reportedly revealing that he planned on undergoing a detox in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles. “But at the end of the day, I’ll be fine. I was put on this earth for a reason.”
And on social media:
The rapper frequently noted that his girlfriend had asked him to give up his drug use, and in a July 8 tweet he broached that subject. “Bae I’m sorry I be tweaking, you’ve put up with more than ppl know I know I be scaring you, fuck Codeine I’m done,” he wrote. “I love you and im letting it be known publicly that ain’t shit fucking up the real love I found. Learn from this everyone. Addiction kills all but you can overcome.”
Bae I’m sorry I be tweaking, you’ve put up with more than ppl know I know I be scaring you, fuck Codeine I’m done. I love you and im letting it be known publicly that ain’t shit fucking up the real love I found. Learn from this everyone. Addiction kills all but you can overcome https://t.co/VB3qxHXodL
— . (@JuiceWorlddd) July 9, 2019