In the wake of Juice WRLD’s death, when is the drug narrative in hip hop going to change?

In the wake of Juice WRLD’s death, when is the drug narrative in hip hop going to change?

Words by Sose Fuamoli

Is it time we looked ourselves in the mirror?

Recently, the hip hop industry was dealt a massive blow with the news that 21-year-old rapper Juice WRLD had passed away. It was a shock for fans and fellow artists alike – the performer was rising through the ranks and tapped as one of the best new artists of 2019 by many. For Juice WRLD (real name Jarad Higgins), drugs played a part in his passing.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the rapper had ingested Percocet pills prior to his death, which occurred upon arrival at a Chicago airport over the weekend. Federal agents and local police officers allegedly were acting on a tip that a private plane (which wound up being Juice WRLD’s transport) would be arriving from Los Angeles carrying guns and drugs.

The toxicology test results are still pending and no foul play is suspected in Juice WRLD’s death, though it did spark a question when I read about the young rapper’s death. When are we going to change the narrative surrounding drug culture within hip hop? The glorification of the effects of lean, pills, weed, cocaine, all of the above have been intertwined with hip hop lyricism for decades now and in the last few years alone, fans have seen the loss of artists to drug addiction and poor, unresearched use of different types.

In the wake of the passing of not just Juice WRLD, but the likes of Lil Peep and Mac Miller in recent memory, fans and artists have lamented the loss of young talent due to drug use – but to really shift the trend of artists too soon, the culture needs to acknowledge and change the narrative.

Artists like Mac and Juice, in particular, were only just tapping into their potential as artists. Their impact was so large – the outpouring of grief and sadness following their deaths is testament to how much their music and presence meant to countless fans around the world.

Yet time and time again, we hear rappers rhyming about ‘the lifestyle’ – guns, drugs and women. The triumvirate that is almost as old as hip hop itself. Change is gradual and takes time, but how long will the appeal of popping pills and drinking lean hold, when young artists who haven’t even cracked their prime are swallowed up by it all?