The Juice Wrld Doc On HBO Is A Sad, Dark Look Behind The Scenes Of His Meteoric Rise To Stardom Cut Short
One of my favorite parts of my week is getting to sit down with Eddie and Chief and shoot the breeze about just about anything.
For this week's "Dog Walk: Free Swim", Eddie, Chief, and I sat down and talked about the HBO Max documentary, "Into The Abyss", the story on the late Chicago musician, Juice Wrld.
If you haven't seen the doc yet, it's an hour and 50-minute look into one of the quickest rising musicians over the past ten years "arrival" onto the scene, and his equally fast departure.
The documentary, produced by Bill Simmons, and part of the "Music Box" series on HBO Max, opens with a 4 minute freestyle in which Juice Wrld goes, and goes, and continues to go, rapping off the top of his head, in one take.
This same sequence appears throughout the film.
The kid, born Jared A. Higgins, in Homewood, IL, was undeniably brilliant with words.
His vocabulary, and ability to formulate coherent, and well-thought-out rhymes, in split seconds, was remarkable.
Even people unfamiliar with Juice Wrld the artist, like Chief, will watch in amazement at the talent on display.
Benny Blanco, one of the biggest producers in the world today, spoke highly of Juice, after telling a story about him laying down three completely different songs, each in one take, over the same beat, consecutively during a recording session, and telling Benny, "pick the one you think is the best".
Juice was raised by a single mom who forbid him from listening to hip hop. Like any youngster not allowd to do something, it only makes them want to do it more. So he focused his time and attention on emo bands like like Panic! At the Disco and Escape the Fate and snuck in rappers like Future when he could.
Those sounds are evident when you listen to his music.
At one point during one of his many featured freestyles, he raps, “I grew up on rock, rap, and heavy metal/Now I got my pedal to the metal.”
He is classified as a "SoundCloud" rapper but Juice Wrld ultimately helped pioneer the "emo-rap" genre, often storytelling and mixing vivid images through lyrics where he'd wear his heart on his sleeve.
“Into the Abyss,” isn't like other documentaries. For starters, there's no narrator. Which was done on purpose by director Tommy Oliver as to better illuminate Juice's story through his, and his close friends, own words.
The footage is comprised mostly of material from Juice WRLD’s tour stops with interviews and hangout and recording studio sessions.
The sad part is that almost every scene of the documentary features Juice recklessly self-medicating and using drugs.
Dangerous cocktails of prescription drugs, codeine, and weed, exacerbated by multiple days with no sleep, and a punishing work schedule took a tole on the young 21-year old's physical and mental well-being.
The latter part of the doc shows Juice in a TV appearance talking candidly about anxiety and depression.
“Whether he knew it or not, Juice was a therapist for millions of kids,” the music producer Benny Blanco says at the conclusion.
What's telling, and even more sad, is that rarely in the doc do you see Juice not surrounded by his friends. Or on stage in front of thousands of adoring fans.
How somebody in his shoes can we so riddled with depression and anxiety is pretty heartbreaking. He ends one of his freestles in the doc with the line- “Nobody ever felt the pain I felt/So I share it, put it out in the world, I’m not embarrassed.” And you could feel he truly meant it.
Especially when you take into consideration that this depression, and over-the-top drug use, led to Juice dying of an accidental overdose (of codeine and oxycodone) at only the age of 21.
Two years into his "career" and he'd taken the world by storm- signed a monster deal with Interscope, gone triple platinum, performed on some of the biggest stages, with the biggest names, and began recording with some of the most sought after producers in the game.
HIghlights of the doc for true fans have to be watching Juice think up and put together fan favorite, "Fast"
Or showcasing the unreleased "Life’s a Dungeon"-
The behind the scenes looks at the beginnings of songs now featured on his second posthumous album, which recently debuted, Fighting Demons is equal parts captivating and heartwrenching.
This kid was just getting started and for as big as he already was, the sky was the limit for him.
Such a shame.
p.s. - I know a lot of the Juice Wrld, and LL crew are in and from Chicago, read Barstool etc. If anybody wants to discuss the doc, or Juice in general, I would LOVE to. Please hit me up at email@example.com