Born: December 2, 1998;

Died: December 8, 2019

JARAD Higgins, aka Juice Wrld, who has died aged 21, was an American rapper who found huge fame in the last years of his young life as one of the pioneering names in the overlapping scenes known as SoundCloud rap and emo rap. Artists were discovered through uploading DIY recordings of their music to the online streaming service, and breaking with the traditional themes of hip-hop – a blend of political consciousness and a love for money and the physical trappings of it – to instead discuss ‘emo’ subjects like heartbreak, mental health and drug addiction.

Although Juice Wrld (most often stylised as the all-capitals ‘WRLD’) issued nearly twenty official singles since breaking through and dozens of his tracks were available online, many of which gave him low-level chart hits in the USA and the UK, his overwhelming signature success was the sleeper hit Lucid Dreams, released in May 2018, which reached number two in America.

Built around a mellow beat which used a sample of Sting’s 1993 hit Shape of My Heart, the soft, crooning rap tone of his vocal hid bleak lyrical concerns; “You left me falling and landing inside my grave… I take prescriptions to make me feel a-okay.” Like many of his contemporaries, Higgins fused cleanly-constructed and pleasant grooves with a traditional sense of youthful angst, yet raw and amped-up by first hand experience of substance abuse and the opioid crisis.

Juice Wrld’s next most prominent hit was his last song before his death, Bandit, released in October and a top ten US hit alongside collaborator YoungBoy Never Broke Again. A track about breaking his girlfriend’s heart, it also featured significant references to prescription drugs, while June’s release Hate Me was a minor UK hit and an uncharacteristically poppy collaboration with the singer Ellie Goulding. He toured as support to Nicki Minaj and performed on Jimmy Kimmel’s talk show.

He released the debut album Goodbye & Good Riddance in May 2018, the follow-up Death Race for Love in March 2019, and the mixtape Wrld On Drugs in between, and all were top five hits in the US; Death Race for Love, in fact, was a number one, and also his biggest of the three in the UK. As the titles all suggested, death and drugs were among his primary concerns. “What’s the 27 Club? / We ain’t making it past 21,” he rapped with harrowing prescience on his song Legends.

In few ways has youth violence and the US opioid crisis been made quite as apparent as within the genre of SoundCloud rap, and Juice Wrld’s death joins that of young contemporaries Lil Peep in 2017 and the deeply controversial XXXTentacion in 2018 as being deeply emblematic of the genre’s raw edge. Although these tattooed young men made music which was angry and nihilistic – and on occasion unashamedly sexist, a longstanding issue in rap – Juice Wrld’s clear talent will now not be allowed to mature, leaving him forever trapped in the storm’s eye of controversy which posthumously swirled around artists like Kurt Cobain and Sid Vicious.

Jarad Anthony Higgins was born in Chicago in 1998, and raised by a conservative and deeply Christian single mother alongside his brother. Although hip-hop was banned in the house, he heard rock and emo music through playing video games, and learned to play a number of instruments at home and through school.

Initially naming himself JuicetheKidd after the Tupac Shakur film Juice, he began recording tracks on his phone and uploading them to SoundCloud in his mid-teens, around the same time he began using prescription drugs. He died of a seizure after arriving at Oak Lawn, Illinois on his private jet, amid reports that police were waiting for the plane following reports of drug use on board.