Fighting Demons (Digital Deluxe)
Released nearly two years to the day after his tragic death, Juice WRLD's second posthumous album sounds even more haunted than the first. As the title suggests, the songs here hinge on the rapper's inner battles, and it's a brutal listen. He goes round after round with his addictions, mental health, and self-destructive behaviors, seemingly fighting back and giving up in turns. Metro Boomin's gorgeous string-propelled production on opening track “Burn” brims with melancholy to set the mood for what's to come—as Juice declares midway through, “The truth hurts, let it bleed out.” And there are many painful truths to reckon with on Fighting Demons. “Rockstar in His Prime” dispels the notion that money and fame are any match for inner turmoil and the quest to numb or escape it. His dance with death, whether as a lifeline or a foregone conclusion, exposes the depth of darkness that can poison a mind; what is a platitude to someone who, as he admits on the harrowing “Already Dead,” hasn't felt alive in years? It's uncomfortable but worthwhile to understand what a person is up against and to consider that the act of saying it aloud, without fear of judgment, may not be glorification but a potential path to healing. When the possibility of better days seems tenuous at best, Juice still finds a way to summon something akin to optimism. “Understand, none of these drugs make the person I am/Sober up, I can, sorry but I can't,” he raps on “Feel Alone,” before falling into his signature melodies: “Hope to see tomorrow, the potency of sorrow/I was thinking hopefully, maybe hopefully, there's some dopamine I could borrow.” The candor in his lyrics, spilling out in detail like private journal entries, is relentless, but his courage to share anyway is inspiring. Fighting Demons is as much a cautionary tale as a heroic one—may we never forget that Juice fought for his life until the very end, as the tenacity of his artistry continues to shine beyond the grave.