One listen to Juice WRLD’s ‘Lucid Dreams’ should prove this 19-year-old Chicagoan’s eclectic tastes. A cut of fresh-faced, trap-infused hip-hop, it comes laced with the sort of emo sentiments that have taken acts like Princess Nokia to new heights. It’s little surprise to hear his iTunes library is a real melting pot, taking in everything from Drake and Future to post-hardcore stalwarts Senses Fail.
It’s a concoction that’s serving him well. Back in June, he shot to the upper echelons of the Billboard Hot 100 chart with ‘Lucid Dreams’, challenging the likes of Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign for the top spot just months after being plucked from SoundCloud infamy with a signing to Interscope Records.
Meanwhile, his first UK show – at London’s Oslo – sold out in a day, while a second show at the considerably larger Kentish Town Forum quickly followed suit. Outside of the masses of young, excited fans he’s amassing, he’s making some famous friends, too. Amber Rose gave him a shout-out in June – something he can only dub “crazy, man – that was ridiculous! That’s love, for sure.”
NME caught up with a slightly jet-lagged Juice WRLD to talk ‘Lucid Dreams’, and how he keeps himself honest amidst that swiftly-rising success.
Your single ‘Lucid Dreams’ had a bit of a surprise rush on the Billboard charts. What was it like watching that all pan out?
“It’s surreal! Beforehand, I didn’t even know too much about stats, or charts, or anything like that. I see artists on there, and I’d think, ‘Wow, I want to be on there one day.’ Next thing I know [snaps fingers] I’m on it. Like, ‘Wow – is this real?!’ It’s like a crazy film. It’s a blessing.”
Was it a surprise to you, too then?
“Yeah, for sure. When 2018 started, everything just took off. That’s the only way I can describe it – it’s like a rollercoaster, and instead of it slowing down, it’s just getting faster, and faster, and faster…
My manager told me stuff was about to crazy, but y’know – I was just doing what I always was, and then stuff just got insane. I’ve been dealing with it well because I haven’t really been thinking about it. I’ve just been going and going – I haven’t really taken time to stop and think about everything that’s happened. So I’ve been dealing with it well, I guess!”
What was the moment that really made you think, ‘My god, this is really popping off now…’
“When I came here, bro! When I left the country. I’ve been to Canada before, for a show, but not for interviews and everything. It was just a festival. But I sold out my first show here in 24 hours – that’s insane.”
When did this all start for you, then?
“That’s hard to say, because music’s been in my life all my life. I started recording in my sophomore year in high school. I recorded things on my cell phone in my basement. But music’s been in my life from birth, almost.”
Do you come from a very musical household, then?
“Not really – I always found it. My cousins were big into music, but in certain points in time I didn’t even live in the same house as them. I always found music, to be honest.”
What was it you sought out?
“Everything! I had phases of listening to rap and trap, and then I had phases where I’d listen to post-hardcore, rap, grunge, metal… all that. I had different time periods of listening to different music. And now it all clashes together.”
It seems like that’s a common thing amongst our generation – you don’t just listen to hip-hip, or just listen to rock. You listen to everything at once.
“I feel like it’s a good time in music – it’s a great time.”
Who are you listening to now, that’s exciting you?
“Currently… I was listening to Gunna yesterday, who’s one of my favourite artists. Gunna, Young Thug, Future. Oh… what’s that band called…? Senses Fail! I’ve been really into them lately.”
Your music’s very honest – there’s very little bravado in songs like ‘Lucid Dreams’.
“I think it’s important to add a personal aspect to your music – that’s what makes it authentic at the end of the day. I feel like that’s what a lot of people are missing, when they’re trying to make it into music. Sometimes, if it sounds good and if it reaches people’s ears, it’s gonna be a hit. But I feel like you have a better chance of reaching people if you speak from a personal standpoint. Like, Future and Drake dropped the mixtape ‘What A Time To Be Alive’, right? And it’s about rich people problems! Stuff that certain rich people go through day-to-day. Somebody who’s just starting out and still lives with their parents can’t drop a project talking about the same stuff. Maybe they can – maybe they’ll sound good, get on and really experience that – but I feel like we have a better chance of making good music if you speak from a personal standpoint. So that’s what I’ve incorporated into myself.”
A lot of young rappers – people like Lil Peep and Princess Nokia – are taking that honesty that was once associated with emo and bringing it to a new audience. Is it nice to be a part of that?
“Yeah, absolutely – that’s why I say music’s at a good point. If you’re, like, well-rounded, the possibilities are endless. You can do anything. The beat that you choose to record over is your canvas – you can do anything.”
Have you noticed that resonating with kids, too?
“Yeah, for sure. I feel like I inspire more people than I think I do. I just need to remember that.”
Juice WRLD plays O2 Kentish Town Forum on September 24.