So, is it just me or is this album getting no traction? Despite having a huge hit to his name, Juice WRLD’s sophomore release is flying heavily under the radar. When I heard Death Race for Love was dropping, it surprised me. Why so soon? Are people honestly clammering for new Juice WRLD? I mean, the dude put out two albums last year. A first-quarter follow-up felt unnecessary. As it turns out, it was — due to a familiar foe. The stream troll is alive and well, ladies and gentlemen. And it’s destroying the art of hip-hop. Although Juice indeed may be the most emotional hip-hopper around, he is still very much a part of the culture. I dig his sound. His debut had a handful of heat. Yet it ran far too long to make noise as a whole. Hence he became a singles artist.
Sadly, Death Race for Love is five tracks and 25 minutes longer than its predecessor. The song topics here overlap with high frequency. His heart is broken to pieces. Then he’s madly in love. And finally, he don’t give a fuck about no bitch. That is this album in a nutshell, thematically speaking. It’s okay, though. There is nothing wrong with creating from a central mindset. However, stretching out three core ideas across 72 minutes makes those themes way less compelling. Here they feel like a strict formula for maximum cash extraction. For every dope melody or hilarious line, Juice WRLD counteracts them with dull, redundant rehashes or rip-offs. His tendency to borrow from other artists’ sounds stifles the longevity of these songs. Travis, Gunna, Lil Yachty, Post Malone, XXXTentacion, Lil Uzi Vert — they’re all here. At least for the latter two the resemblance is a breath of fresh air.
Nevertheless, I can’t say the same for the others. In spite of some copycat tactics, I still enjoy a bulk of the music. By far my favorite has to be “Empty.” It’s been on repeat literally all day. Juice delivers a signature heartfelt vocal performance, adding another hit record to his résumé. It and “Robbery” are classic Juice WRLD tracks. They will help lift this album up the Billboard 200 chart once people realize it exists. The mixtape-esque album art and minimal promotion seem strange for a crossover artist. Elements of his sound are quite punk, but it is apparent he wants to squeeze every penny out of his studio sessions. Additionally, pop-punk heater “Ring Ring” caught me off guard. Even though some of the lyrics are beyond cringeworthy, it has a bouncy charm that brings a smile to my face. Juice WRLD fanatics will find plenty of highlights here.
Sifting through this pigsty is hardly worthwhile nonetheless. Without proper curation, Juice WRLD albums do more to bore than impress. It’s not that this album has nothing interesting to offer. He simply beats a dead horse to a pulp, which forces non-believers to continue rolling their eyes at his music. Juice WRLD is a talented singer and songwriter. However, he still has much to prove in terms of album craftsmanship. He opens this record with the best overall track in my opinion, leaving the subsequent 21 efforts in its shadow. “Robbery” will make major waves across the country in the next few weeks. Yet it won’t be enough to save Death Race for Love from drowning as a body of work. These stream-troll releases lack distinct vision or clarity. They also breed fans with quick-succession demands and desperately low standards. Put your art first and the money will flow.