Juice Wrld Takes Over North Coast Festival

A swarm of young concert goers gathered in droves, waiting patiently for Jarad Higgins, aka Juice WRLD, to take to the stage at the North Coast Festival in Chicago. Some of the crowd took snapchats stories, blew smoke into the air or mingled around a wooden art installation that was placed near the center of the festival grounds. “I wonder how late he’s going to be?” snickered a few men sitting in the VIP section before a deafening airhorn cut them off.

“We just flew here all the way from Alaska!” Juice’s DJ yelled before bringing the nineteen-year-old rapper onto the stage. The Chicago native opened with his Top 40 hit “Lucid Dreams” as anime-style graphics of an upside down cross fired off in the background.

North Coast is known for its eclecticity, but Juice WRLD was a particularly interesting addition to the lineup considering the style of his music he plays. Juice’s twist on the genre informally known as mumble rap features guitar centered instrumental and autotuned hooks. This doesn’t quite compare to other hip-hop acts the festival has booked in years past. Previous years have included artists like Wiz Khalifa (who coined the term mumble rap), Loic and Snoop Dogg don’t quite compare to this Gen-Z approach to rap.  

Juice’s debut album Goodbye & Good Riddance sounds like a Travis Scott and Fallout Boy jam session. Additionally, his lyrics deal with drug abuse and heartbreak. Not necessarily the sort of subject matter that typically gets a crowd of tye-dye wearing festival goers dancing.

And yet, as soon as he took the stage, the crowd exploded into a sing-a-long. Juice jived and hopped on stage, anticipating the perfect time to cut the music and allow his fans to chant in unison. For an artist who typically sing-raps about overdosing and heartbreak, both Juice and his constituency danced merrily as dusk set upon the festival. An unidentified toddler joined Juice onstage and swung his arms to the beat as Juice sung about “doing codeine with (his) white friends.”

After playing most of the pop oriented tracks from his repertoire, Juice played a new single that features Lil Uzi Vert and shouted out deceased contemporary XXXTentacion. Goodbye & Good Riddance is dedicated to both X and emo-rapper Lil Peep, who fatally overdosed nine months ago. This may have been why the mumble rap prodigy shouted “F*ck Xans!” after an encore performance of “Lucid Dreams” to close out his set.

With a thunderstorm cutting the first day of the festival short, Juice WRLD and fellow up-and-coming rapper Smokepurpp served as de facto headliners since R&B heavyweight Miguel’s set was cancelled. Whether mumble rap is a fad or the current trajectory of hip-hop, don’t be surprised if you see Juice WRLD’s name gracing the top of Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo’s bill in the near future.

By: Caleb Brennan

Photos: @Clarkstcollective