Early December, Jarad Higgins was on a high.

The rapper, whose name will be remembered as Juice Wrld, had just finished up shows in Australia, his second time touring down under.

He stuck around a few days to celebrate his 21st birthday.

The day after he shared a photo to Instagram of him partying on a boat in Sydney Harbour, a party he planned to continue for the remainder of the week.

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Juice was seemingly still in the partying mood when he returned to the United States, hopping on a private jet to his hometown of Chicago on which authorities would later claim to find 31 kilos of kush and six bottles of prescription cough syrup, better known as "lean", and abused for the opiate high of its codeine content.

There were also three guns on board, believed to belong to security personnel who may have had permits for them, but will face court at the end of the month.

While federal agents searched his jet at Chicago's Midway International Airport, Juice Wrld collapsed, had a seizure, and died, despite two doses of opiate-blocking Narcan being administered in an attempt to save his life.

Juice Wrld died on the morning of Sunday December 8, six days after his 21st birthday. Photo / Getty Images
Juice Wrld died on the morning of Sunday December 8, six days after his 21st birthday. Photo / Getty Images

An associate would later tell the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper the rapper had swallowed powerful painkillers in order to conceal them from police, a desperate measure motivated by fear that has been linked to the deaths of young revellers at music festivals in Australia.

A TikTok user claiming to be the son of a Chicago police officer posited a similar theory which quickly gained traction.

A separate conspiracy theory claimed the call number for Juice Wrld's private jet, as seen on an October Instagram post, was shown on a flight tracker landing in the Bahamas at 3.46PM on the afternoon of December 8, though it's likely this was a chartered plane, separate to the one he flew into Chicago on.

The flight tracker also shows that it took off from a different airport to the one Juice Wrld did.

In fact it wasn't even in the same state.

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The user made the understandable mistake of confusing the abbreviation "LA" for Los Angeles when it referred to the state of Louisiana.

Harder to explain is how the user failed to notice the jet took off almost 12 hours after Juice Wrld was pronounced dead.

Conspiracists also latched on to a tweet from 2017.

While this initially seems telling, all of the music industry clout in the world is still unlikely to let you convince Chicago police, Federal Bureau of Investigations, and the US Department of Homeland Security to help you fake your own death, particularly when they're searching your plane for drugs and guns.

Juice Wrld's mother would later tell celebrity gossip site TMZ her son had struggled with drug addiction.

"As he often addressed in his music and to his fans, Jarad battled with prescription drug dependency," she said.

"Addiction knows no boundaries and its impact goes way beyond the person fighting it. Jarad was a son, brother, grandson, friend and so much more to so many people who wanted more than anything to see him defeat addiction."

An official cause of death is yet to be confirmed.

WHERE DID JUICE WRLD COME FROM?

In 2007 a website called SoundCloud began letting users upload audio files, of pretty much anything they liked.

Among the many impacts of this, one was huge for the music industry as the site continued to gain users.

SoundCloud gave labels the ability to see which largely undiscovered acts were building their own fanbases, and pick ones to target, mould, and sign.

Juice Wrld was the latest in a string of rappers that would be fitted with the label of "SoundCloud rapper" during his rise to fame, bubbling on the site throughout 2017 before exploding in 2018.

He also gained respect and recognition from older rappers and listeners who took the new generation less seriously, after an impressive video of him freestyling for over an hour was posted on YouTube.

SoundCloud rap is a subgenre of rap music, now the world's most popular genre whether you like it or not.

It's less defined by its sound, as it varies widely between the artists branded with the imprecise label.

They were more typified by their style, which often included things like neon coloured dreads, face tattoos, and heavy drug use of prescription medication.

Artists like Post Malone, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Pump, Ski Mask The Slump God and XXXTentacion are among some of the bigger artists to emerge from the platform, bringing with them unconventional production styles, larger than life personalities, and unsanitised images that risk averse record labels would never have taken a chance on in what was an incredibly challenging time for the industry, until the artists proved wildly successful.


Juice Wrld uploaded his first song to SoundCloud in 2015, continuing to upload more songs as he became increasingly serious about his music career towards the end of high school.

Music is a largely collaborative process, and the internet makes it unprecedentedly easy for artists to meet, connect, and collab, a process sometimes referred to as "linking and building".

Collaborations with producer Nick Mira and the favoured music video director of the SoundCloud rap scene Cole Bennett also helped boost Juice's popularity.

Nick Mira has built something of an empire alongside fellow members of the collective Internet Money, building a following making tutorial videos and livestreaming himself making beats. Several of those beats would later end up on the charts, propelled by Juice's trance inducing vocals.

He first produced for Juice Wrld on the 2017 song "Too Much Cash", but the pair would go on to collaborate prolifically in the future.

Mira produced nine songs on 2018 debut album Goodbye and Good Riddance and four songs on his 2019 follow-up Death Race for Love.

Among those songs were breakout hits All Girls Are The Same and Lucid Dreams, which would go on to make a lot of money for The Police frontman Sting, after Mira and Juice neglected to clear a sampled melody from his 1993 song Shape of My Heart.

Mira also produced Juice Wrld's October 2019 top 10 hit Bandit, which featured rising rapper NBA Youngboy. While no one thought it at the time, Bandit would be the last song Juice Wrld released before his premature death this month.

A video for that song directed by Cole Bennett has racked up more than 87 million views.

Bennett's internet blog turned multimedia company Lyrical Lemonade has contributed significantly to the rise of many emerging artists. A Cole Bennett video is now something of a rubber stamp to take a hyped rapper seriously.

Bennett also directed the videos for singles Lucid Dreams, All Girls Are The Same and Robbery.

He would direct a total of seven music videos featuring Juice Wrld during his unfairly short career.

Juice Wrld's early internet collaborations helped let the world know he was someone to pay attention to.

Listeners grabbed onto his mix of early 2000s emo lyricism with trap beats, as Juice shared more songs rapping and singing in an artistic blend of autotune and mumbling.

The combined effect is to turn his voice into an instrument of its own to deliver the sometimes exaggerated, but never doubted confessions.

The frequently freestyled lyrics and their often unflattering nature only added to their easy believability.

Juice Wrld's spin on the style, one previously popularised by artists like Future and Young Thug, would later lead to collaborations with the superstars, including an entire 16-song collaborative mixtape with Future in October 2018.

Wrld on Drugs was another big boost for Juice Wrld's career, letting him showcase his talents to a wider audience as he held his own alongside the more established Future on standout songs like Fine China, Red Bentley (feat. Young Thug), and Realer n Realer.

In March of this year, Juice Wrld release sophomore album Death Race For Life, debuting on the Billboard charts at number one after 165,000 sales in its first week.

The album dropped while he was on tour with Nicki Minaj, filling in for Future, who was originally meant to headline with the rap queen before pulling out.

Later in the year, Juice Wrld would embark on a solo tour to Australia, playing to packed crowds in Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne, supported by his 16-year-old Australian labelmate The Kid Laroi.

Tragically, that tour would end up being his last.

THIS IS NOT THE FIRST (OR EVEN SECOND) TIME THIS HAS HAPPENED

Juice Wrld's death means that for the third year in a row, an emotionally troubled young rapper has died unexpectedly on the cusp of super stardom.

In November 2017, Gustav Elijah Γ…hr, better known as Lil Peep, died aboard his tour bus after taking what he thought was a Xanax pill that had been laced with hyper-deadly opioid fentanyl.

Earlier that day he had documented his drug use in a series of posts on Instagram, including one depicting him struggling and eventually succeeding to take another pill.

In haunting content posted on social media at the time, his lifeless corpse can be seen in the background as friends and associates continue to party.

Earlier this year, Lil Peep's mother filed an as yet unresolved wrongful death lawsuit against the artist's managers, alleging that despite her son being "stressed, overwhelmed, burnt out, exhausted, and physically unwell," his managers pushed him "onto stage after stage in city after city, plying and propping him up".

Just over six months later, rapper Jahseh Onfroy, better known as XXXTentacion, or simply "X" would die in the driver's seat of his BMW i8 in an apparent robbery gone wrong.

XXXTentacion was an incredibly controversial figure. Many argued that his violent history, which includes allegations of extreme abuse of an ex-girlfriend, should have disqualified him from the privilege of an illustrious artistic career, but his overwhelming popularity meant record labels were willing to look past all that in the race to sign him.

Many fans first found out about X's death when blood soaked footage of his body made its way online, showing the young rapper slumped in the seat after being shot several times.

A Louis Vuitton bag containing $50,000 was allegedly the target for the two accused shooters.

A total of four men have been arrested in relation to his death.

Juice Wrld's tribute to the two deceased rappers gained sinister significance after he died. Photo / Getty Images
Juice Wrld's tribute to the two deceased rappers gained sinister significance after he died. Photo / Getty Images

Following XXXTentacion's death, Juice Wrld released the song Legends, a tribute to the pair that included the lyrics "What's the 27 Club? We ain't making it past 21". While the song was about the deaths of Lil Peep and XXXTentacion, those lyrics would sadly gain new meaning following his own untimely death.

Gratuitous and confronting footage of Juice Wrld's death is yet to surface online, and hopefully never will.

The odds of losing another promising young star in the prime of their lives is unfortunately much shorter.

BUT SOME WANT JUICE WRLD'S DEATH TO BE THE LAST

As previously happened in the wake of Lil Peep's death, the music industry has expressed concern over the glorification of drug use, with many artists speaking out.

Fellow "SoundCloud rapper" Trippie Redd, 20, quickly came out to say he would stop abusing hard drugs.

"We ain't doing it no more, period," he said in an Instagram Live video hours after news of Juice Wrld's death broke, urging other artists to follow his lead.

"If it ain't weed, we ain't doing it no more," Trippie said. "When I say 'we,' I mean us, as a group. The whole emo music artists. No drugs … we look up to all these bigger artists, all these grown-ass men and all they do is talk about poppin' pills and sippin' codeine," he added, going on to say many artists were just using drug references to make things rhyme.

Before the release of his album The WIZRD earlier this year, Future said in an interview he had quit lean, but didn't want to tell anyone for fear of being judged on his music changing.

The WIZRD still contained plenty of references to drug use.

Outpourings of grief followed from Juice Wrld's contemporaries.

Close friend and collaborator of Juice Wrld, Ski Mask The Slump God was devastated by the news, having already lost another close friend and collaborator in XXXTentacion the year before.

In another tweet the artist said "at this f***ing point take me too."

ASAP Rocky, the breakout star of New York's ASAP Mob, whose driving force ASAP Yams died of a drug overdose in 2015, sent his condolences.

The Kid Laroi, who had his own video with Cole Bennett drop a few days before Juice Wrld's death, vowed to make his friend and labelmate proud in a series of photos shared to Instagram, including one of the pair embracing on stage in front of a packed crowd.

Fans of Juice Wrld, and new listeners who hadn't heard of him before last Sunday, have helped propel his songs back into the charts.

Juice Wrld's songs were streamed more than 38.2 million times on the day of his death in the US alone.

Attention will now turn to his unreleased songs, which he claims number in the thousands.

Depending on who owns the rights to these songs, they may be released posthumously, as has happened following the deaths of Lil Peep and XXXTentacion, The Notorious B.I.G., and Tupac Shakur among others.