Questions Mount Following Juice WRLD’s Unexpected Death
Details emerge after the rapper’s death in Chicago on Sunday, but questions remain about the cause of his fatal seizure and the presence of drugs on private plane
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office in Chicago delayed the release of the planned autopsy of rapper Juice WRLD on Monday as more details emerged surrounding the final hours of the 21-year-old rapper. Juice WRLD, whose real name was Jarad Higgins, died after suffering a seizure at Chicago’s Midway Airport on Sunday morning.
“The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office has determined that [additional] studies are required to establish the cause and manner of death,” a rep for the medical examiner’s office said in a statement. “Additional studies include cardiac pathology, neuropathology, toxicology and histology.”
According to a report from the the Chicago Tribune, authorities were searching Higgins’ luggage for contraband when the rapper began to convulse and seize. Two agents administered Narcan — a drug that counteracts opioid overdoses — and called an ambulance. Juice WRLD’s girlfriend, who was present on the flight from Los Angeles, told the agents, via the Tribune, that Higgins took percocet and had a drug problem. He would die at the hospital one hour after landing in Chicago, though it remains unconfirmed if drugs played a role in the rapper’s death.
When the private jet landed, law enforcement agents were waiting to check for contraband, and a drug-sniffing dog alerted authorities to the presence of drugs. The search uncovered 41 bags of marijuana, six bottles of prescription codeine cough syrup, two 9 mm pistols, a .40-caliber pistol, a high-capacity ammunition magazine and metal-piercing bullets. It is unclear what alerted the agents to the possibility of contraband on the flight; both the Chicago Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations declined to comment when reached by Rolling Stone.
Two men who worked for Higgins were arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and carrying a concealed firearm at an airport, but were released on Sunday.
While it has yet to be determined what caused his seizure, Higgins was open about his drug use, particularly lean, in interviews and music. Coping with emotional turmoil through drug use was a central theme of his art throughout his short career, and the vast majority of his songs namecheck a drug (typically lean or prescription pills). Upon the release of his collaborative project with Future, 2018’s WRLD on Drugs, Juice told radio station Hot 107.9 that it was Future who inspired him to try lean for the first time. “Hearing that music at such a young age, n—a I was trying to sip lean in sixth grade listening to Dirty Sprite, one and true story,” he said.
In a later interview with Rolling Stone, Future expressed regret about this particular influence, while Juice WRLD compared the conversation the two had to a younger brother who wants to emulate an older brother who’s selling drugs. “A lot of people have their own vices and addictions and they know what’s up with it, so they don’t want other people to fall down that slippery slope,” Higgins said.
Earlier this year, the rapper told Rolling Stone that he was attempting sobriety. “As long as you’re strong within yourself, nobody can influence or affect you,” he said. “As long as you’re strong within yourself, it don’t matter.” He would later tweet about his plan to kick a drug habit, writing, “I’m done [with] it.”
In just a few years, Higgins became one of the most promising talents in music, in part through fusing a variety of styles, most notably hip-hop with pop-punk and emo. His rise began in 2017 with a pair of singles uploaded to SoundCloud — “All Girls Are the Same” and his breakout smash “Lucid Dreams” — which set off a label bidding war that ended with him inking a deal with Interscope worth a reported $3 million.
He released a string of EPs throughout 2017 before dropping his debut album, Goodbye & Good Riddance in 2018 followed by WRLD on Drugs. In March, he released his second LP, Death Race for Love, which landed at Number 40 on Rolling Stone’s Best Albums of 2019 list.