Some of the biggest artists in hip-hop right now are the ones who bend the rules. Hip-hop is still a young genre and has been in a constant state of evolution since its birth, but right now feels like an especially exciting time for artists who blur lines. Artists are rethinking style, gender, and the genre itself, and the rule-breakers in hip-hop are winning right now.
Maybe it’s just a reflection of culture as a whole, but it’s also good timing for hip-hop in particular. Kanye West, Kid Cudi, and Lil Wayne paved the way for a new class of forward-thinkers, and the kids who grew up listening to that music are now the ones making it. These are kids who were always open to other genres like pop, rock, and punk. They’re the kids who have been told it’s okay to be different, and taught that you can be cool and emotional at the same time. They’re the ones who look up to artists like Travis Scott, Lil Uzi Vert, Young Thug, and Chief Keef, who are still relatively young themselves but have already helped usher in a new wave.
For many young rappers exploring new territory, breaking the rules is the goal, but it still takes effort. For Juice WRLD, a 19-year-old artist from Calumet Park, IL, it seems to be second nature. Juice WRLD takes some inspiration from rock and says Chief Keef and Chicago’s drill scene served as his main influence, but what he’s making now is a progressive combination of sounds and styles perfectly suited for 2018 and beyond.
Juice WRLD still has music from 2015 on his SoundCloud profile, but things started to really come together with his 2017 EP Juice WRLD 999. That title is a play on both the year he was born (1999) and 666, the notorious number associated with Satan. He told Elevator that he flipped the number in order to “take the hell that I’m in and turn it upside down.” Produced entirely by Nick Mira and Sidepce, the nine-track EP showcases Juice WRLD’s ability to deliver addictive melodies, emo-leaning lyrics, a genre-blending approach, and complex songwriting.
These are the qualities that many current artists reach for, but Juice WRLD is making it sound so genuine, and his unique combination of skills come together on songs like “Lucid Dreams” and “All Girls Are The Same.” He's already taking off on SoundCloud with hundreds of thousands of plays per song, despite having very little coverage and no songs officially released across major streaming platforms. He’s also starting to connect with more established acts like Ski Mask The Slump God, Southside, G Herbo, Lil Bibby, and Waka Flocka Flame. Things are falling into place, but the most exciting part is that there’s still so much room for growth.
Check out Juice WRLD 999 below, and stay tuned to see what's next for this exciting young talent.