18 January 2022

Juice WRLD Speaks by Juice WRLD (2021)

The cover art to Juice WRLD's 2021 posthumous album, Fighting Demons

I remember back in the elementary school days, I had this Latino classmate named Phil.  Back then it was like all Latinos were referred to as Puerto Ricans, but now thinking back on his physical features, Phil may have well been Dominican.  Anyway his family lived on the first floor of the one of the buildings in the projects.  And on one particular day his father snapped and decided to mercilessly beat the sh*t out of him.

Now child abuse is, of course, common in the 'hoods of America.  But this was a real spectacle because, again, the family lived on the first floor, and Phil was running around screaming and pulling down curtains and all types of stuff, really and truly afraid for his life.  And who knows - maybe his father would have eventually killed him if the cops didn't eventually show up and take the dad away.

What people were saying is that his father suffered from "shell shock", which to my understanding is a slang term for post-war PTSD.  That is to say that, once again according to the 'hood, Phil's dad fought in Vietnam and came home mentally f*cked up as a result.  In the ghetto, even back in those days, there were a lot of gunshots.  So it's like a loud noise or something may have set Phil's dad off, making him think his son was a Vietcong or some sh*t.  And I don't know exactly what it is that Phil may have done, but I doubt it warranted a life-threatening beating and being embarrassed in front of the whole community.

His mother was also there and visibly afraid of intervening.  That's the thing about living in the 'hood, that when someone is committing a violent crime, even against their own child, if you then try to intervene they could rather turn their wrath on you.  And for those of you who are sitting there thinking 'well Philip must've been a bad boy' or something insensitive like that, let me reiterate that these days some ghetto parents are so deranged that they could even end up kill their own child for breaking an egg.

Mental issues are so rampant in the African-American community
that they're often ignored until too late.

So you may be saying to yourself, what does all of this have to do with Juice WRLD?  Well recently I was peeping out a track he dropped entitled Juice WRLD Speaks.  Of course Jared Higgins, aka Juice WRLD, died a couple of years ago in what is arguably the most nonsensical death in hip-hop history.  And on that note let me say that if you are dependent on drugs and prone to travel, it's best to just get your product wherever you land as opposed to actually traveling with it.

Personally I've always liked Juice WRLD, on top of having a general appreciation for emo rappers.  But what really caught my ear on Juice WRLD Speaks is where Juice basically says that the reason he's always harping on depression is because mental illness is not respected sickness in the African-American community.  He says so specifically in the context of "African-American males", but it's really African-Americans in general.  And that's part of the reason why it's so common for mentally-plagued people, like Phil's dad and Zarah Coombs, to be walking around undiagnosed in the 'hood, because Black people don't even have time to really think about mental illness.

Now this isn't something I'm just saying off the top of my head.  For instance, imagine this - you're a slave back in the day, and massa comes and tells you that he's selling your wife, child(ren) or moms away.  Of course any normal human being, even if they were socialized to believe that they are inferior, is going to spaz under such circumstances.

So in the evening you, the slave that has been offended, are chillin' with your other slave homeys and is like, 'man f*ck that - I'm about to get in massa's ass'.  Then what are your homeys going say?  'No, you need to relax.  There's really nothing you can do about it anyway.'  And in a way that kind of advice was actually true; even if you did kill massa for instance, given the system you still wouldn't be reunited with your loved one anyway.  And that, I believe, is the genesis of ignoring mental sickness in the African-American community.

Black people have had to endure so much psychological and emotional pain while being told 'to just deal with it' that eventually holding all of that stuff in and snapping accordingly became the norm.  And when you're a victim of oppression, you're not in a position to readily take out your anger against your oppressor but rather those who are equal or under you, such as your children or fellow oppressed brethren.


And I know I may have read a lot more into Juice WRLD Speaks than even Juice WRLD himself intended.  But in an age of seemingly neverending frivolity in hip-hop, it was refreshing to come across a track, even if a non-musical one, where an artist is speaking on a serious issue that isn't like Black Live Matters or a cause that's currently trending.  

And I do believe that Juice WRLD had a mission.  But I also believe that a lot of rappers start off or are convinced that they're fighting for some type of worthy cause besides getting rich.  But once the music industry gets through with them whatever meaningful messages, if any, will for the most part be buried underneath all of the commercial bullsh*t.  Or let's look at it like this - if Juice WRLD were still alive, then Juice WRLD Speaks probably never would have been released as part of one of his albums.