Following his massively successful first posthumous album, Juice WRLD's estate is gearing up for another release. As fans eagerly await new music from the late rapper, it's worth asking: do posthumous albums continue the legacy, or do they exploit the memory of the artist?
Juice WRLD's label head and frequent collaborator Lil Bibby confirmed the forthcoming album speaking to The Hollywood Fix this week. "Juice WRLD's next album," he said when asked what he was working on. "Juice WRLD next album crazy."
The news comes as no surprise. Legends Never Die, the artist's first posthumous album, dropped in July of this year, seven months after the rapper's sudden death. And there's more where that came from — multiple sources close to the rapper have repeatedly confirmed that Juice had thousands of unreleased tracks prior to his passing, and in the last months, it's become clear his estate isn't shy of releasing them.
When it comes to posthumous releases, they tend to fall into two camps: exploitative cash grabs or preservations of memory — often, they're hard to tell apart. The question is: does the project serve the deceased artist's legacy or their surviving family's pockets?
In addition to Legends Never Die, the last year has seen posthumous albums from the likes of Lil Peep, Mac Miller, and Pop Smoke, the latter of which is a perfect example of a posthumous album done well. Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon contributed positively to Pop Smoke's legacy, closing the chapter he had started before he passed. Through the vision of 50 Cent — who many regard as Pop Smoke's forebearer — the late rapper's legacy was respected and his artistic vision upheld.
The fact that Pop Smoke was so far along in the process of making the album before his death made the project feel genuine. It's unclear how a vault full of unreleased Juice WRLD tracks can come together as a cohesive and genuine album. Following so closely on the heels of Legends Never Die's tremendous commercial success, a second posthumous release just doesn't feel as justified.
There's another kind of posthumous release that deserves recognition at this juncture: the one that stays in the vault forever. When Universal Music CEO David Joseph destroyed the demos for Amy Winehouse’s third album, he may have lost a pile of cash, but he won the loyalty of every artist on his roster, because his decision was in service of the artist and no one else.
Many posthumous albums feel like experiments that dilute the integrity of artists' discographies. Will that be the case with Juice WRLD's next album? We'll just have to wait and see.