Monday, March 4th, 2019

Juice WRLD – Robbery

With album number two, Juice WRLD steals some of our hearts…


Ian Mathers: Everything about this dude is totally charmless. If anything his delivery is getting worse; if you played this for me blind, I’d probably think it’s the vocal track from the total dregs of Myspace emo slowed down a bit and “remixed” into a quasi-rap song. And that shit isn’t even worth it for novelty.

Thomas Inskeep: He does like to whine and bitch and moan, doesn’t he?

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: If Juice WRLD weren’t so painful sincere, I’d assume he was trolling us. Why else would he keep releasing songs with the same noxious combination of woe-is-me caterwauling and glibly misogynistic boasting? It’s not that he’s unable to do anything else — his freestyles indicate an ability to rap compellingly about things other than flexing on women who wronged him. It doesn’t seem like he needs to make music like “Robbery” to be successful, either — “Armed & Dangerous,” the single directly preceding this one, was standard boast rap and it did just fine on the charts. So why are we here again, having to talk about another Juice WRLD single that sounds just as sad and angry and impotent as all the rest? With everything else eliminated, we must contemplate the most horrifying possibility of all: Juice WRLD makes this music because he thinks, truly and deeply, that it is good.

Ryo Miyauchi: The graphic metaphor of putting a wounded heart in a bag aptly sums up the redeemable value others seem to find in Juice WRLD’s music. His out-of-range voice further accents the supposed rawness of his confessions with the slurry side effect given context in the song. Yet like the rest of his catalog, “Robbery” only becomes compelling if one assumes him as not only the one whose wrongs done to him must be righted but the chosen methods to right it are justified. From one-upping as a cover-up of his insecurity to throwing rocks at one’s window, the acts of bitterness he stamps approval for never sits right no matter how melodic and pop he can package it.

Iris Xie: “Robbery” is intense, with its many little expressions of its dysfunctional conviction and willingness to be wholehearted and vulnerable, and functions almost like an arcade claw machine for how many different little opportunities there are for the listener to grab on to. I’ve wondered what it would take for emo to be brought back in 2019, and this song is clear evidence that emo’s roots in unbridled rawness are some really good bones, but switching the sound from rock to trap beats and drums reveals that there is plenty of room to experiment and move forward. For me, though, I adore “Robbery” because it is what I actually wished Fort Minor’s “Remember the Name” was, a song that was practically a mandatory listen as an Asian American teen in the early ’00s. Unlike “Remember the Name,” which seemed docile and dutiful in its allegiance to being friendly and repeatable about working hard, and was pretty much hip hop-lite for scared suburban kids, “Robbery” pushes much harder on the underlying sentiments that come with the despair of living and trying to actually imprint a sense of self on to situations, while not shying away from its incorporation of hip hop. I appreciate the assonance and consonance in “I’m a whole different person/ It’s a gift and a curse/ But I cannot reverse it,” which results in a straight shot rhyme that matches the flayed sentiments of the song. Also, Juice WRLD wins me over with probably one of the most affecting exclamations of “I need to go home” in a while, which is matched by how he almost puts everything into the lines “You always give me butterflies/When you come around.” There is no forced play-acting at trying to be mature with sad experiences either — this is the pain of being passed down toxic, awful advice that turns relationships into power moves, and chances for vulnerability into walled-off endings, as represented in these two brilliant lines: “One thing my dad told me was, ‘Never let your woman know when you’re insecure/Flex on a hoe every time they’re insecure’.” This is assisted by the piano ditty melody, which contrasts with a cute and plaintive feeling that holds no pretense of someone being okay, but expressing a bit of the lightness that exists in the despair. Overall, it almost makes me wish I was 14 years old again, so I could listen to this for the first time and take in the messages and its surprising auditory complexity. Almost. 

Joshua Minsoo Kim: I still remember being in high school and reflecting on how much my parents had grown throughout their marriage. When I was much younger, they’d argue every now and then, my father having to sleep somewhere other than the master bedroom for the night. They both got much better at communicating through the years; for more than a decade now, they rarely if ever have let bitterness fester for more than a few hours. As such, I was always proud to have parents who really seemed to love each other — compared to other first generation Korean-American parents I knew, mine were openly affectionate, and used their individual strengths to help each other lead more fulfilling lives. I’ve never told my parents this, but they really served as models for what it means to love someone, be it romantically or not. I’m reminded of all this when I hear “Robbery” because of Juice WRLD’s distressing first verse. He makes an explicit link between a behavior taught by his father and several unhealthy actions he does himself because of an inability to handle insecurity: masking feelings of smallness with wealth, exhibiting unfeeling misogyny as a way of lifting oneself up, and a proclivity for drug use whenever faced with anxiety. This image of ex-as-robber reveals how the common end-result is a woman being portrayed as the sole culprit. What makes “Robbery” more affecting than the song that influenced it — Escape the Fate’s “Reverse This Curse” — and much of 2000s emo in general, is how it truly makes the whiny notion that “the world sucks” feel true. It doesn’t just come through in the Trippie Redd-esque wailing, though. No, it’s in how the song shows how interconnected and insurmountable all these terrible things seem to be: the notion that men (especially black men) need to present themselves as hard-edged, the resulting deficiencies at communicating effectively and confronting one’s emotions, the learned behaviors that transmit from one generation to the next, the vicious cycle of drug dependency, the never ending vilification of women. I learned from my parents what healthy relationships could look like, and it’s really just dumb luck that I ended up being their kid. How many aren’t quite as lucky? How many are a little less primed for combating these normative behaviors? How can we possibly stop all that’s wrong with this dumb earth?

Reader average: [8] (1 vote)

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